Reigning world champ Glenn Howard headlines a star-studded field for the BDO Classic Canadian Open. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) )

The meat of the men's curling season gets underway Wednesday night in Quebec City, where an elite field is set for the BDO Classic Canadian Open, the first leg of the sport's Grand Slam.

Defending champion skip Kevin Martin of Edmonton and reigning world champ Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., highlight a stellar roster for the $100,000 event, which takes place at the new Pavillon de la Jeunesse.

Four-time world champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton and Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue of St. John's will also compete.

The Top 15 ranked Canadian teams and the Top 2 Quebec-based rinks in the World Curling Tour order of merit standings as of Oct. 16 qualified automatically. The final entry in the 18-team field went to American Todd Birr.

The teams are divided into three pools of six, with eight teams moving on to the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon.

CBC Sports will broadcast Saturday's semifinals (Country Canada, 7 p.m. ET) and Sunday's championship final (CBC, 1 p.m. ET).

"The nice thing about the slams is you're always going to see two of the best teams in the world competing in the playoffs," says CBC curling analyst Mike Harris. "That's why we're excited to be covering it. We know we're going to get great games in the semifinals and finals."

The Canadian Open is the first leg of the men's Grand Slam of Curling— a series offour lucrative tournaments featuring many of the sport's top rinks.

The Grand Slams are part of the Canadian Curling Association's qualifying process for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.Teams can earn points toward a berths at the 2009 Canadian Olympic trials based on their performances at the slams.

After the Canadian Open, the Grand Slam continues with the National in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., beginning Dec. 20, followed by the Masters of Curling Jan. 23-27 in Saskatoon, and the Players' Championship April 15-20 in St. John's. All four events will be broadcast by the CBC.

The full list of entries— with Order of Meritrankings— for the Canadian Open is as follows:

Pool A

  • (1) Kevin Martin (Edmonton)
  • (6) Pat Simmons (Davidson, Sask.)
  • (7) Jeff Stoughton (Winnipeg)
  • (12) Mark Johnson (Edmonton)
  • (13) Brent MacDonald (Edmonton)
  • (19) Martin Ferland (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Que.)

Pool B

  • (2) Glenn Howard (Coldwater, Ont.)
  • (5) Brad Gushue (St. John's)
  • (8) Kerry Burtnyk (Winnipeg)
  • (11) Wayne Middaugh (Toronto)
  • (14) Shawn Adams (Halifax)
  • (4*) Todd Birr (Mankato, Minn.)

Pool C

  • (3) Randy Ferbey (Edmonton)
  • (4) Kevin Koe (Edmonton)
  • (9) Peter Corner (Brampton, Ont.)
  • (10) Joel Jordison (Moose Jaw, Sask.)
  • (15) Bob Ursel (Kelowna, B.C.)
  • (17) Robert Desjardins (Saguenay, Que.)

*denotes international ranking