Tigers of another stripe: Medicine Hat gang reunited in university hockey with Golden Bears

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:56

If the University of Alberta Golden Bears reclaim the University Cup this season, general manager Stan Marple and head coach Serge Lajoie may have to send a little thank-you card to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

It’s not uncommon for university programs to recruit multiple players from junior, but the Bears have a taken it to another level this season with a heavy presence of Tigers ties on their roster.

Seven former Tigers are now suiting up for the U of A: Forwards Trevor Cox, Cole Sanford, Steven Owre and Jayden Hart; defencemen Dylan Bredo, Clayton Kirichenko and goaltender Kenny Cameron have all played major junior in Medicine Hat and had varying roles with the Tigers.

But now, they’re all playing pivotal parts with the Bears.

The link? Tigers head coach and GM Shaun Clouston, is a Golden Bears alumni who won a national championship in 1986.

“We are always trying to get the best available players to us, and hats off to Shaun who’s done an incredible job with that program,” said Marple. “We know they’re getting coached the right way if they’ve played in Medicine Hat and he knows they’re coming to a great program at the U of A.”

The No.4-ranked Bears will put their 16-3-1 record on the line this weekend with a two-game set against the visiting Regina Cougars at Clare Drake Arena.

The former Tigers are all making big contributions. Last season, Sanford and Cox stepped in as first-year forwards and joined their former Medicine Hat teammate Bredo, playing key roles helping lead the Bears to a Canada West championship and a national championship appearance.

This year, the Bears brass recruited Owre and Kirichenko and it’s been another seamless transition.

When you browse the Bears’ scoresheets this season, you can see the type of impact the former Tigers are making.

Last weekend against Calgary, Owre scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win, and Sanford and Cox chipped in with two and three points each. The chemistry from their playing days in junior is evident and its paying huge dividends for the Bears.

“We formed a really tight bond during our time in Medicine Hat together and it’s pretty special to be able to now be wearing the Golden Bears colours and chasing a University Cup together,” said Owre, who has 10 goals and 17 points in 20 games as a rookie. “When it came down to making my decision, I talked with (Clouston) and I talked with the guys I played with on the Tigers and they all said the same thing. They loved the culture built around this team, and it made my decision easy.”

Sanford and Cox were Owre’s linemates in junior and the trio tore up the Western Hockey League. In the 2014-15 season, the three combined for 256 points.

“That was one of the best years of our life when we played together,” said Sanford. “Now that Stevie’s here, it brings back a lot of memories of our days in Medicine Hat.”

There are life-long memories that are created in junior hockey and often when a player’s junior days are finished, he doesn’t always get the opportunity to continue to play with former teammates.

Life moves on. Some may move on to the pro ranks, others may choose school. For these ex-Tigers teammates, they’re embracing the opportunity to continue to play the game together.

“That bond is something you create when you move away from home at a young age. For us to create that bond in the Hat was special,” said Sanford. “I came in as a rookie last year and I had Breds (Bredo) as a familiar face and help me adjust to school life.

“Now, Stevie and Clay are adjusting to school life and it’s nice for them to have some of us there that have been through it.”

The group of Tigers-turned-Bears played on some dominant Medicine Hat teams over their junior careers, but never got that WHL championship.

Bredo and Hart have won a national championship with the Bears, but now the rest of them are trying to accomplish that goal.

“We had a lot of great runs in the Hat, but never won a WHL championship,” said Sanford. “It would be pretty special to be able to win a University Cup championship together as Bears with some of my best friends.”



Categories: Edmonton

JONES: Casey Scheidegger bridging the gap between namelessness and curling’s spotlight

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:21

CAMROSE — One year ago, a no name 28-year-old curler and her sister came out of nowhere — located on just the other side of the iconic bridge leading into Lethbridge — and won her first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event.

Casey Scheidegger, a former provincial junior champion from Red Deer, had never cashed anything remotely close to a $30,000 Canadian Open curling cheque before.

In seven appearances at the Alberta Scotties, she’d only once won more than two games and never made it to a final until last weekend in Medicine Hat.

Scheidegger had never made it into a Slam event prior to last year’s Canadian Open in North Battleford, SK., when she stole on the last end against Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland to win it.

The win helped her gather enough Canadian Team Ranking System point to qualify for the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials.

Scheidegger finished with a 3-5 record. Unlike a lot of teams here, such as defending Brier and world champion Brad Gushue and Canada’s Olympic gold medal winners from Sochi 2014, Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs, she took about five minutes to get over it.

Sunday in Medicine Hat at the Alberta Scotties provincial final, playing on a team with sister Jesse and Grande Prairie curlers Cary-Anne McTaggart and Christie Moore, Sheidegger stole in the 11th end to defeat former Olympic medalist Shannon Kleibrink of Okotoks.

There were people who came to the morning draw here Wednesday to watch the newly crowned Alberta champion and were surprised to see Sherwood Park’s Heather Nedohin skipping her team.

Scheidegger was, however, on the ice holding the broom at 8:30 a.m. Thursday against Jones.

It seems this curling business is getting a little too hectic for Scheidegger to juggle with her real-world responsibilities as a high school teacher in Lethbridge.

“Because I’d missed the first week back from the Christmas break playing in provincials, I felt it was important to be there for the first few days,” she said. “So I left the school at 4 p.m., drove the four hours to get here and got up real early in the morning.”

She lost on last rock 5-4 to Jones to drop to 0-2 and needed to win three straight games without a loss to avoid getting back in her car and making the return trip.

Winning this event last year, qualifying to be one of nine teams in the trials and making it to the final at the National Slam event leading into provincials helped Scheidegger discover what had been missing.

“Finding success gave us confidence we could play in this company,” she said.

Scheidegger is thrilled to be headed to Penticton, B.C., for the Scotties where she’s going to be a favorite along with Jones, with only about two other teams in the new 16-team, two pool field – including Nunavut – that is so weak compared to this one it’s going to be embarrassing.

But it’s the Scotties, and it’s Scheidegger’s first and she’s still giddy about it.

“It was our goal to make it. For me, it was 16-years in the making. It’s awesome. I’m so excited. The high school students I teach physical education to in Lethbridge are excited, too.”

While Scheidegger had just arrived here Thursday, it was an interesting day in terms of positioning heading into the final day of play prior to the sudden-death bracket playoff games for the money.

In the noon draw, Jacobs (6-3 over Peter deCruz of Switzerland) and Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson (7-5 over John Epping of Toronto) became the first to qualify through A Event with 3-0 records.

Big names dropped to their last life as Reid Carruther’s clipped Canada’s Olympic team skipped by Kevin Koe 7-6 while McEwen stayed alive in B event (6-3 over Brier and world champion Gushue of Newfoundland) as did Bruce Mouat of Great Britain (8-5 over John Shuster of the USA) while Steve Laycock, subbing at skip for Brendan Bottcher’s Edmonton team, also won (5-2 over Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud.)

Staying alive in B Event in women’s play were Jones with the win over Scheidegger, Edmonton’s Laura Crocker (7-5 over Winnipeg’s Darcy Robertson), Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg (7-4 over Nina Roth of the USA) and Chelsea Carry of Calgary  (9-2 over Jamie Sinclair of the USA).

Canadian Olympian Rachel Homan of Ottawa had a draw for five on the seventh end to win 7-3 over Kerri Einerson of Winnipeg in the 4 p.m. draw and became the first team on the women’s side to qualify for the playoff round.

A few minutes later, Allison Flaxey of Caledon, Ontario put away Michelle Englot of Winnipeg 9-4 to join Homan at 3-0 and through to Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Jones once again kept alive in the B event (6-4 over Silvana Tirizoni of Switzerland), while on the same draw on the men’s side, Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg did likewise (8-4 over Niklas Edin of Sweden).

Meanwhile Rui Liu of China would be the first to three losses and out of the competition a 5-4 loss to Chang-Min Kim of Korea.

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Oil Kings to dole out opportunities through rest of WHL season

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 16:35

The Edmonton Oil Kings are playing for next season, and the one after that.

With 28 games remaining this year, and currently 13 points out of a playoff spot, the Oil Kings will put an emphasis on evaluating talent the rest of the way.

That includes getting a good read at the goaltenders currently on the roster: Josh Dechaine, 19; Todd Scott, 17; and Boston Bilous, 16, who will all get a look in the crease.

The Oil Kings come out of a five-day break by travelling to face the Kootenay Ice on Friday and then host the Kamloops Blazers on Sunday (4 p.m.) at Rogers Place.

