By DOUG GRAHAM – The WHIG

Napanee has received a double bonus for the Ontario men’s curling championship in February at the Strathcona Paper Centre.

Not only has the Ontario Curling Association given defending champion Glenn Howard a berth in the men’s provincial field, there will also be a three-draw day to accommodate the 11-rink, round-robin competition over five days.

Traditionally, the event has featured 10 rinks.

The additional team means that for four of the five days of round-robin play, there will be two draws a day. The exception will be Wednesday, Feb. 3, when there will be a morning draw to go along with the normal draw times of 2 and 7 p. m.

Stephen Paul, host committee chair for the Feb. 1-7 championship, said that having a top rink to market before Christmas is a plus for the organizers.

“Normally, that wouldn’t be known until later in January. It is a good advantage,” Paul said.

“It gives us additional time to promote (a) champion being back.”

The Ontario field isn’t usually finalized until zone and regional playdowns are held in December and January.

Eight rinks come out of the regionals, which will be held Jan. 9-10. Two more rinks will come out of the challenge rounds, Jan. 15-18.

The only downside to giving an automatic berth to the Ontario champion is that Howard, who has won the past four Ontario titles, might not get to use it.

The former Brier and world champion is contending for the Canadian men’s Olympic curling berth in Vancouver.

His rink will play for that honour Dec. 6-13 in Edmonton. If Howard is successful in that quest, the berth to Napanee’s Ontario championship will fall to Peter Corner of Burlington, the runner-up to Howard last year.

Corner is also a past world champion, playing on the front end for Russ Howard. He also skipped an Ontario rink to the Brier in 2000.

The Page playoffs begin on the Saturday afternoon (Feb. 6). The semifinal and final are the following day.

For more information on the provincial championship, go to www.2010tankard.com/event or call 613-354-4423.

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