BY KEITH LACEY
The skip of the world?s No. 1 ranked curling team can?t wait to hit the ice for what promises to be an outstanding tournament against other world-class competition this weekend in the City of Greater Sudbury.
Wayne Middaugh, of Midland, is a two-time Canadian and world champion (1993 and 1998).
Middaugh and his team of lead Doug Armstrong, second Scott Bailey and vice-skip Graeme McCarrel, will be among the favourites to win the Masters of Curling event that kicks off Thursday and runs all weekend at the T.M. Davies Community Centre in Lively.
Middaugh is the husband of former women?s world championship skip Sherry Middaugh, who competed with her team in Sudbury at the Scott Tournament of Hearts three years ago.
?I?ve never curled in Sudbury myself, but I did come up to support my wife and her team at the Scott tournament a few years back and just had a wonderful time,? said Middaugh. ?I know curling is a very big sport in Northern Ontario and in Sudbury. I expect a really great weekend with some outstanding curling.?
Middaugh is modest claiming his team won?t be the favourites to win it all in the 16-team competition, despite being the world?s number one ranked team.
?The favourite definitely has to be Kevin Martin?s rink from Edmonton,? said Middaugh. ?Martin?s team hasn?t lost a single event they?ve entered so far this season.
?Hopefully somebody will put an end to that this weekend and hopefully that will be our team.?
Martin is a two-time Brier champion and two-time Olympian.
The world-class field includes former Brier and world championship skips Jeff Stoughton, Greg McCauley and Kerry Burtnyk and former Canadian champion Vic Peters. Glenn Howard is now a skip after being a member of his brother Russ Howard?s world championship team. Brent Pierce is now a skip after being a member of McCauley?s 2000 world championship team.
The Masters of Curling event is part of the 2002-2003 Pharmassist Grand Slam of Curling. The winning team will share $25,000 from a total purse of $100,000.
The Grand Slam of Curling has attracted most of Canada?s top teams and the competition is fierce and curling fans are in for a real treat, said Middaugh.
Event organizer Chad McMullen, who works for IMG in Toronto, said ticket sales have been very strong and he expects a sold out arena for the weekend draws.
Sunday?s semi-finals will be shown across the country on Sportsnet at 3 pm as will the championship final at 8 pm.
?This is the first time we?ve brought the Grand Slam event to Sudbury and if ticket sales are as strong as we believe they will be, we?ll be looking at bringing the event back next year at the bigger barn (Sudbury Arena),? said McMullen.
?We?d really like to the see the arena filled for the draws on Saturday and playoffs Sunday.?
A weekend pass is $60. Day passes are also available, but they are limited and curling fans should secure their tickets as quickly as possible.
The first draw takes place Thursday morning. There are four draws Thursday and three on Friday and Saturday before the playoffs begin Sunday.
To purchase tickets, phone 671-3000 or visit www.onecard.ca/SudburyGrandSlam