“We had a good talk with all three guys and the idea is that they’re all going to get starts,” said Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton. “Some of it will be planned in advance, but I also want to offer the guys the opportunity to have success and go back. So we’re going to need to manage that a little bit. We have 28 games left in the regular season and we have to use it as an opportunity to evaluate our current situation and also look down the road.”

The Oil Kings started the season with Travis Child, 20, and Bilous as their goaltending tandem. Child sustained an upper-body injury prior to the Christmas break and is likely done for the remainder of the season.

Bilous was not ready to take on the starter’s role, so Dechaine was brought back from the Sherwood Park Crusaders and has played well. Scott was acquired in a trade from the Vancouver Giants with an eye on the future.

“We’ve been in the situations in the last few years with the number of injuries and bizarre situations with our goalies that depth at that position was something that (general manager) Randy (Hansch) could acquire in a trade,” Hamilton said. “So that changes the complexion of the right now, but I think ultimately, it builds that organizational depth that everyone knows you require.”

The Oil Kings are loading up for the future, with the strength of their roster in their 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. They also have a number of talented prospects who will be pushing to for roster spots in the next couple of seasons.

“You look at our team and we have the potential to return all but two guys,” Hamilton said. “So it becomes competitive, it becomes an internal competition, but you start to build depth. I think it’s well documented how we feel about our younger guys coming into the organization, so realistically, as a player you’re trying to cement your spot, your role and your identity within the club and these last 28 games are going to be very, very important ones for a lot of guys.”

Perhaps more so on the three goaltenders.

Dechaine has put himself into the conversation as a possible overager next season, while Bilous and Scott will be battling to be the starter for possibly the next three years.

“It’ll be a tight battle between all the goalies and I think that will be a good thing,” Scott said. “That will push us and make us all better goalies in the end. That’s only going to improve our team moving forward.”

Despite their struggles this season, the Oil Kings look poised to move up the standings in upcoming seasons. The team underwent a full rebuild after winning the Memorial Cup in 2014 and are starting to come out of it.

“I look at it as an opportunity to make our own footprint within the Oil Kings organization,” Scott said. “We have an opportunity ahead of us where we could win something and we could put a real good footprint where we could look back 30-something years from now and say, ‘Wow, we did that.’ We have a good opportunity in front of us and we just have to make due with what we have.”

Scott, an Albertville, MN., product, had a no-trade clause with the Giants, which he waived in order to join the Oil Kings and get an opportunity to play in Rogers Place and be a few feet from an NHL locker-room.

“That’s a crazy experience. I don’t think there are many guys that can say that. That’s going to be something you can look back on and treasure for a long time,” Scott said. “You also need to take pride in that, because it’s not just given, this is a privilege to be here and have a nice locker-room and be right next to the Oilers every day. I think it’s a good thing, it’s something to move forward with and have pride in.”


Categories: Edmonton

Gunter: Pipeline lifeline coming from U.S., with or without NDP help

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 15:49


Fascinating, isn’t it, that the only pipeline getting built is the only one that doesn’t need the Alberta NDP’s “social licence.”

On Thursday, TransCanada announced it had signed enough long-term contracts for energy shipments through its Keystone XL pipeline that the project will commence construction next year.

Not a single element from the New Democrats’ climate leadership plan – not their carbon tax, oilsands emissions cap, their shuttering of coal-fired power plants nor their new emission regulations on big businesses – played any part in Keystone’s approval.

The only factor that truly counted was the change in administration in the United States from the anti-pipeline Barack Obama to the pro-line Donald Trump.

When Keystone XL is completed, at least 500,000 barrels a day will travel down the $10-billion, 1,900-kilometre line from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska – and, more importantly, from there to refineries in Texas and to Gulf ports from which Alberta oil can ship worldwide.

Almost instantly, the Alberta provincial government and Premier Rachel Notley attempted to take credit for the good news.

Notley’s press spokesperson, Cheryl Oates, told reporters “the government’s commitment is expected to result in this pipeline being built.”

And to be fair, even TransCanada acknowledged the Alberta government’s support was “instrumental” to the go-ahead.

NDP irony

It’s just that the nature of the Notley government’s commitment is ironic.

Lots of times when oil companies pay their royalties to the Alberta government, they pay in oil (or contracts for oil) rather than cash. To make sure Keystone has enough product to be profitable, the provincial government had its Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission commit to shipping 50,000 barrels a day for the next 20 years.

The irony is that even if the NDP can take some credit for getting Keystone built, they achieved that goal by increasing the amount of fossil fuels being shipped around the world, not by some “green,” eco, alternate-energy innovation.

Keystone is going ahead despite the NDP’s environmental policies and taxes, not because of them.

Earlier this week, Kinder Morgan announced that it is at least a year behind schedule on its Trans Mountain pipeline extension.

The New Dem’s “social licence” shopping spree has done nothing to remove bureaucratic and legal roadblocks erected by the B.C. government or by the City of Burnaby – and encouraged by radical environmentalists and First Nations – that are holding up construction of the 890,000 barrels-a-day Trans Mountain line.

Notley’s climate scheme could not prevent the federal Liberals from banning West Coast oil-tanker traffic, which effectively killed the Northern Gateway pipeline. Nor could Notley’s eco-moralism prevent the Trudeau government from so thoroughly stacking the deck against the Energy East pipeline that eventually TransCanada walked away from that $15.7-billion megaproject.

Squeezing Albertans

On January 1, of course, the NDP increased their carbon tax by 50 per cent. This is putting the squeeze on families and businesses, but it is doing nothing to reduce emissions or to get pipelines approved.

This week Alberta’s UCP opposition party unearthed an internal memo from the Ottawa Liberals that says federal carbon taxes will rise above $50 a tonne after they reach that price in 2022.

And last week, the UCP used freedom of information requests to reveal internal provincial emails that show the NDP are thinking of raising their Alberta carbon tax into the foreseeable future, too.

Albertans are paying through their fiscal noses to underwrite the Notley government’s environmental fantasies and it is not getting our oil one centimetre closer to foreign markets.

Indeed, we are paying nearly double the amount of carbon tax our B.C. neighbours are paying. Yet, it is only the Americans who have thrown us a lifeline, and they don’t care about that at all.

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers place Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on injured reserve with sternum injury

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:56

Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has a bruised sternum and has been placed on injured reserve, possibly missing only Saturday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

When Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Brayden McNabb belted Nugent-Hopkins in front of the Oilers bench 13-1/2 minutes into the second period last Saturday night, it appeared he had injured his left shoulder as he immediately went to the dressing room. His head also snapped back with possible concussion or whiplash issues mentioned.

But it’s neither of those ailments. He’s simply sore and needs a little more rehabilitation time after playing all 46 Oilers games with 16 goals and 31 points. He leads the team in goals and is third in points behind Connor McDavid (52) and Leon Draisaitl (36).

NcNabb caught Nugent-Hopkins with a shoulder block to the centre’s sternum, which rattled RNH and brought Zack Kassian in to look for his pound of flesh in a spirited fight. Nugent-Hopkins didn’t play the rest of the 3-2 Oilers overtime win, then went to Hawaii to rest up on their five-day National Hockey League break, which ends with practice Friday.

Nugent-Hopkins’s absence complicates forward combinations, however.

Draisaitl would move to the No. 2 centre spot with Ryan Strome in the No. 3 slo and Mark Letestu as the fourth pivot. Either Drake Caggiula or Jesse Puljujarvi could play right-wing with Connor McDavid on the top line. One of those two could be with Draisaitl and Milan Lucic on the second unit. Strome could play with Jujhar Khaira and Mike Cammalleri on the third..

The Oilers have recalled winger Iiro Pakarinen from their farm team in Bakersfield, Calif., to give them an extra forward with Nugent-Hopkins out. He’s been lighting it up for the last month with nine goals and 13 points in 18 games for the American Hockey League’s Condors.

Either Pakarinen, an ace NHL penalty-killer, or Anton Slepyshev, who is available in a trade because he can’t get any traction as a regular winger, will play fourth-line left- wing.

ON THE BENCH: Goalie Laurent Brossoit has played four games in Bakersfield with a 2-1 record, 2.37 average and .923 save percentage … Ty Rattie, who’ll be playing in the AHL all-star game, has 16 goals but they opted to recall Pakarinen instead.

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

Categories: Edmonton

Tait: Mended fences to the east?

