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Door opening for fan increase for minor-sports?


4 minute read

No surprise that the COVID pandemic has eliminated many high-profile sports in the last 100 days or so, and that promoters are struggling to get back to work. What may be a shock is that many officials tied to low-profile sports see an opportunity to fill the gap with events that normally receive only limited space on the back pages – if they get any media attention at all.

One of those who sees the opening, and welcomes it, is a man intimately connected with university, junior and age-class versions of his sport at all levels.

Enthusiastic comments are part of the Tim Enger personality; he played and coached this game before stepping into administration and ultimately becoming executive director of Football Alberta. It’s a big plus that he tempers his optimism with the basic understanding that the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB and others are sure to draw the bulk of fan and media support as soon as massive problems with border access, real or feared boosts in infection totals and growing disputes between players and ownership are settled. The Canadian Football League cannot be added to this list because there has been no clear indication that any games will be played in 2020.

The timing of Enger’s comments is commendable. So is his understanding that a lot of professional supporters are reluctant to watch unknown amateurs do their thing. “We know that not every game is a thriller,” he conceded. “But most of our games provide a good level of excitement.”

Obviously, the major difficulty right now is tied to coronavirus reduction. Grid schedules will not be settled for quite awhile. “In Alberta (Step 2  of the recovery process), junior teams have permission to practice in cohorts of 50. Basically, that’s an offensive group and a defensive group. They haven’t been approved for larger numbers, so there are no full-team workouts at this point.

“We (Football Alberta) stay in contact with the health minister and Alberta Health Services,” said Enger, happy that his small staff is back at headquarters in the Percy Page Centre after two months of working almost exclusively at home. “There has been no sign of when Tier 3 will go into effect, so all we can do is wait.”

Tentative schedules have been designed. Obviously they’ll be adjusted as necessary.

He anticipates at least a partial junior schedule this season, perhaps starting in August with the Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats and Calgary Colts filling some dates. Clashes with Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams are iffy these days because  provincial rules vary on border access and possible isolation.

“There has been talk of a Manitoba-Saskatchewan connection, with a possible playoff between the two groups. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The Prairie Junior Conference outlook changes radically from high school programs,” he said. They deal with school boards, principals and the ASAA (Alberta Schools Athletic Association.) Their road to competition might be quite a bit longer than ours.”

Already, the University of Alberta decision to give the Golden Bears a year off has negatively affected provincial football. For those concerned that they may be done for good, it’s pleasant to recall what happened when athletic director Dale Schula announced the sport had been chopped in 1991. The Bears alumni stepped up to raise enough money to keep the program alive. Two years later, then-coach Tom Wilkinson – one of Canada’s leading sports heroes, in many opinions — led a drive to raise another $400,000 when tight university economics threatened a final end to Golden Bears football.

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Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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