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Alberta

Alberta Juniors Choose Positive Path

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Alberta Juniors Choose Positive Path

Everywhere there is gloom. Well, almost everywhere.

A welcome exception is the 15-team Alberta Junior Hockey League, which lost much of its gate revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic arrival at playoff time, and now waits for permission from Hockey Canada and Alberta Health Services to go ahead with its 2000-2001 season.

President Ryan Bartoshyk confirmed on Monday that his league is “in the process of drawing up our schedule right now. We’re aiming (to have teams on the ice) by Sept. 1 and we hope to get the season started by Sept. 18.” Any and all final decisions must meet with at least two levels of official approval, of course, but operators have expressed their confidence by agreeing to put in the work, recognizing that later starts (or no start) are still possibilities.

To an outsider, the clearest declaration of league independence is this: the schedule, with various possible opening dates pencilled in, is being drawn up for all 15 teams. This is most impressive when it is known that several franchises – no names provided by president Bartoshyk or any team spokesman – have expressed serious concern about the cost of business in the coming season.

We have lost at least one league camp for tryouts,” said a spokesman. “We know we’re going to lose more.”

Not included are the Blackfalds Bulldogs, who will replace the former Calgary Mustangs at the start of the 2021/2002 season. Bartoshyk was pleased to say “work on the new arena for Blackfalds is due to start this month.”

Among the established teams reported to have mentioned their problems outside of league meetings are the Canmore Eagles, but the team’s two captains and a pair of assistants have already been named for the coming season. At least a couple of promising signings have also been announced. As a result, pessimism has shrunk a great deal.

Also optimistic about the coming season are the Olds Grizzlys, whose attendance averaged well over 1,500 a game when they dominated Junior A ranks several years ago but dropped to about 600 a game last year. “This is a great sports community, a great place to be,” said club governor and vice-president executive Trent Wilhauk. “We know the fans will come back; they love their Grizzlys.”

Population of the community is slightly more than 10,000. “It’s a happening place when the team is going good.”

After wiping out last year’s playoffs and destroying some of the regular post-season increases at the gate, COVID-19 has continued to harm the AJHL, just as it has damaged so many other areas of the economy. “We have lost at least one league camp for tryouts,” said a spokesman. “We know we’re going to lose more.”

Those financial setbacks may have been dwarfed by the loss of some appealing playoff matchups. “Some of the teams that drew above-average numbers for us (Okotoks Oilers, Brooks Bandits, Sherwood Park Crusaders) didn’t have a playoff game before we had to stop,” Bartoshyk said. “They all had byes in the first round.”

Other teams with relative season-long success at the gate also missed money-raising opportunities. “It’s obvious that our league relies on corporate sponsorship and support at the gate,” Bartoshyk added, mentioning a handful of promising pending post-season clashes — Drayton Valley and Sherwood Park, the Whitehorse Wolverines and the Spruce Grove Saints, Camrose Kodiaks and Drumheller Dragons – that could not take place.

At this point, the day’s general feeling that the AJHL future remains bright surfaced again.

Said Bartoshyk: “We’re ready. We’ll do what is necessary.”

https://www.todayville.com/edmonton/hundreds-of-young-athletes-grow-more-anxious-by-the-day-acac-season-a-series-of-options/

Alberta

'I knew the challenges': Lethbridge police chief aware of problems before taking job

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — It’s been a particularly tough year for the police chief of Alberta’s third-largest city

But Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh says he was fully aware of the problems before he took the top job in July 2020.

“I knew the challenges in this department and in this city, and a lot of these events that are bringing a lot of bad press to this department,” Mehdizadeh said in a sit-down interview with The Canadian Press. “I didn’t come to this with blind eyes.”

The police service has faced numerous controversies in recent years. 

Last year, two officers were temporarily demoted after a review determined NDP provincial legislature member Shannon Phillips, while environment minister in 2017, was surveilled and photographed at a diner. The officers involved were concerned about changes Phillips was making regarding off-highway vehicles at nearby wilderness areas. 

Separately, five officers and one civilian were investigated on allegations of conducting improper database searches on Phillips while she was in cabinet.

The force was also criticized in May 2020 for the violent takedown of a citizen wearing a “Star Wars” storm trooper costume and brandishing a toy laser blaster. An independent review said the officers had not acted inappropriately.

“There were some events that have really put a lot of negative publicity on this organization,” said Mehdizadeh, “but a lot of these events … range from 2016 to 2018, and any recent allegations are being tied to the historic events.

“As a result we have many investigations.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu ordered the Lethbridge Police Service to clean up its act or risk being dissolved. He demanded an action plan to address everything from recruiting to oversight to changing the department’s internal culture.

“If I concluded that the leadership of the force and the commission were not serious about fixing the problem, I was prepared to do what was necessary to fix the problem,” Madu said earlier this week.

“They came back to me with an action plan that was acceptable and I approved.”

Madu said he will wait to see what a public inquiry by the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board turns up before he decides how successful the changes have been. 

He noted that he doesn’t blame the current chief.

“Let me be blunt … I think it stems from the previous leadership there,” said Madu. “I am very sympathetic to the current chief.

“He was brought in during the midst of these problems. None of these problems are part of his watch. This is a problem that he inherited.”

The president of the Lethbridge Police Association said the problems that became public were years in the making.

“It’s been miserable for us for more than the past year. I think what most people don’t understand is what they’re seeing now is predicated on things that came before. Nothing happens in a vacuum,” said Jay McMillan.

“Many of our own internal issues were born of an era where there was different leadership in place, or a lack of leadership. It sort of created a culture here that was not healthy and probably not able to withstand any external pressures.”

McMillan said most of the controversies don’t reflect the service now. He supports the changes outlined in the provincial action plan, he said.

“You’re able to look in the mirror as an organization or an individual and identify some things you can do a little bit better,” he said.

“A lot of the things in that action plan were things that were set up to take place already, so it wasn’t in response to the public attention. It wasn’t in response to the justice minister … the organization had already realized there were some changes that needed to be made.”

Mehdizadeh said his job is to “fix these things.”

“This is very historic stuff and it wasn’t fair to really judge the organization based on what went on a few years ago,” he said.

“I don’t have the authority to make arbitrary decisions to get rid of people or fire people. There are legal processes that we have to adhere to, that we have to be respectful of and compliant to move forward.”

Sanctions have been taken against a number of officers as a result of the circulation of inappropriate images, reportedly including pictures of senior staff pasted onto the bodies of characters from the animated “Toy Story” movies. 

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

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Federal minister to provide money to fight aquatic invasive species in mountain parks

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BANFF, Alta. — Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is expected to announce funding today to fight aquatic invasive species in five mountain national parks in Alberta and British Columbia.

Guilbeault, who is scheduled to be in Banff, Alta., plans to make almost $15 million available over the next five years to prevent and manage invasive species in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Yoho national parks.

The money is to be used for both prevention and education programs.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says the parks are vulnerable to non-native species of mussels as well as the parasite that causes whirling disease in fish.

Invasive species can be spread by people enjoying mountain rivers and lakes.

The work is also expected to support the recovery of species at risk, including westslope cutthroat trout, Athabasca rainbow trout and bull trout.

Guilbeault is in Banff after spending Friday in Calgary meeting with oil industry representatives and Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon.

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

The Canadian Press

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