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:30

We’ve all had the experience, it’s safe to say: our neighbour to the east who has shown us so much kindness, so much compassion and was always there, no matter the hour, when we needed someone — anyone — the most.

We looked to them as being humble, unassuming folks, who, just by muttering their name, we felt a feeling of unconditional friendship. A neighbour’s neighbour, we told our grandchildren.

Then, one day out of the blue, they changed. Our neighbour had a new train of thought they had which, unfortunately, seem to erase the past treasured relationship we had with them in one giant stroke. Times change, we sigh in disappointment.

More alarming, each time we look out the window, over the fence into their yard, we do so with a different lens, much different from the friendly one we once so much enjoyed.

It’s that type of feeling I find myself feeling about the recent news about Saskatchewan and how, earlier this week, the news story of our province to the east not allowing vehicles with — shah: Alberta license plates — on worksites. The story is, of course, much more detailed than that and it will most certainly play out in which ever it does.

The purpose of this effort isn’t to debate the action the Saskatchewan government has taken regarding this matter. Rather, there is an observation to be made, I believe, of the relationship we’ve had with Saskatchewan over the decades.

For me, it gets personal.

If you are a regular reader of this column — and, frankly, God bless you if you are — you might remember I have deep roots in Saskatchewan. The Tait family homesteaded in the early 1900’s in Meota, Sask., a half hour drive north of North Battleford. My father and his three brothers and one sister were born there.

Meota has its greatest trump card as a body water — 10 miles long and eight miles wide, Dad proudly said — known as Jackfish Lake.

I spent summers there, but it was so much more than a summer vacation. In fact, it was an education: sharing time in the summer in Saskatchewan meant being around the farming community. Farmers, it can be safely said, epitomize community neighbours.

They always have. And while mega machines roar over fields today placing teams of horses pulling equipment, the brotherhood of farmers knows no time limits.

In the fall, I remembered how four or five farmers collectively help harvest each other’s crop. When the last load of grain is dumped in the auger and piped into a granary, they sit back and embrace what they have accomplished.

It’s a community like no other.

Saskatchewan’s reputation for is known throughout Canada. It is a template we all can — to be mindful that we all live in communities and share one another’s trials and tribulations … with the front door open and the kettle on the stove, ready to listen. And to be a neighbour.

This licence plate perdicament could last a while. But, as someone who has experienced Saskatchewan hospitality, I hope one day we can look to the east, over the fence and confidently know that it has been mended.

(Cam Tait is special projects advisor with Challenge Insurance). 

Categories: Edmonton

JONES: Time for Canadian curling’s Koe & Co. to stop celebrating and focus on Olympic Games

Edmonton Sun - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 06:00

CAMROSE — Kevin Koe lost his first game of the final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Series here Wednesday morning to Bruce Mouat of Great Britain.

That might be a good thing.

The night before, there was a bon voyage party for Koe’s Canadian Men’s Olympic team headed to Pyeongchang once the Meridian Canadian Open is done this week.

“Some of our sponsors and Sportsnet put it together. They’re helping members of our families to go over to the Olympics with us. It was an appreciation from us for that. It was good,” said Koe.

Losing to the Great Britain Olympic team in the morning? Not so much.

“We just struggled a little big early in the game. We just weren’t solid,” said the skip.

“It’s tough,” added third Marc Kennedy. “You put all that time and effort into the trials. You reach the point where we reached today, I guess, where you have to tell yourself: ‘You’ve only done half the job. We have to get to Korea totally ready to do the other half of the job and bring home that medal.’ ”

Koe and his team of Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert said they’re kind of at the awkward stage of being an Olympic curling team. They’re still celebrating. But they know it’s now time to get serious.

“It’s been a great feeling,” said the skip. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but obviously it felt great. Now it’s starting to feel a little more real. And it’ll keep going like that until we get closer.

“Here, we’re getting a lot of congratulations and you can really feel how everyone is pulling for you. It feels great.”

For Koe, there’s added satisfaction, of course.

“It’s kind of happiness and relief at the same time,” he said of gassing his old team of Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen right after they won the Brier, giving up the chance to skip the first Team Canada at the Brier, to form this team. “Some people thought I was crazy. But it was what I decided to do and I didn’t look back on it with any regrets even when my old team went back as Team Canada and won that Brier. It worked out with them too. They were able to get another Brier out of it.

“But it is rewarding to see all it come together. It was rewarding a couple of years ago when we won the Worlds.”

For Kennedy and Herbert, it’s a return to the Olympics. They won gold with Kevin Martin of Edmonton at Vancouver 2010.

“Having been through this before, I know you have to take time to let it set in. We worked hard for four years for it to come together. You need to time to let it settle and spend time with your family,” said Kennedy, a St. Albert product. “Winning in Edmonton was mostly about me. I wanted to get to the Olympics. This one was more about the people around me. I had some people on the team that I really wanted to go to the Olympics, too, and that was my major motivation.

“It was a bit different than after we won the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials eight years ago in Edmonton. Part of that was because I knew what to expect at the end of the week. I knew what it would feel like and I knew what the nerves and pressure would be. Having experienced that pressure in Edmonton prepared us for that and I think it made a big difference.”

So far, Koe said the team doesn’t feel any added pressure.

“We’ve been Team Canada before and won a couple world championships. Obviously, this is a much bigger event with way more eyes on it but this team has done well in big events, so we’ll just kind of stick with what we’ve done and we should be O.K.”

And when it comes to putting together a plan, Koe has the added advantage of having Kennedy and Hebert as former Olympians.

“Experience never hurts, especially when it’s good experience. We can rely on that a little bit,” he said. “We knew the value of taking a good break over Christmas and using the Continental Cup in London to get back on the ice and get our legs back a little bit and using this one to get a little more serious and start playing well again. Then we’ll head over to Japan for a training camp and get over the jet lag before we go to Korea,” said Kennedy.

As was the case for last year’s Brier in St. John’s, NL., they’re taking former Ferbey Four second Scott Pfeifer over as a fifth and have also added 2014 Olympic gold medal skip Jennifer Jones as an unofficial consultant.

Jones, of course, is married to second Brent Laing.

“She’s coming,” reported the curler who went to Sochi, Russia with her four years ago. “There’s a lot we can ask her about the village and the Canadian Olympic Committee and working with all the people and how to deal with all the distractions. Being there as a fan was huge for me. It was motivating.”


Categories: Edmonton

JONES: Camrose needs to cash in on timely Canadian Open curling event with built-in formatting brilliance

Edmonton Sun - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 20:25

CAMROSE — Why not make it a staple?

If a small-population city in the area known as the World Capital of Curling was ever to consider coming up with another $150,000 in prize money and winning a long-term deal to host a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Series event, Meridian Canadian Open would be the perfect event.

And you’d have the pro non-Curling Canada ‘Season of Champions’ curling event of every season.

It’s not only perfectly positioned on the curling calendar to precede the Scotties and men’s provincials, but every four years it’s the lead-in event to the Olympics.

And the format is brilliant.

“I love it. I love this format,” said Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud of the all-the-games-against-teams-with-the-same-record-as-you triple-knockout, top-16-in-the-world format that has only been around since 2014. “For probably all the players, I think they like this.”

Niklas Edin of Sweden seconded the motion.

“I like it, too. Maybe for the fans it’s not as easy to follow because they are never really sure who will be playing from one game to the next until you get to the sudden-death bracket play on the weekend.

“I definitely think most of the other players like it.”

Both had the chance to experience what it was like to come here and lose their first game and play morning games Wednesday with a desperate need to win. And both did.

But now Canada’s Kevin Koe will have the same experience having lost 6-4 to Great Britain’s Bruce Mouat for openers here Wednesday.

Unlike the other six Pinty’s Slam tour events, the Canadian Open features a triple knockout format that is unique in that it virtually guarantees competitive games.

There is never a game between a team that is out of the playoff picture versus a team that already has a spot clinched.

In fact, every game prior to the eight-team bracket playx for the $250,000 in prize money, features teams with identical records — 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 2-0, 0-2, 2-1, 1-2 and 2-2 as they work their way through.

It sounds complicated but it’s actually ridiculously simple.

To qualify for the money matches on the weekend, you simply must win three games before you lose three. Two teams in the A Event of both men’s and women’s play will end up at 3-0 and advance to elite eight sudden-death bracket play. Three teams from the B Event will advance with 3-1 records and three more will advance from the C Event with 3-2 records.

