Starting today, the eyes of the curling world will be on Regina as the 2011 World Men’s Curling Championship gets underway. Twelve teams are in the hunt — at least, technically, in that through whatever mechanism that exists to determine eligibility for the championship they have managed to qualify.

As I scan the list of countries who will be competing at Brandt Centre until the gold medal match on April 10, some are perennial contenders. Canada, obviously, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S. Germany and Denmark aren’t quite as familiar. Then there’s France, China, Czech Republic and Korea!

None of those last four countries enjoys the reputation Canada does as a curling hotbed, so the odds of them winning, as you can imagine. are pretty long. Same with two or three other countries in the above list. Still, the quality of curling at the world’s has improved greatly over the last ten years. And really, when you look at this year’s Brier in London, there were only four teams contending for the title there. Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta and Nfld & Labrador were all a cut above the rest.

It was the Manitoba rink skipped by Jeff Stoughton, of course, that ultimately emerged victorious. At the Brier, Stoughton, his third Jon Mead, second Reid Carruthers and lead Steve Gould, curled extremely well. Buoyed by a home crowd that should include a sizeable contingent of boisterous fans from their home province of Manitoba, Stoughton and his rink will be tough to beat.

For more info here’s a link to the World Curling Federation website: