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Alberta

“Cheer up, things could be worse.” So, we cheered up. Things got worse.

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In healthier times for athletes and athletics, there were several tried-and-true methods of creating a debate likely to create serious response from all sides: which of the major professional leagues is best?

The question has special impact now, as hoopsters, skaters, gridders and ballplayers — joined by governments and team bosses — seek the best way to survive the anguish caused by COVID-19 and restore stability for all teams, all sports and all the fans who care about them.

All are staggering these days.

In the pandemic’s early chapters, the mantra became familiar: “Cheer up, things could be worse.” So, we cheered up. Things got worse.

The NHL fights the coronavirus by limiting information. Baseball players and owners pick this time to enter wrist-twisting events that probably will have no long-term effect. Football operators dig themselves into and out of political crisis on a daily basis.

The National Basketball Association, somehow, has found its way past such errors. Their  decision to let players put political opinions on game jerseys was thoroughly questioned but has received more praise than criticism.

Recently, in Canada, there was evidence that the National Basketball Association had a substantial edge in popularity and support, thanks almost totally to the 2020 success of the Toronto Raptors. Even the casual fan recalls the wild response generated, east to west and all points in between, by the shocking championship run created largely on the brilliance of Kawhi Leonard and the incredible effort generated by his teammates, night after night.

Never in recent history has competition in the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball or National Football League prompted bursts of wild, day-to-day support to equal the attention the Raptors attained in each playoff series leading to the ultimate victory. From a league-wide perspective, the excellence in which the NBA conducted all those games was remarkable.

Sure, the Edmonton Oilers had massive appeal when they dominated Stanley Cup races, year after year, in the heyday of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and their partners who marched almost as a unit into the Hockey Hall of Fame. At other times, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs (believe it or not!) also reached that level, or came close to it. But the NHL has struggled — still struggles, in fact — to be recognized across the world as equal to basketball, baseball or football.

No doubt, the Toronto Blue Jays’ World Series successes in 1992 and 1993 are near the top in any ranking of this nation’s largest sports moments but MLB has done a lousy job of attracting Black players and getting young fans interested in their game.

Perhaps the NFL has made more errors than all the others combined. Their owners alternate between bowing to political pressure and actively defying political reality. Ignoring the tragic used-to-be “Redskins” story is an error that could emerge, perhaps for decades, as the biggest failure of all.

https://www.todayville.com/edmonton/author/johnshort/

 

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Alberta

Judge to decide if pastor accused of violating public-health orders will receive bail

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EDMONTON — A judge is to decide today whether to release an Alberta pastor from jail, after his lawyer argued he should be free to lead worshippers until his trial.

James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for over two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions.

Coates is charged with violating Alberta’s Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence.

His lawyer, James Kitchen, told court Thursday that Coates can’t follow a bail condition that forbids him from holding services, because that would violate his conscience by disobeying God.

A prosecutor argued that the pastor’s release is a danger to the public.

The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing.

The church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in custody.

He is to stand trial in May.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Flames fire Geoff Ward, bring Darryl Sutter back as head coach

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CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have fired Geoff Ward and brought Darryl Sutter back as head coach.

The team made the announcement Thursday night after Ward coached the Flames to a 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. The Flames went 11-11-2 under Ward.

Sutter coached the Flames from 2002 to 2006, and served as the team’s general manager from 2003 to 2010.

The 62-year-old from Viking, Alta., guided Calgary to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 when the Flames lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sutter coached the Los Angeles Kings from 2011 to 2017 and won Stanley Cups in both 2012 and 2014.

He has 18 seasons of head-coaching experience in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

 

The Canadian Press

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