You aren’t guaranteed five games like in pool play in other 15-team Slam Series events. You could be down 2-0 by the end of the third draw before noon on Day 2 like the two Korea teams here Wednesday. But even that is a positive, in a way, for Ulsrud, who lost his first game Tuesday 6-3 to Peter deCruz of Switzerland and was on the ice at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to dispatch Chang-Min Kim of Korea 5-2. Edin lost his first game 7-6 to John Shuster of the USA Wednesday.

In women’s play, EunJung Kim of Korea was defeated 9-1 by Chelsea Carey of Calgary after losing 8-2 to Anna Hasselborg Tuesday. Carey opened the event Tuesday losing 6-4 to Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson, the team she’ll play in a special sudden-death game to be the 16th team in the new severely fractured format of the new two-pool, Nunavut-included, 16-team Scotties coming into play.

“The Koreans will play their next game against somebody who also has lost two,” said Ulsrud, who eight years ago in Vancouver at practice prior to the Olympics asked your correspondent and another writer if they should wear their Norway flag patterned pants in actual Olympic play, and ended up wearing them all week, including the gold-medal game against Kevin Martin, before getting a great sponsorship contract out of the deal.

“If the Koreans win that game, they’ll play somebody who is 1-2. And if they win that one, they’ll play somebody who is 2-2. I think it’s very fair. I think it’s great. It’s win three before you lose three. I think it’s perfect. I think it’s a fantastic format.”

It was John Morris, who will represent Canada with Kaitlyn Lawes, who now gets to experience an 0-2 start having been the 7-4 loser to Edin Wednesday.

As a $250,000 event, first place pays $30,000, second gets you $18,000, third/fourth is worth $12,000 each and the four semifinal losers go home with $8,000 per team, for both men and women.

Imagine if the host committee could pay $50,000 for first, $30,000 for second, $20,000 for third and fourth and $10,000 for the first-round losers?

Get on that, Ken Duggan and Neil Bratrud.


Categories: Edmonton

Lacombe Generals to host 2019 Allan Cup

Edmonton Sun - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:40
For the first time in six years, the Allan Cup hockey tournament is coming back to Alberta. On Wednesday, Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta announced the Lacombe Generals will host the 2019 Canadian men’s triple-A national championship. “We look forward to working together in delivering this prestigious event to the hockey world,” bid committee chair Steve Christie said during the announcement in Red Deer, which hosted the province’s last Allan Cup in 2013. “Together we have the experience, facilities and enthusiasm to make this the best Allan Cup event yet.” The tournament will run at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in April 2019. Six teams will participate in the round-robin, pool-play event, followed by sudden-death playoffs. Schedule and ticket information have yet to be announced. The 2018 Allan Cup is set for April 9-18 in Rosetown, SK.


Categories: Edmonton

Gunter: Downtown Edmonton bike lanes a nice ride, but not worth the price

Edmonton Sun - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:38


This all started out as a very thoughtful birthday gift from my wife.

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I’d been thinking of asking a friend of ours to borrow one of his winter bikes to see whether I would enjoy trail riding in January.

When we took up cross-country skiing years and years ago, it dramatically shortened our perception of winter. Having something to look forward to outside made winter more bearable.

(Getting a heated garage was a big help, too. And I’m guessing self-shoveling sidewalks would be best of all. How come scientists never concentrate on the really important inventions?)

So as a surprise for my recent birthday, my lovely wife convinced the folks at Western Cycle on 124 Street to let me test ride a fat bike – the ones with wide, thick, softer tires. They were invented to ride on sandy, tropic beaches, but work every bit as well in the cold and snow.

What makes Western’s gesture even more generous is that they had no idea I was going to write about my experience. This was not a publicity stunt for them.

So thanks to Kat from Western Cycle and John Macdonald from Live to Play Sports (who reps for Norco Bicycles), I ended up on the seat of a Norco Sasquatch for a few hours on Wednesday.

The Sasquatch is one of Norco’s premium “fatties.” It’s an incredibly smooth ride and even has a switch on the handlebars to raise and lower the seat. (Apparently this comes in very handy if you want to lean way back to keep from overbalancing forwards while plunging down a very steep incline. For a cyclist of my advancing years, it simply makes it easier to dismount without dislocating a hip or dismembering your bollocks.)

First thing I did? Headed downtown to test out Edmonton’s ultra-ritzy dedicated bike lanes.

My conclusion? They’re sweet for cyclists, alright. But the system is overbuilt and somewhat confusing. How, for instance, are cyclists travelling on the north side of a westbound street where there is no lane supposed to switch to a dedicated lane on the south side?

Many just ignore the special lanes and stick to riding on the right-hand side of the street.

And how is a rider meant to turn left from an east-west bike lane into a north-south bike lane? To be honest, the signs the city provides seem to recommend a dangerous U-turn into oncoming cross traffic.


But most importantly, the downtown bike lane network isn’t worth the price or the disruption it causes to vehicle traffic.

In my nearly two hours in and around the lanes, I saw a grand total of two other cyclists.

Admittedly, it wasn’t rush hour (it was noon). But it wasn’t -30C, either. Wednesday was a bright, clear, warm (for January) day.

I have real trouble believing the city’s claim that 1,000 cyclists a day use the system even in poor weather. (They must be riding way faster than I was – so fast it was hard to see them.)

On the other hand, trail riding on the fat bike was a blast.

I headed down into the river valley where the bike truly shone. Those big, fat tires and special gearing made it a thrill up and down, on trails and off.

Winter cycling in Edmonton is viable. But for most people, like me, it will only ever be a recreation, like skiing. Something to pass the long winter months and stay in shape.

Council and the administration have to get over their delusion that if they spend tens of millions on traffic-clogging bike lanes, they will convince tens of thousands of Edmontonians to commute or run errands on bikes in January.

Categories: Edmonton

Minor hockey numbers bumped by last year’s Edmonton Oilers playoff appearance

Edmonton Sun - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:52

Nothing makes Edmonton come alive like having the Oilers in the National Hockey League playoffs.

And while these days, it’s something that appears to only happen once a decade, whenever it does, it’s bigger than big.

Memories of the glory days of Gretzky’s Gang can’t help but become unearthed as fan frenzy paints the streets orange and blue, manifesting itself in the form of Oilers sweaters and flags on just about every other person, car and storefront in the city.

These days, Wayne Gretzky is busy watching Oilers games from booth level as Connor’s Crew looks to recapture some of the magic from the 1980s and early ’90s, which came oh-so close to happening again in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.

And, as it goes with the pros, organizers at the grassroots level also notice greater numbers of youngsters getting involved in the game whenever Edmonton makes the playoffs.

“We do. We see a number of kids come into hockey after that,” said Hockey Edmonton president Mark Doram. “They’re all going to be Connor McDavid and they’ve seen him play now and, ‘I want to be just like him.’

“This bump was probably a little bit not as big as ’06 and a lot of it, I think, has to do too with the economy and that sort of thing. But, yes, we did notice.”

This year, minor hockey registrations rose by around 300 to sit close to 8,800 players, virtually all of whom are in the novice to midget levels – ages 7-17 – are currently participating in the 55th annual Quikcard Edmonton Minor Hockey Week tournament across the greater Edmonton area.

“Our federation hockey program is up about 20 teams, including a team from Jasper that’s playing here this year,” said Hockey Edmonton executive director Dean Hengel. “It’s proven to be a real good experience. They’re short-rostered with 11 players, but they make the trek to play each of their games here.”

A big draw for the Jasper group was the availability of a non-bodychecking program offered through Hockey Edmonton, which – along with Calgary – is ahead of the curve of the Hockey Alberta standard.

“We’ve been a champion of non-bodychecking hockey in bantam and midget as a requisite component of a hockey program,” Doram said.

Now in its second season, non-bodychecking’s numbers are already showing success.

“We’ve just received an early look at the injury reports for the first year of the programming, and in bantam and midget, our injury rates within Edmonton based on hospital emergency room visits are down,” said Hengel. “That’s in fractures as well as suspected brain trauma across the board.

“On an Alberta front, we are anxiously awaiting the conclusion of an Alberta One project that will have all of Alberta categorized in league play. There will be six leagues below double-A, and we anticipate three of those leagues in bantam and midget will be non-bodychecking.

“So that will finally create some branch-wide stability and program offering, and the opportunity for exhibition and tournament games will be more plentiful.”

The introduction hasn’t been entirely smooth, with a fair share of push back from hockey traditionalists.

