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“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

Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

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DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast was found in a field not far from where it was taken.

According to Jane McMullin, co-owner of Hand Hills Crafts in Delia, Alta., “Morgan the Mystical Unicorn” had stood, embedded in the ground with spikes, outside the business for two years and had become a bit of a tourist attraction.

But McMullin says a neighbour phoned her Friday on morning and told her that her unicorn “had run away.”

RCMP issued a news release Saturday saying the statue was found about 15 kilometres from the village, damaged, with its bronze-coloured horn broken off.

The release says police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help.

McMullin says “friendly people” have transported Morgan back to Delia, but she says he’s got scratches and dents that will need to be repaired along with the horn.

“It was heartbreaking to see the damage,” she said. “He’s going to be down and out for a while.”

Investigators say that between 1:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Friday, they believe a vehicle was driven to Delia where suspects loaded the statue in the box of a large utility truck.

The statue, which measures more than three-metres high and weighs more than 270 kilograms, is worth $10,000, police said.

McMullin said the unicorn statue was given to her and her partner as a gift and once stood in Iricana, Alta. Originally, she said, it came from Texas.

“He was a great landmark. People would say, ‘When you get to Delia, turn right at the unicorn,'” McMullin said.

“We’ve had hundreds of people stop to get pictures of him.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Unbeaten Brad Gushue into Champions Cup curling playoffs in Calgary

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CALGARY — Brad Gushue won a third game in a row Saturday to qualify for the playoffs in the Humpty’s Champions Cup Grand Slam curling event in Calgary.

Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., scored two points in the seventh end and stole one in the eighth for a 6-5 win over Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz, who won a bronze medal at the recent men’s world championship in the same arena.

Gushue tops the men’s Pool A at 3-0 in the five-day event at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.

Gushue was to face Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, the world championship silver medallist, later Saturday.

The Champions Cup is the first of two Grand Slams in Calgary featuring two dozen men’s and women’s domestic and international teams.

The Princess Auto Players’ Championship starts Tuesday. The combined prize purse of both bonspiels is $560,000. 

In other morning-draw games, Matt Dunstone edged Brad Jacobs 6-5 to put both teams at 1-2 in Pool A.

Russia’s Alina Kovaleva got to 2-1 in the women’s Pool A with a 9-7 victory over winless Briar Hurlimann of Switzerland.

Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa downed Tabitha Peterson of the Unites States 5-2 to put both at 1-2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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