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Alberta

A Small, Important Opening

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A Small, Important Opening

Chances are pretty good that all major-league sports and some of the lower-profile ones will manage to complete partial 2020 seasons despite growing signs that COVID-19 will not give up without a long and continuing fight for dominance over sports and all else in today’s world.

Experts and observers of all athletic and public disciplines agree, however, that nothing is certain: baseball players are opting to stay home; basketball players express discontent and confusion every day; the NHL waffles over naming so-called hub cities for a wacky playoff proposal that continues to raise more questions than answers.

In the midst of all this uncertainty comes one simple burst of optimism: the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame will welcome the public on Thursday, 98 days after the rampaging coronavirus pandemic forced closure of the building on the edge of Red Deer on March 16. It is fair to concede that reopening a small-city building warrants little public interest when compared with the billions involved in professional sports, but it’s also reasonable to accept that every step of progress in this deadly world-wide struggle is worth recording.

Although none of the $302,000 committed to the Hall in the current provincial budget has been received – a $75,000 commitment has been made but no cash has appeared and a review is already promised for later this year – executive director Tracey Kinsella said some pleasant things have been achieved during the lockdown.

“We have been extremely busy giving our Hall of Fame an update,” she smiled. “Our goal is to improve the entire experience for our visitors from the moment they walk in the door.”

Cleanliness was, and is, essential in the reopening. Sanitizers, directional signs and plenty of obvious messaging are part of the opening, of course. There is no plan for an opening ceremony, Kinsells said. “We would like to do something of a celebration, maybe later in July.”

At one time, fingers were crossed that induction of the 14 members selected several months ago but “we had to decide (last week) that there will be no induction banquet in 2020. We’ve had to tell all the inductees that we’re having to wait until next year.”

The list includes four athletes: skier Deirdra Dionne, hockey player Chris Phillips, chuck-wagon racer Kelly Sutherland and snowboard-cross star Michael Robertson. Five builders – Jan Ullmark, figure skating; Terry Morris, curling; Ken Babey, hockey; Derek Douglas, soccer – were selected along with five Hall of Fame Award winners Nancy Southern and Ian Allison (equestrian broadcasters, Bell Memorial Award), John Currie (Western Canada Summer Games 1983, Achievement Award); Stan Wakelyn (1922 Canadian soccer champions 1922, Pioneer Award); Dennis Kadatz (coach of Edmonton Huskies national junior football champions 1962-64).

Those awards show clearly how broad is the effect of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Every winner spent years working and practicing toward the world’s most elusive goal: perfection. There is no suggestion that it was reached, just as there can be no hint that they have inspired thousands to follow them.

Discussing the government’s failure to live up to its contracted financial commitment, Kinsella was not especially critical: “We’re sad, disappointed, maybe a little alarmed.” During a lengthy discussion, she finally confirmed receipt of the government’s letter providing the limited amount and mentioned “I’ve asked for meetings, have not had a direct, face-to-face conversation with anyone in the area of culture.”

My unsolicited opinion: this is unreasonable. As the Hall opens its doors, perhaps a government department should also open up.

Learn more about the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

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Alberta

Oilers place goalie Mike Smith on long-term injured reserve

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EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have placed goaltender Mike Smith on long-term injury reserve, and have re-assigned Olivier Rodrigue to the club’s taxi squad, pending quarantine protocols. 

Edmonton announced both transaction on Friday, but did not elaborate on Smith’s injury.

Smith was supposed to start Thursday’s game at home against the Vancouver Canucks but was declared inactive, forcing Mikko Koskinen into back-to-back starts. 

Smith and Koskinen were expected to split duties in the Oilers net this season. Edmonton re-signed the 38-year-old Smith to a one-year contract in the off-season. 

Rodrigue had been with the Graz99ers of the Austrian National League.

The 20-year-old Rodrigue was drafted 62nd overall by Edmonton in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta health minister says vaccine schedule to take hit from manufacturing delays

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says it will take longer than expected to start immunizing seniors over 75 outside long-term care homes due to a delay in manufacturing one of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Tyler Shandro called the news out of Ottawa on Friday a blow and said it’s not clear how severely the delay will affect Alberta’s vaccine allocation in the coming weeks. 

“This is out of our control, but it will impact Alberta’s immunization schedule,” he said Friday. 

The schedule for seniors over 75, regardless of where they live, and Indigenous people over 65 is up in the air because it will take longer to immunize priority health-care workers, Shandro said. 

“We had hoped to announce the start of these vaccinations in the coming days, but that is now in question.”

Federal officials said earlier in the day that only half of promised Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses will arrive in the next month due to production issues in Belgium. 

“This is unfortunate news and we are all disappointed. However, we will not stop,” Shandro said. “Health officials will continue giving out what vaccines we do have as quickly as possible.”

Senior medical officer of health Laura McDougall said Alberta is still ramping up its ability to administer vaccines and has been able to deliver more shots than expected so far.

 She said the province has recruited pharmacists, retired health-care workers and nursing students to give out shots and pop-up clinics have been set up in emergency departments to reach more front-line staff. 

“We have enough immunizers and more than enough people wanting to be immunized,” McDougall said. “What we need is more vaccine.”

Alberta reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday along with 13 more deaths. There were 796 people in hospital, with 124 of those in intensive care.

More than 74,000 vaccine doses have been given out so far, and the province still aims to administer 50,000 a week by the end of January if there is enough supply. 

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2020.  

The Canadian Press

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