“Everyone was saying, ‘With your bantam program, there’s going to be hundreds of kids leaving.’ And we’ve found, actually, the exact opposite,” Doram said. “We’ve found players stay.”

Not only that, but in its fledgling season last year, the bantam numbers increased.

“Which means two things: We retained more bantam players that were thinking of leaving, and we retained peewee athletes that were looking at not returning to hockey as they became bantam-aged players,” said Hengel. “Our midget numbers a year ago, we were down to one team only, but that’s organizational dynamics as much as anything.

“All you need is one goaltender to not return and that changes how you flight your teams.”

So as for a state of the union for Hockey Edmonton, things are developing along as well as can be expected, if not better, these days.

The flip side to growing their numbers and trending toward keeping more players healthier, of course, is the pressure that can come with finding the ice time to make it all work.

But that’s nothing new.

“Of course, we’d like to see more ice. We always would like to see more ice,” said Doram. “But our ice management committee has been very good at utilizing ice and scheduling and that sort of thing.

“It hasn’t been as painful as it has been. They’ve really done a lot of great work with that.”

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Oil Kings learn important lessons on trip through WHL’s Valley of Death

Edmonton Sun - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:34

The Edmonton Oil Kings found themselves caught in the middle of an arms race on their most recent road tip.

The Oil Kings passed through the Western Hockey League’s East Division, facing the Brandon Wheat Kings, Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos and managed to come out the other side with a .500 record.

They defeated the Wheat Kings and Pats in overtime, before taking it on the chin from the Warriors and Broncos, the two top teams in the WHL.

The Oil Kings have five days off this week before heading to face the Kootenay Ice on Friday and returning to host the Kamloops Blazers on Sunday (4 p.m.) at Rogers Place.

“That’s about as tough a trip as I imagine there is the league right now,” said Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton. “To start off with two wins is great, it’s a real good boost for the guys. We went into Moose Jaw and I thought we played a great first 13 minutes of the game, really good pace and tempo, back and forth. It might have been the fastest 13 minutes of hockey, I’m not sure there were more than a couple of whistles.

“Then they get one and the thing is if you don’t manage the puck well against those teams, then one becomes two in a heartbeat and suddenly it just escalates and you’re chasing the game.”

The Warriors sit atop the WHL overall standings with 75 points on the season. The Oil Kings went into Moose Jaw on Friday and lost 8-2. The following night they were defeated 9-1 by the Broncos, who are in second spot, 10 points back of the Warriors in the overall standings.

“Both of those teams, the depth up front is a handful on its own and then you look at their back end, Moose Jaw especially, it’s like an all-star team on the back end,” Hamilton said. “You realize it’s going to be tough to generate against those older guys and they’re a really well-built team.

“So 2-2 on paper looks good, but the results of the last two games were a little harder to take because we let things escalate, and we’ve been doing a better job of avoiding those situations and they got away on us for sure.”

Brandon is currently third in the overall standings with 59 points, while the Pats are hosting the Memorial Cup this year.

All four teams were active prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline, loading up for the playoff run.

“The timing of some of those trades, you’re seeing them online, knowing you’re going to see that team in two days, wow,” Hamilton said. “But it’s their time, their push. That whole division, it was quite a scene on Jan. 10. But we got those out of the way, we don’t see Moose Jaw again this year and we see Swift Current one more time, but I think both those teams will challenge for a WHL championship. Unfortunately for them, one of them is out in the first or second round, potentially, so it’s pretty crazy.”

The Oil Kings hope they are a couple of years away from challenging for a championship themselves. One positive coming out of the loss in Swift Current was rookie Carter Souch, 16, scoring his first WHL goal. Souch is expected to develop into a key components of the Oil Kings lineup in upcoming seasons.

“It was nice to finally get it,” Souch said. “I was a little snake-bitten there leading up to that goal. I felt like I had a lot of chances and finally one went in.”

If anything, playing the loaded Warriors and Broncos gave the Oil Kings a sense of how far they have to go to compete with the league’s elite.

“I think definitely, they play a really smart, skilled game and there are lots of things that you can take away from those teams,” said Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky. “Obviously, they’re going to be contenders for a championship this year and possibly even a Memorial Cup. I think just taking as much as you can from those games and building on the positives, that’s huge for us.”



Categories: Edmonton

New additions should fit in well with Edmonton Oil Kings

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 21:39

The Edmonton Oil Kings feel they added two solid pieces to their talented group of youngsters in forward Brendan Semchuk and goaltender Todd Scott.

The two were acquired from the Vancouver Giants, along with a conditional third-round selection in the 2019 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, in exchange for forward Davis Koch, just prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline.

Koch requested a trade to a contending team, which forced Oil Kings general manager Randy Hansch to put the deal together.

Semchuk, 18, and Scott, 17, joined the Oil Kings midway through their recent four-game road trip, playing against the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos.

“I was super excited about joining an organization like this,” Semchuk said. “It came as a bit of a surprise, but I’m happy to be here and it’s exciting. I’m already one of the older guys here. I think it’ll be good, maybe a new challenge to take on a bit of a leadership role.”

Semchuk, a Kamloops, B.C., product, had eight goals and 19 points in 33 games for the Giants this season. He was originally selected in the first round – 10th overall – of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.

“Brendan gives us a little bit of speed, size and potential,” said Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton. “He’s a young guy, he has two more years left in the league. Todd’s got three. It’s a longer-term investment and as our team cycles up and matures, those guys are probably a more timely fit with our group and that’s the way you have to look at it.”

This is Semchuk’s third season in the WHL. He played 28 games as a 16-year old in 2015-2016, collecting a goal and assist, and then had eight goals and 20 points in 63 games last season.

“They (Giants) were spreading out opportunities so I think they gave everyone a fair chance,” Semchuk said. “But I think I just wanted a fresh start and a new opportunity. I’m happy to be joining Edmonton and I think it’ll work out. I think I’ll be getting an opportunity here and it’s my job to make the most of it.”

Scott, who hails from Albertville, Minnesota, played in 20 games for the Giants this year, amassing a 8-7-3-1 record with a 4.11 goals against average and .869 save percentage.

He was thrown to the wolves in his first two games with the Oil Kings, entering in relief of Josh Dechaine in an 8-2 loss to the Warriors and 9-1 defeat to Broncos, the top two teams in the WHL.

“The trade was definitely a surprise,” Scott said. “I was told the night before I was going to be playing the next day and then I went to breakfast, I was in the middle of eating my French toast, and then I get a call from the GM that there has been a trade on the table and that I had to make a decision, because I had a no-trade clause. I had to make a decision and came here.”

Scott had been sharing the crease in Vancouver with David Tendeck, who has a 17-7-1-1 record in 28 appearances this season with a 2.93 goals against average and .911 save percentage.

The Giants are currently second in the B.C. Division standings, a point back of the Kelowna Rockets and two ahead of the Victoria Royals.

“They gave us equal chances, it was 50-50 all the way and I think Tendeck ended up having four (starts) on me,” Scott said. “He went through a real hot streak, which is great, he’s a great goalie, but other than that, it was 50-50 the entire time, it was pretty equal.”

Scott will be battling for playing time with Dechaine, 19, and Boston Bilous, 16, for the remainder of the season.

The Oil Kings have five days off before travelling to face the Kootenay Ice on Friday and then return home to host the Kamloops Blazes on Sunday (4 p.m.) at Rogers Place.

“I want to definitely earn the starting job here, but it’s not going to be an easy task due to the guys that are here,” Scott said. “They’re all good goalies, everybody in the league is. Basically, I’m just going to have to work as hard as I can and go from there.”

Semchuk is going to try and help fill the void left by the departure of Koch. He had 18 goals and 39 points in 40 games and was the Oil Kings second-leading scorer behind Trey Fix-Wolansky, who has 18 goals and 50 points in 44 games this season.

“You’re not going to replace Davis as an individual, so there are different ways and that (draft) pick becomes valuable if we choose to use it down the road in a different way to acquire another piece,” Hamilton said. “I know that both of those guys were good contributors in Vancouver and I know Davis will be a good contributor for them.”

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner excited to join Swift Current Broncos

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 21:21

Goaltender Stuart Skinner came close to playing for a Western Hockey League championship last season, but his Lethbridge Hurricanes fell two wins short in the Eastern Conference Final.

This season, the local product and Edmonton Oilers prospect is getting another opportunity for a run at a title, acquired by the Swift Current Broncos just prior to the Jan. 10th trade deadline.

