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Alberta

Bedard shines, host Canada downs Latvia 5-2 at world junior hockey championship

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EDMONTON — Team Canada needed some time to shake off the rust as they embarked on a late-summer campaign for gold.

Coming into their first game of the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton, many on the squad hadn’t laced up their skates for a competitive bout in several months.

The time away showed at moments, but Canada held on for a 5-2 victory over Latvia to open the tournament on Wednesday.

“I know a coach is never happy with the game, but considering the time of year and where we’re at in this tournament, I think it was good.” said head coach Dave Cameron.

The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

Teen phenom Connor Bedard hasn’t played a “real game” in three months, and said getting back to competition felt good.

The 17-year-old was quick to show his offensive prowess, opening the scoring in the first period and adding an assist on a second-period power-play goal.

“It always feels good to score, especially that first one of the tournament,” said Bedard, an early favourite to go first overall in the 2023 NHL entry draft.

“I think it’s always exciting no matter who gets it. So definitely felt good. And it was cool to kind of be going to the corner and seeing some fans.”

Ridly Greig and William Dufour each had a goal and a helper for Canada (1-0-0), while Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger also scored. Captain Mason McTavish notched two assists.

Rainers Darzins and Bogdans Hodass put away goals for the Latvians, who were coming off a 6-1 drubbing by Finland on Tuesday.

Canada’s Sebastian Cossa made 22 saves and Patriks Berzins stopped 39 of 44 shots for Latvia (0-2-0).

The Canadians broke out with a three-goal performance in the second but found themselves in trouble in the final frame due to a series of undisciplined penalties.

Latvia got nine seconds of five-on-three play midway through the third when Greig was called for hooking after Kent Johnson had already been sent to the box for delay of game.

The Canadians weathered being down two men and Cossa preserved the advantage with a collection of timely stops.

Earlier in the period, Latvia cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power play after Greig was called for tripping.

Just four seconds into the man advantage, Hodas — a Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman — ripped a shot off from the top of the faceoff circle, sailing the puck over Cossa’s pad.

Dufour gave the Canadians some breathing room with 5:16 to go in the third period. The New York Islanders prospect collected a slick pass from Greig and sent a quick shot in past Berzins to give his side a 5-2 lead.

Greig capped a big middle frame by collecting a pass from Dufour along the boards for an odd-man rush and streaking up the ice, using one arm to hold back Latvia’s Peteris Purmalis. With his free hand, the Ottawa Senators prospect poked the puck in past Berzins at the 17:16 mark to give Canada a 4-1 lead.

“It was a pretty lucky bounce,” Greig said. “And the tracker was right on me so I just tried to get it on net with one (hand).”

A power-play goal gave the Canadians a three-goal lead after Latvia captain Ralfs Bergmanis was called for slashing.

Bedard set up the play with a no-look backwards pass to Zellweger at the blue line. The defenceman wound up and fired a rocket through traffic, finding the back of the net 16:17 into the second.

Minutes earlier, Cormier scored with the man advantage after Dans Locmelis was called for roughing.

Joshua Roy calmed a bouncing puck and dished it to Cormier, who sent it sailing past Berzins from the top of the faceoff circle.

Canada’s power play looked to be in trouble on its first attempt of the tournament earlier in the period.

The man advantage saw Cossa nearly send a puck into his own net while trying to clear and Johnson come within inches of scoring an own goal. The host nation turned the puck over multiple times and Latvia registered a pair of short-handed shots.

“That was just to give the fans their money’s worth,” Cameron said.

“That was at the time where we were in their zone for a period of time five on five and we thought that was going to carry over into the power play and we got too comfortable and we thought it was going to be easy.

“We stalled in our execution and hats off to Latvia, they didn’t give up.”

The Canadians went 2 for 4 on the power play Wednesday and Latvia was 1 for 5.

Canada kept Berzins busy across the first period, outshooting Latvia 18-4.

The host nation dominated play but Latvia scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in the opening frame. Darzins chipped a shot up and over Cossa stick side to make it 1-1.

Bedard opened the scoring 7:31 into the game, blasting a shot through a pair of Latvian defenders and over Berzins’ glove from the top of the slot.

With a different roster than the December tournament and a short training camp, Canada is still trying to build chemistry as the world juniors get underway, Cossa said.

“We’ve been practising but nothing’s really game speed,” he said. “So it was nice getting into the game now and just kind of fix things coming up here, practice and get ready for the rest of the games.”

Earlier Wednesday, Winnipeg Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson scored twice as Sweden (1-0-0) took a 3-2 victory over Switzerland (0-1-0) in Group B play.

In the final game of the day, Germany (1-0-1) defeated Austria (0-0-1) 4-2 for its first win of the tournament.

The Canadians will continue round-robin action Thursday when they take on Slovakia (0-0-1).

