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Alberta

Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

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Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

Each of those words can be applied — and probably will be, for many years — to the first round of the best-of-seven NHL playoffs in a season already shaken, but not broken, by COVID-19.

It can be guaranteed that the five overtime periods needed before the Tampa Bay Lightning could stun the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in the record books for years. Brayden Point’s winning goal in the marathon victory will be forgotten long after other details are etched in sports history.

That’s the way it happens when a game in a “hub community” lasts more than six hours, total shots on goal reach record levels and another scheduled playoff game is delayed for almost a full day.

When the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes were ordered to reschedule Game One of their quarter-final showdown, it was not the first official delay of a playoff game — just the first time that the only available ice surface was already in use

Boston and Carolina were installed as the first act in a run of five consecutive series openers on Wednesday. Fortunately, the Lightning and Blue Jackets will have a full day off, as will the Calgary Flames, who edged Dallas 3-2 in the only other match completed on Tuesday.

Columbus vs. Tampa Bay was in many ways.a classical matchup: power against finesse, labour against sheer talent. Joonas Korpisalo faced a few dozen more shots than winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy but the buzzing Blue Jackets defeated every challenge except Point’s ultimate point (pun intended).

It had been expected that the Lightning might win easily. Assured of a berth among the final 16 teams, they cruised through an unimportant round-robin series while the Blue Devils were fighting for their playoff lives in a bitter five-game elimination war with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For Tampa Bay, the victory was essential in the organization’s bid to shake off their miserable 2019 playoff, when they bowed in the first round after running away from all opposition.

The Calgary Flames went through similar miseries at the same time, dominant for most of last season before they won only a single playoff game and headed meekly to the golf course.

This year, the Flames survived at least one major problem: head coach Bill Peters resigned after an ugly racial incident was exposed. Individual on-ice performances faded, too, amid growing claims that the team was made up of casual performers quite content to win the easy ones.

Well, there was nothing easy in beating the Winnipeg Jets to qualify for the final 16 and nothing came easily in the 3-2 victory over Dallas on Tuesday. The Flames have flaws — every team has flaws — but these guys proved again that lack of character is not one of them.

Was the quick evolution of Draisaitl from prospect to standout THE biggest on-ice element in this positive building project?

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Alberta

Former world champion Kevin Koe earns third straight win at Tim Hortons Brier event

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CALGARY —
Kevin Koe remains unbeaten at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Koe’s Wild Card 2 rink defeated Eddie MacKenzie of Prince Edward Island 12-5 on Sunday to improve to 3-0 at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

MacKenzie’s squad dropped to 0-2.

Koe, a four-tine Canadian champion and twice a world gold medallist from Calgary,  took control of the match early, scoring three in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Koe’s rink added four more in the fourth end to go up 8-1 before adding three in the sixth for an 11-3 advantage.

Koe rounded out the scoring with one in the eighth, after which the two teams shook hands.

Koe’s takes on Team Canada’s Brad Gushue (2-0) in the evening draw.

In other early action, Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone (2-1) downed Newfoundland & Labrador’s Greg Smith (0-3) 6-3; Quebec’s Michael Fournier (2-1) defeated Nunavut’s Peter Mackey (0-2) 15-1; and Ontario’s John Epping (2-1) got past Nova Scotia’s Scott McDonald (1-2) 12-7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

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EDMONTON — Kiara Robillard says she was in a really bad place.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, after she was struck by a truck and her spine broke in two places, she moved home to Alberta from California.

“That put a real damper on my life for quite awhile,” says the 25-year-old, who’s unemployed and living in Edmonton.

“I was depressed, anxious, losing touch with reality, and I was desperate for help.”

A few months ago, she says her doctor recommended she subscribe to an Alberta Health Service text-messaging program designed to provide mental-health support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s called Text4Hope.

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months. After that, they can subscribe for a further six months.

Robillard selects a message of hope on her cellphone. “This one’s my favourite: ‘We often think that motivation leads to behaviour. The opposite is also true. Engaging in activities can increase your motivation.’

“I struggle with motivation so just seeing it written out in plain English … it kind of clicks.”

Vincent Agyapong, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, founded the program.

“Text4Hope is a program that allows individuals to subscribe to receive daily supportive text messages to help people deal with stress, anxiety and depression during the COVID pandemic,” he says.

“When people are feeling stressed, anxious and depressed, they become preoccupied with doom and gloom.

“Once you are in this mental state you receive this positive message of hope, which momentarily disrupts your negative pattern of thinking.”

Agyapong says the messages are crafted by psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists.

Another example of a message sent to subscribers: “When bad things happen that we can’t control, we often focus on the things we can’t change. Focus on what you can control; what can you do to help yourself (or someone else) today?”

The idea for Text4Hope came from a similar texting service Agyapong created after a wildfire tore through Fort McMurray, Alta., in 2016. Text4Mood, which was also promoted by Alberta Health Services, sent similar messages of hope to that community’s residents.

Over six weeks with Text4Hope, Agyapong says users reported a 10 per cent reduction in depressive thoughts in comparison to those who didn’t get messages.

“When people switch from being preoccupied with the doom and gloom to thinking more of the positive contents of the messages, which changes their thinking pattern, (it) results in reduced stress, anxiety and depression,” he says.

More than 52,000 people have subscribed to the program since it started nearly a year ago. It is planning to continue for at least two years.

Agyapong says he has also set up a program that will send similar text messages in Arabic for newcomers, starting in April.

Last month, he started a text service for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and he launched one in British Columbia for residents in Indigenous communities who have had multiple traumas. “They had wildfires, then they have flooding and now they have the pandemic,” says Agyapong.

Robillard says she is getting therapy and on medication, but Text4Hope comes in handy on days when she feels down.

“It’s something that’s like a good addition to whatever regimen you have for taking care of your mental health,” she says.

“It’s there to help me … having a different voice, a different stream of consciousness around me helps.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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