Skinner, 19, was brought in by Swift Current to backstop an extremely talented side, who loaded up for a championship run.

“When I was told that I was traded to Swift, it was kind of shocking for me, but it was exciting, too,” said Skinner. “They made some big trades and it’s a blessing to be here as a Swift Current Bronco and getting traded to a team like this. It kind of puts on the pressure to have a big year, and it’s fallen on all of our shoulders now as a team, but it’s going to be a fun end to the year, and hopefully, we can go really far.”

The Broncos, currently the second-best team in the WHL behind the Moose Jaw Warriors, made a number of significant trades prior to the deadline, signaling their intentions of going all-in for a title run.

Three days before the deadline, Swift Current gave up two first round picks (2018, 2019) in the WHL Bantam Draft to bring in veteran defenceman Josh Anderson, 19, from the Prince George Cougars.

Two days later, they acquired Skinner along with forwards Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel from the Hurricanes in a deal that included three draft picks and four players heading the other way.

“Walking into their dressing room, I was kind of surprised how many people I knew,” Skinner said. “Apart from trading for the three of us, they had traded for a couple of new guys too like Anderson, Beck Malenstyn and Matteo Gennaro.

“They’ve made things super easy on us. Right when we came in, they made us feel like family and they made us feel comfortable around the room that we can just be ourselves.”

Lethbridge’s goaltender Stuart Skinner makes a save during a game between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday, September 29, 2017. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

Skinner made his debut for the Broncos on Friday, stopping 29 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders. The following night, he turned away 20 shots in a 9-1 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.

For his efforts, Skinner was named WHL goaltender of the week Monday and CHL goaltender of the week Tuesday.

“I was pretty nervous, honestly, about that first game,” Skinner said. “I was talking to my new billets and telling them that I was pretty nervous and that, hopefully, it goes well. They told me it was going to be fine and just to do my best, so I went out there and did my thing.

“I got the shutout, but it wasn’t just me, I have to give all the credit to the guys in front of me and the guys in the dressing room and the coaching staff, they made the job a lot easier on me. There is always six guys on the ice, so it’s not just me. It’s a team game, and they helped me get the shutout.”

A third-round pick – 78th overall – of the Oilers last summer, Skinner had spent parts of four seasons with Lethbridge before being traded to Swift Current. He had a 14-15-0 record with the Hurricanes this season with a 3.38 goals against average and .897 save percentage.

“I thought it was actually going pretty well in Lethbridge. I thought it was going better than what the stats were showing,” Skinner said. “It was a tough year as a team. We were kind of struggling here and there, and we were pretty inconsistent and had more losses than wins.”

Skinner attended the Oilers’ rookie camp this fall and played in the Young Stars prospect tournament in Penticton, B.C. He was a better goaltender for the experience returning to the WHL and hopes a lengthy playoff run aids further in his development.

The Broncos begin a five-game U.S. Division road trip Wednesday against the Tri-City Americans.

“I think the experience that you’d gain from being on a championship team would be huge,” Skinner said. “I gained so much experience from our run in Lethbridge last year and that was just going to the conference final. I’m excited to see how far we can go in Swift Current. Hopefully, we can go farther than we did last year and then go on to win the Memorial Cup.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during NHL preseason hockey action at the Young Stars Classic held at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, BC, September, 9, 2017. Richard Lam / Postmedia

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Eskimos bringing back punter Hugh O’Neill

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 21:05

The Edmonton Eskimos are sticking with the tandem kicking crew they ended last season with.

In line with last month’s announcement of place kicker Sean Whyte’s contract extension, which will keep him in green and gold through the 2020 season, the Eskimos followed up Tuesday by inking punter Hugh O’Neill for the upcoming year.

A University of Alberta product, O’Neill was brought on board part way through 2017 after Whyte raised concerns his leg was getting overused after taking on both duties.

With Whyte missing 12 games, O’Neill was one of a trio of replacements that were brought in, making a pedestrian nine of 13 field-goal attempts and eight of 10 point-afters, before taking over sole possession of punting duties.

In 13 games, O’Neill’s 3,291 punt yards averaged 45.1 yards per punt, leaving him tied fourth overall. That number improved to 46.6 yards in the playoffs.

With Whyte entering his 10th season in the Canadian Football League, the Eskimos weren’t about to chance another overuse leg injury to the most accurate field goal kicker over the last three seasons (93.3 per cent), deciding instead to go with the proven duo.


On Tuesday, the Eskimos also announced the addition of American receiver Shaq Hill.

The five-foot-10, 180-pound native of Stockton, CA., played for the same Eastern Washington program that produced the likes of current Eskimos defensive captain J.C. Sherritt, as well as former Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols and defensive lineman Greg Peach.

A first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection, Hill spent part of the National Football League preseason as an undrafted rookie with the Houston Texans before being picked up briefly by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge


Categories: Edmonton

JONES: CFR finds a new home in Red Deer

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 21:00

RED DEER — The slogan is, ‘It’s not our first rodeo.’

But it’s Red Deer’s first Canadian Finals rodeo and the combination of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and Westerner Park has resulted in CFR 45 through CFR 54 being signed here with much fanfare Tuesday evening.

Hundreds of citizens and rodeo people from around the province gathered between the boards of the Enmax Centrium, home of the Red Deer Rebels, for the announcement of the 10-year deal to deliver the event that was born and raised in Edmonton.

A partnership of Westerner Park and the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce made it happen and the event was less a press conference than a production.

A surprise, maybe even a shock, to some might be the fact that despite about half the seats in the rodeo configuration in the Centurium compared to the Northlands Coliseum, cowboys head negotiator Jeff Robson was able to put together a 10-year deal featuring $1.65 million a year in prize money.

The final go-round of the CFR in Edmonton featured $1.5 million in prize money. That worked out to $201,250 in each of the major events, saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling and ladies barrel racing.

How much of a challenge was it to get the money to that level?

“None,” said Robson. “That was one of the few things that didn’t come up in conversation and negotiations.”

Robson said he doesn’t know how Red Deer plans to come up with the money and didn’t ask.

“I’m assuming they have a plan.”

Garrett Smith hold on at the Canadian Finals Rodeo bull riding competition on Saturday November 11, 2017, in Edmonton. Greg Southam / Postmedia

Since the CFR began at the old Edmonton Gardens in 1974 the event has been the big payoff for cowboys who compete in small rodeos around the Canadian West for precious little prize money to make it in the top 12 and the chance to some make some real money.

Some examples from November include bull rider Marcus Gloria of Edmonton who qualified by winning $18,830 during the season then cashing in for $43,000 over six performances in Edmonton and Orin Larson of Inglis, Man., who qualified with $15,353.93 over the year in bareback but took home a cheque of $43,125 from the CFR.

“Obviously the biggest concern was the venue size. It’ll come in around 8,000 with the chutes in and everything.” said Robson. “Obviously it is a lot smaller than Edmonton but there are some creative ways to work around that as well.

“The plan is to live stream the CFR into a lot of buildings and they have a lot of buildings here. The Memorial Cup was a raging success here. We’ll try to make it work.”

Set to run six days instead of five with an added junior event on the Saturday afternoon, the first Red Deer run will go from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, two weeks earlier than most CFR’s in Edmonton.

“We really think it will worked well with AgriTrade here. To put AgriTrade and the CFR here on the same week here I think would have been a real challenge,” said Robson. “The way we looked at it was ‘Let’s move up the date and maybe guarantee a little better weather.’ ”

The backers are projecting a $20 million economic impact for Red Deer.

It was revealed in this column 10 days ago that after 44 editions the Canadian Finals Rodeo run is done in Edmonton. The Oilers Entertainment Group had informed the CPRA negotiating committee they would not submit a bid to keep the event in Edmonton at Rogers Place.

Losing a staple event that once produced an economic impact of $40 million a year in Edmonton, didn’t have to happen. Two years ago then-rodeo cowboy’s rep Dan Eddy lost one of the biggest games of chicken ever played in these parts where Calgary twice tried to rustle the CFR from Edmonton in its prime.

The original deal Eddy turned down on the third bump involved getting a TV network deal to help make a dramatic difference with sponsorship and value.

Nothing resembling the OEG final offer that Eddy and the original group rejected was ever returned to the table by OEG because they believed the value of the property dropped dramatically in the interim.

The 44th edition of CFR had an announced attendance of 90,268 but included enough discounted $10 tickets that they were listed as a factor in OEG’s decision not to bid for the event.

