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Calgary

It’s starting to feel like a real old-fashioned NHL playoff

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Hard to believe, but this is starting to feel like a real, old-fashioned NHL playoff. The Stanley Cup will not be awarded for months.

Yet, here we are, two weeks away from the official lid-lifters in the opening round of what will become a five-series marathon for two teams and the internet universe is full of hopes and doubts, fears and prayers — almost as if this was April, not mid-July.

The shocking news that a $600-million edifice like Rogers Place is as susceptible to flooding as a mere million-dollar structure did nothing to delay this outbreak of opinions. No further proof is needed that hockey, for large groups of us, stands at least equal to COVID-19 in daily interest.

In Edmonton, for example, there is growing hope that the Oilers will cruise through their first series with Chicago, largely because proven goaltender Corey Crawford has been declared “unfit to play” and any available backup for the Blackhawks is far less competent.

Having Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid available will also help, and there were signs late last season that the depth pieces at forward and on the blue line are more than just place-holders until the superstars take control.

In Calgary, optimism is quieter, maybe because the Flames have won only a single playoff round in six years. And maybe because talented Johnny Gaudreau was separated from familiar linemates in early workouts while other holdovers have been — like Crawford — handed the unique “unfit to play” designation.

General manager Brad Treliving went online quickly to defend Gaudreau against suggestions that he is not in game shape and has struggled in the early going. Gaudreau himself labeled the criticism “just one of those things.”

Other potential issues have not been widely discussed. Coronavirus infection for Derek Ryan and others who have stayed off the ice? Chances are fans will never know.

At least one presumed expert on Friday went so far as to say in print that the Oilers “have a real chance to win the Stanley Cup.” Pre-playoff season is the time to dream big in any sport.

In a normal NHL season — if there is ever such a thing as normalcy in sports — the focus for most fans goes to player signings, free-agent talk and the like, including inevitable calls by so-called supporters for one or several coaches and general managers to be dismissed.

A big difference now is fan interest in winners of individual honours: Ted Lindsay Award for best player, Lady Byng for most gentlemanly, Masterton Trophy for dedication to the sport and others for top rookie, top defenceman and the like.

Automatically, Calgary fans insist, for example, that Mike Giordano is the league’s top defender. Oilers fans and several media types, always convinced their opinions lack bias, have gone on record with demands that Daisaitl must win the Lindsay award and that McDavid, who used the entire 2020 pre-season to battle a career-threatening knee injury, should have no challengers for the Masterton Trophy, which this old reporter believes should go to Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators.

So far, it seems, the biggest difference between Edmonton’s observers and the similar group in Calgary is positive versus negative. Some Oilers-watchers honestly hint that their two superstars might portend the beginning of a magical run like Edmonton’s domination in the 1980s.

In Calgary, there are fresh complaints about Treliving’s performance and the sad recent finishes by a team that figures to be seriously challenged by the Winnipeg Jets in their first-round match.

Is it too soon to be talking about a Flames rebuild. Several voices in Calgary insist it is not.

Clear Answers Required

 

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Alberta

Bamboo supplies dwindling: Calgary Zoo hopeful pandas will be China-bound soon

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CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo says it’s hopeful two giant pandas will be able to return home soon to China, where bamboo supplies are abundant.

The zoo said in May that it would be sending the pair back early because the COVID-19 pandemic was making it difficult to source the plant that makes up 99 per cent of their diet.

But international permits to transport the pandas to China were also stymied by the pandemic, and the zoo raised concerns last month about the animals’ well-being.

The zoo says international permit approvals are now underway and it’s cautiously optimistic it will be able to confirm a flight to China for the pandas soon.

It says it has secured a supply of fresh bamboo from across North America in anticipation of its Canadian supply running out this month.

The zoo says the bamboo hunt has been all-consuming and expensive, but the zoo is committed to doing everything it needs to to ensure the pandas are healthy.

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018, along with cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo. The cubs were returned to China in January and their parents were to remain in Calgary until 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Preparing for the Return of the Calgary Winter at the Mustard Seed

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As Calgary prepares for the descent back into winter, the reliance on nonprofit organizations throughout the city is set to increase as the most vulnerable members of the community turn to support programs and shelters to weather the cold months. 

The Mustard Seed is a Christian-faith based organization that values transparency, accountability, respect, communication and holistic innovation. As one of Calgary’s oldest homeless relief organizations, The Mustard Seed has been operating in the city for nearly 40 years. 

By offering a range of products and services to compromised community members in Calgary and across western Canada, The Mustard Seed’s ultimate vision is to eliminate factors that contribute to homelessness and poverty. The organization pursues this goal every day by “providing basic needs (food, clothing and hygiene items), education, employment programs, health and wellness services, spiritual care, housing, and emergency shelter.” 

Founded in 1984 by Pat Nixon, who had experienced homelessness himself as a teenager, The Mustard Seed began as a small drop-in coffee shop. From there, it expanded into a downtown house, and then officially opened as a shelter on 11 Ave SE in 1992. Beginning with just 80 mats and a single location in ‘92, The Mustard Seed now operates five different locations across Calgary, and has the capacity to house 370 adults every night at their Foothills Shelter location. According to Dave Conrad, Community Engagement Manager for the Mustard Seed, the shelter serves close to 315,000 meals every year, and often hits overnight capacity in the winter months, averaging 328 individuals per night in 2019.

In addition to the Foothills Shelter, the Mustard Seed also operates the Downtown Support Centre, the Wellness Centre, the Neighbour Centre, and the Resource Sorting Centre. Across these 5 locations, The Mustard Seed is able to provide a series of advocacy, health and wellness, transportation, employment and spiritual care services to those who need them most. 

The Mustard Seed is also responsible for the 1010 Centre, Canada’s largest permanent supportive housing facility, which provides affordable, sustainable housing options in the city of Calgary. They have a total of 285 affordable housing units among four locations: 224 units in the 1010 Centre, 30 units in the Downtown Support Centre, and 31 units in two external housing units. 

Providing aid and relief, and fulfilling the most basic human needs as well as educational, employment and social needs for those who require it most is no small task. Issues such as homelessness and poverty pay no attention to a pandemic, and COVID-19 has had a major impact on operations at the Mustard Seed and organizations similar. 

In order to maintain compliance with COVID-19 health and safety mandates, the capacity of the Mustard Seed to house individuals has been reduced from 370 at one location to 238 between two locations, which will pose a unique challenge heading into winter. However, Conrad says they are committed to making it work, whatever it takes. “As the winter comes, we tend to see our numbers go up, which will create some unique challenges with the pandemic this year” he says, “but we will continue to work with the community and collaborate with other organizations to ensure that everyone who needs a bed, has a bed.” 

Despite the new and ongoing challenges of 2020, the support from the public during the pandemic has been extraordinary, says Conrad. ““We have all been incredibly humbled by the public response over the course of all this,” he says, “we are so encouraged by the outpouring of support from our community.”

Heading back into winter, some of the most pressing needs for The Mustard Seed currently include warm clothes and new underwear, and the organization is also encouraging people to explore available opportunities to return to volunteering. 

For more information about The Mustard Seed, visit https://theseed.ca

To find out how you can contribute and for a comprehensive list of items urgently needed by the Mustard Seed, check https://theseed.ca/urgent-items/

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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