Paul Boutilier, who as head of the World Curling Tour and World Curling Players' Association helped heal a nasty dispute with the Canadian Curling Association while guiding the rise of the Grand Slam series, is resigning both posts.

The 44-year-old Halifax native, a former NHL defenceman, announced Wednesday he will step down at the end of the 2007-08 season, ending a six-year tenure as the head of each organization.

"It has been a privilege to work on behalf of the world's top curlers as both the executive director of the World Curling Tour and the president of the World Curling Players' Association," said Boutilier.

"I feel as though I've accomplished all of the goals I set out to achieve when I joined the WCT and the time is right for me to step down. I am very proud of the significant advances that this sport has made in a relatively short amount of time.

"Through the relationships and partnerships that we've developed over the past few years, this organization, tour, and sport is now in optimum position to be a prominent force on the international sporting landscape."
 
Boutilier was instrumental in bridging what had been a contentious divide between players on the WCT's Grand Slam circuit and the CCA.

Seeking a larger share of the profits from CCA events such as the Brier, some big-name players including Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton had signed exclusivity deals with the tour in 2001 that prevented them from entering provincial playdowns for the Canadian championship.

Under Boutilier's leadership, the dispute was settled by the end of 2002, ensuring future Briers would be able to draw from the best possible pool of players.

Meanwhile, the Grand Slams — a series of four lucrative tournaments featuring some of the strongest fields in curling — have grown in prestige, becoming a major part of the qualifying process for the CCA-governed Canadian Olympic trials.

In 2006, Boutilier helped negotiate an eight-year deal with the CBC to broadcast the Slams, and his drive to attract more advertising dollars led to the series landing a title sponsor — bank-holding company Capital One — prior to the 2007-08 season.

"He'll be missed," said CBC curling analyst Mike Harris. "He's done a fantastic job to elevate curling and smooth over some big rifts."
 
Boutilier won a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders as a rookie in 1983, then spent time with the Minnesota North Stars, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers before concluding his seven-year NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets in 1989.