So Red Deer it is. And there wasn’t much point in looking back here Tuesday.

“A lot of our membership probably doesn’t know a lot of about all the stuff that happened. What they didn’t have, they didn’t know,” said Robson.

What they do know is that the have a place to rodeo.

The bottom line is that the Canadian Finals won’t be what it used to be but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worthy.

“Our contestants will happy to have the stability of a 10-year deal and to work with people who are really excited about bringing it to their community and that’s a really important piece for us,” said Robson.

Cody Floyd from Calgary tumbles off his bull at the Canadian Finals Rodeo on Saturday November 11, 2017, in Edmonton. Greg Southam / Postmedia

Categories: Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers need Cam Talbot to rise to the occassion

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:34

We’d all like to see last year’s Cam Talbot.

The guy who started 86 of the Oilers 95 games (including playoffs).

The workhorse, who never seemed to get tired, who had a 2.39 average and .920 save percentage in a league-high 73 regular-season games, then had two shutouts in 13 playoff games.

Talbot was one of the five best goalies in the league last year but this year in 36 starts, resting for three weeks because of bad ribs, he’s had a very uneven time of it.

Fourteen times he’s given up two or fewer goals but in 12 others he’s surrendered four or more goals. He’s been pulled five times. Last year he didn’t finish six of his 73 starts.

It’s added up to a 3.11 goals against average and .902 save percentage. His five-on-five save percentage this season is fine at .915, but he has the worst percentage when the other team is on the power play at .816 when they always say your best penalty-killer is your goalie.

The Oilers badly need Talbot to have 20 two-goal games over the last 36 games or their playoff hopes are dead.

Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save against Lance Bouma #17 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 7, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

When there’s a challenge, Talbot has been excellent.

The 3-0 shutout in the league opener against Calgary.

The 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim the first time they played them this season.

The 3-2 OT win in Vegas last weekend against the league’s best home team.

A 42-save 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh the first time the Oilers played the Cup champs in October.

Talbot is looking for a consistent stretch of games.

“Yeah, that would be nice. I went through that when we won seven in a row (late November to Dec. 23, with seven games off to rest his sore ribs),” said Talbot.

He gave up 14 goals in that span. He beat Detroit, Boston, Arizona, Minnesota. San Jose, St. Louis and Montreal. In five of the starts, he gave up two goals. The Sharks got three on him and the Canadiens just one.

But, then he gave up 18 goals over a four-game stretch after the Christmas break.

Four to the Jets, four to Chicago, five to the Jets again and five to Los Angeles, albeit in 146 shots. It wasn’t like he was seeing 25 a game. It was 35 or more and the Oilers were terrible in the New Year’s Eve 5-0 loss especially.

“I don’t think I’ve played that poorly (this season). There’s a lot of games where I look back. In Dallas (four goals in 19 shots over 25 minutes) where I got pulled there were three or four back-door goals. Should I have made a grade-A save? Yeah, maybe,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time I got beat on just a straight shot.

“Maybe you count Reilly’s (Smith) one (Vegas) but that was pretty slick. I feel good about my game right now, it’s a matter of tidying a few things up.”

What they need from Talbot is saves like the one he made on Vegas’s William Carrier with five minutes left when it was 2-2. Mike Cammalleri got a piece of the shot as he dove, and it changed direction completely but Talbot stopped it.

“It was almost exactly the same play as their second goal (William Karlsson, high slot). After the redirect, I was flailing and hoped it would hit my pad,” said Talbot.

He had his hands full with the Golden Knights.

“They find those soft spots (to shoot) and you’re not sure if it’s a teammate covering or a forward … there can be some confusion if you’re not talking,” said Talbot. “They roll around so well along the goal line, too.”

The outstanding work in Vegas ran counter to Arizona where he got the hook after 197 seconds. When he left for backup Al Montoya, he didn’t come back to sit on the bench until the second period started.

He looked seriously bummed.

“Of course I was. Two goals on three shots,” he said. “I think it was more a change-the-momentum thing (getting the hook) but I really don’t know what more I could have done on the goals. I wanted to stay in and fight it out but Todd (McLellan) makes those decisions.”

Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot during NHL action on Nov. 28, 2017, against the visiting Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

Categories: Edmonton

JONES: Curling gaining Olympic steam as hockey takes backseat

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 13:30

CAMROSE — When curling made it into the five-ring circus at Nagano 1998, few ever imagined that two decades later the curlers could occupy the centre ring.

But there are 11 Olympic teams — 13 if you include the personnel involved mixed doubles — that began competition here Tuesday in the $250,000 Canadian Open event of the Pinty’s Slam series who are definitely contemplating that possibility.

“Somewhere over half of NBC’s entire coverage package of the Olympics is going to be curling,” said Kevin Martin, who will be in Pyeongchang as color commentator. “It’s absolutely amazing.

“CBC told me that in Canada 45% of their overall hours of coverage of the entire Olympics will be curling. When CBC told me that, I thought, ‘Well, I wonder how much it is at NBC?’ So I was talking to Jim Carr, one of the producers, and he said it’s around 50%, maybe a hair over 50%. That’s quite the number.”

With no NHL hockey players on the property, it’s possible.

Figure skating lost much of its audience since the judging scandal at Torino 2006 and skiing doesn’t have the same status, either.

Curling is positioned to take a large leap forward to the future.

“These are going to be really exciting times for curling. The sport has grown so fast in so many countries anyway, what does this do?” said Martin, a five-time Canadian Open winner. “Where does it go next? This is really exciting.”

Camrose is the last stop prior to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea, where curling could end up as the spotlight sport.

The Olympic curlers arrived here for their dress rehearsal excited about the possibilities.

“It’s bad for the hockey fans but for the curling it’s good news,” said Vancouver 2010 Olympic silver medalist Thomas Ulsrud.

“What the TV people in Norway tell me is that they are going to show curling the most. They say they’re going to show three times more of the curling than the other sports,” he added.

“Usually, hockey is the biggest sport among the ice sports but without the NHL players and with the hours curling will be on TV this Olympics will give us a bigger opportunity to show what we can do as well,” said Niklas Edin of Sweden.

The two-time world champion will compete in the triple knockout format in Camrose with Kevin Koe of Canada, Ulsrud of Norway, Rui Lui of China, Peter de Cruz of Switzerland, John Shuster of the U.S. and Chang-Min Kim of host Korea.

“Curling is not as big in Switzerland like it is in Canada. But from this Olympics we are told that it is the sport that is going to be shown the most in Switzerland,” said Silvana Tirinzoni, who along with Rachel Homan of Canada, Anna Hasselborg of Sweden, Nina Roth of the U.S. and EunJung Kim of host Korea.

“We will get a lot of attention that we are not used to. It’s great but it also means the pressure. But that’s how it is. And it’s the Olympic games. That’s why you want to play in there so bad. People will recognize me more than they do right now.”

It’ll be the same for Roth.

“It’s awesome for the sport in the United States, especially,” she said. “Back when I first started curling nobody in the U.S. knew what I was talking about. After being on NBC at the Olympics for a week and a half hopefully a lot more people in the U.S. will know what we’re talking about.”

“Usually hockey is the biggest sport among the ice sports but without the NHL players and with the hours curling will be on TV this Olympics will give us a bigger opportunity to show what we can do as well,” added Niklas Edin of Sweden.

“With mixed doubles we’ll be covering all the hours from before the opening ceremonies until the closing ceremonies so I think curling will have a big showing on TV and in the media.

“For our team in Sweden, especially with the hockey, I think it will mean more visibility for sure. I think curling will be way bigger on TV back home. I won’t say curling will be bigger than hockey now but with the NHL players not there I’d say almost as big.

“A lot of people now recognize our team. And I’m sure people recognize Anna’s team, too. I think a lot of Swedes will watch us play there.”

Categories: Edmonton

Chef Paul’s Kitchen: Bad trend at some city restaurants

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 12:05

If I’m being honest I would tell you that I wasn’t exactly the coolest kid in high school. I know, I know, shocking right? I didn’t wear designer threads, as my mom would say I was big-boned, and I was always was a step or two behind what the “cool kids” were listening to.

Like many teens, I would spend nights tossing and turning, worrying about these insignificant details. Fast forward to today, and I can’t say that I’m still not cool. The difference is that at this point in my life I am happy with the person I am and less concerned about how others view me. It’s not to say that I don’t look in the mirror and want to improve things about me, both inside and out, but now I do it so I can fit into my pants, not so I can fit in.