NOTES: Greig turned 20 on Monday. The world juniors are a showcase of the best under-20 players across the globe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation has allowed athletes born in 2002 who have already turned 20 to play in this summer’s championship. … Cossa was playing on familiar ice, having helped the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL championship in June. … Canada’s goal song is “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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Alberta

‘Short-term pain’: Group of Alberta lawyers escalate job action over legal aid cases

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Alberta criminal defence lawyers are taking another step in their dispute with the provincial government over the amount of compensation paid by Legal Aid Alberta.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers also began refusing certificates for new cases for the most serious criminal charges, including sexual offences, firearms-related crimes and homicides.

Beginning Monday, they say all services will be withdrawn.

“We’re going to stop taking all certificates. That will include some our prior job actions still allowed us to take certificates for people who are already existing clients and there will be a very, very limited set of circumstances now where our members will do that,” said Kelsey Sitar, vice-president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary.

“The default will be: ‘We are just not taking any new work from legal aid until the problem is fixed.'”

Sitar made her comments at a rally in front of the Calgary Courts Centre on Friday that drew about 50 criminal defence lawyers.

A table with a sign reading “Save Legal Aid” offered bake goods for sale. Lawyers carried signs reading “Access 2 Justice Must be Equal.” Another read: “This sign is too small to fit my outrage.”

“This is drastic. I mean, what we were doing up until now is something I know has happened in Ontario before, it did not last long, frankly,” Sitar said.

“I can tell you that none of us want to be out here. We all want to be in there doing our jobs.”

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has said nothing is going to be done until a review of the Legal Aid Alberta administrative system is complete, which is scheduled for next month.

He said any budget changes for legal aid wouldn’t happen until next year.

Sitar said the ministry chose to undertake “an incomplete and, frankly, useless review” at a time when the governing United Conservative Party is about to go through a leadership change.

“So we have to act now and they need to respond now,” she said.

Sitar said she understands the people being affected the most by the job action will be people with lower incomes who need the services to afford legal representation.

“It’s short-term pain right now,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate, but I can tell you that most of the people I’ve talked to on the street who are finding themselves caught up in this understand and are grateful that we’re doing it.”

Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the problem has been growing over the last three years. She said when her party was in power, it committed to additional funding for Legal Aid, but the UCP government backtracked.

“We simply cannot be asking the Legal Aid bar to be doing what we are asking them to do at the rate that we are asking them to do it,” she told reporters.

“We have the lowest funding for Legal Aid in the country. What that means is that we don’t have equal access to justice. It undermines the integrity of our justice system and, overall, it undermines our ability to build a sense of community safety, community security and an overall respect for the rule of law — all of which are important to community health and economic growth.

“It sounds like a niche issue, but it’s not. It actually has knock-off effects to very, very important issues that affect all of us. So, the government needs to come to the table and negotiate decently with these lawyers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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Alberta

‘Kind of like carnies’: International balloon festival returns to High River, Alta.

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By Bill Graveland in High River, Alberta

The windswept prairie east of the Rocky Mountains seems an unlikely spot for a hot-air balloon festival, but the town of High River, Alta., is celebrating the event’s 10th year.

More than 20 brightly coloured balloons — including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god — took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to get some up-in-the-air time to mark the opening of the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival.

“We get about 50 per cent of our flights off. Weather impacts us everywhere,” said event director Jamie Kinghorn, who is also a town councillor.

“This is our 10th. We started in 2013 partly because of the flood that happened. I’d been to a number of balloon events and thought this might lift the spirits of the folks in town.”

The town of 12,000 just south of Calgary gained an international profile in 2013 when flooding in parts of southern Alberta caused billions of dollars in damage.

High River was one of the hardest-hit communities. Entire neighbourhoods were under water for weeks.

“I called in a bunch of friends from the balloon community and they knew what happened, so 20 of them came into High River and we put on a balloon festival that was actually amazing for the community,” Kinghorn said.

“That was sort of the first major thing toward recovery after the flood and we’ve been doing it every year since at the end of September.”

Kinghorn said the festival is a boon to local tourism and there’s not a hotel room to be had in town.

He had his first hot air balloon over the city of Calgary in 1988. A year later he was a balloon pilot.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including some from the United States, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Kinghorn said it’s a pretty small community.

“We tend to meet at various events. We tend to travel. We’re kind of like carnies to some extent,” he said with a laugh.

“We travel around to different cities to different balloon events.”

Alan Davidson, who has been involved in the sport since 1977, is one of the volunteers.

He said those who get involved tend to stick with it.

“The amazing thing is that there are still seven or eight of the people I was ballooning with in the ’70s and early ’80s who are still here at this event,” said Davidson. “They’ve been working with balloons for over 40 years.”

Kinghorn, who is the owner and pilot of the Eye of Ra, was the first balloon in the air Thursday morning after a Wednesday evening flight was cancelled due to the wind.

“My God am I glad we got this off,” he said as the flight came to an end.

The festival runs through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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