Over the past couple of years I have seen a trend in our dining community that has left me flashing back to my high school days, having those same self-doubts of years ago. Let me explain. This past weekend I had the rare chance to duck out early on a Friday night to go for dinner with my wife.

Disappointing experience

I was very anxious to take in the experience because I had heard such wonderful things. The restaurant, which shall remain nameless, has been very well received in the food community, and when it comes to the food I have to say that all of the reviews are right. Each dish we took in, and we tried a lot of them, lived up or even surpassed my expectations, leaving me mumbling to myself about how the chef could achieve those flavours, or taking mental notes about a specific cooking technique, or plating idea. As a guy who has cooked a while, and also eaten my fair share of good meals I am seldom surprised, so when I am, it’s a real treat.

So what was wrong you ask? Well, I spent the vast majority of my night feeling like I wasn’t cool enough to sit in the room. It started the moment we walked in, having hardly been greeted at all, we found our guests and got ourselves to the table.

It was a small room, and they were easy to find, so no big deal. Besides, we were a few minutes late for our reservation, which I felt bad about, because I should know better. Our guests had already ordered a drink and were making their way through it.

We decided what we wanted to order to drink and then waited, and waited. When the server did come by, there was very little exchange, but our drink order was taken, and about ten minutes later, our beverages arrived. When they did we asked our server about the menu, having never been there before.

We figured what better way to know what we should try, and what to avoid. She gave us a couple of suggestions, and we order them, and then we ordered more. We were out to try new things after all. We also ordered a bottle of wine.

Absent server

Off she went and about ten minutes later out came some of our food and the wine. Over the next hour dishes kept coming from the kitchen, as expected, because we asked to just have them come out as they were ready. As a new dish arrived we were told the title of the dish, and anything we were done with as cleared. About halfway through the experience we had decided to keep grazing, trying a few more dishes.

Despite the room being tiny without much room to hide, we found ourselves waiting another 15 minutes to get our server’s attention. At the time, our wine glasses were empty too. We asked to order a glass of wine, but felt like it was an inconvenience.

It was at this point where the doubt set in. Had I been rude? Were we not a good table? We were drinking wine, ordering lots of food, not requesting anything special, so what was wrong? Did I smell? Did I look like a bad tipper?

Then I took a harder look around the room. The bartender hadn’t smiled all night. The hostess or manager, who knows because she never interacted with us, never smiled either. The only other server working shared the same stoic face. Even the kitchen team looked indifferent. As I finished my meal I continued to observe the team, noting that the only time someone so much as smirked was when one of the cooks told her something presumably funny.

As we left we got a halfhearted thank you on the way out the door. Despite this, we tipped 20%, mostly out of a sense of obligation. I work in the industry after all, I should know better than to not tip well.

Bad trend

If this had been a single experience I would have chalked it up to a bad night, but I feel like in recent years this kind of hospitality has become the norm at so many of Edmonton’s top restaurants. It’s certainly not the case for all, but I know that some of the best meals I have had in the past few years have also come at the expense of being made to feel like the nerd who tried to sit at the cool kids table at lunch.

When I think about it more so many of top awards doled out for best this and best that seem to focus predominantly on the food. Even some of the top food writers in town spend a great deal of their focus on the food. While I can appreciate and understand that, there is more that goes into the dining experience than the food. It’s the lighting, the sounds, the atmosphere, the cleanliness of the bathrooms, the warmth of the people you interact with. All of these things should define a place’s rank in the world, or at least their level of success.

Maybe it’s just complacency. We have created a system where the server expects at least 15% or more and when the bill is $75 or more per person they can just about count their money before the debit machine hits the table. So why try hard?

Maybe I’m just an ass and get bad service because that’s what I deserve. That’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Regardless of what is the root cause of this shift in direction I am reminded of two important phrases I have heard over and over again in my years in this business. The first is that an evening out is as much about the thousand little details that you didn’t notice, as it is about the few things you did, that go into creating a memorable experience. The second is that you can get service from an ATM machine, but hospitality is so much more. While the food was memorable it will be the service that will have me in no rush to return. I am also hopeful this trend isn’t here to stay.

Categories: Edmonton

Hicks’ Weekly Dish: Salz Bratwurst Co. is big taste in a small package

Edmonton Sun - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 11:38
Salz Bratwurst Co.
10556 115 St.

Tues. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Closed Sun/Mon

Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $20; loaded, $30

Food:  4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns

Let there be no denial.  Small is beautiful.

Salz Bratwurst Co is the cutest miniature beer hall/sausage house you have ever seen, a hole-in-the-wall on 115 Street south of 107 Avenue, with two long tables to sit at and a TV to watch the Oilers.

On the chalkboard menu were three choices of made-in-house bratwurst sausage (with or without the piggy-in-a-blanket bun), goulash, currywurst, three salads, cheesy spätzle and Butcher’s Cake, described as charcuterie within a bread pudding mix.

The meat dishes are constant. The sides – such as pretzels, dumplings and perogies – take their turns in the daily line-up.

Behind the simple bar are two draft-beer taps, through which are rotated made-in-Alberta, German-style craft beers.  The Fahr North Dunkel was a rich, nutty, brown beer from a Turner Valley craft brewery specializing in German brews. My dinner pal downed his Medicine Hat Brew Company Town Lager with no problem at all.

Nothing is fancy at Salz Bratwurst, no kitschy declarations of ethnic food pride: Just an unpretentious German-style sausage house offering an $11 to $15 lunch or dinner with tasty German-style Alberta-brewed beers.

At the heart of Salz are the sausages themselves, made in-house several times a week by sausage-maker Eric Jalbert, who learned the skill in the meat department of Old Strathcona’s venerable K&K German Foodliner.

The Salz sausages are out-of-this-world good.

The classic brat-in-a-bun was hot, juicy, rich, all garlic and pepper within the rich ground pork. The “blanket” is made by skewering a half-loaf from the Vienna Bakery on a heated spike, making room for the brat in the middle. Other restaurants have tried this dog-in-a-bun technology, but not with such an excellent outcome. 

The Kasekrainer is of Austrian heritage, a ground pork and beef sausage packed with cheese – in this case Sylvan Star gouda. As you munch down on the Kasekrainer, little pockets of melted cheese burst in your mouth, adding flavour and delicious contrasting creamy texture to the crumbly ground meat.

The Salz Bratwurst sides are good, but not outstanding.

 I’ve never quite understood the attraction of a coarse coleslaw as a common companion to sausage, other than being easy to make, inexpensive and long-lasting.  The Salz Bratwurst Co gives the lowly cabbage distinctiveness by an aromatic sprinkling of toasted caraway and mustard seeds.

The cheesy spätzle (German-style egg noodles) is an interesting and unusual side dish, but needs adaptation, as it too quickly cools on the checkered-paper metal trays Salz uses as plates.  Within five minutes of serving, the spätzle had lost its heat and mushed into a gummy mix of chopped noodles and cheese.

The Salz Bratwurst Co.’ Kasekrainer sausage with coleslaw and spatzle.

Salz is the latest food concept from the quality-conscious Nate Box and his Black Box Hospitality Group. Nate specializes in multiple “small is beautiful” restaurants. Currently in the Black Box stable are the sandwich-specialty Elm Café off Jasper Avenue, the crusted pizza-specialty District Café on 109 Street, The Little Brick Café in Riverdale and now the Salz Bratwurst Co.

The Burrow Café was an experiment, to see if Edmonton could sustain an underground coffeehouse in the LRT system, at Central Station. It didn’t last. Outside the morning rush hour, customers were sparse. 

The Salz Bratwurst Co. is where it is, in a drab commercial zone, because the upstairs is Black Box’s corporate headquarters. The ground floor was part of the lease but not being utilized. Originally intended as a lunch outlet, Salz has been discovered as a fun and inexpensive evening eatery.  

One lingering thought: Although Box and crew shun deep-fryers, these sausages would be so good with rustic French fries!


Chinatown Food Festival

Finally, another part of the city is emulating the downtown’s late-winter Downtown Dining Week.

Chinatown Dining Week, Sat. Jan. 20 to Sun. Jan 28, will see five Chinatown restaurants offering pre-set two course (appetizer and main) dinners for a bargain $15:  Asian Express Hot Pot, Cua Hua Gui Lin Noodle House, King Noodle House Pho Hoang, Taipan Café Restaurant and Viphalay (Stadium location). More info at Edmontonchinatown.ca

Categories: Edmonton