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Hundreds of young athletes grow more anxious by the day – ACAC season a series of “options”


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While addicts ponder cross their fingers at every hint the National Hockey League’s big-money dance toward a playoff schedule and perhaps a Stanley Cup final sometime this year might be successful, hundreds of young athletes grow more anxious day by day, hoping they get to play at least part of their schedules in various college sports.

And money is close to the least of the concerns for these kids.

The five-day annual spring meeting of Alberta College Athletic Conference institutions ended a week ago with little clarity on the issue although CEO Mark Kosak and various other officials in the 18-team league came away – mostly – with a positive outlook.

As expected, a wide series of “options and alternate start dates” was devised and analyzed, he said.

A committee established to evaluate likely effects of the coronavirus pandemic will meet at least once a week in preparation for “a really big and important meeting dealing with massive variables” on June 25. Many essential details applying to all sports – when to start a season, length of schedule, possible change of regular play into tournament-style competition – will be put on the table.

Progressively, Aug. 1, a date in September and others in January have been debated in depth.

All options remain open, Kosak said, pointing out that safety of athletes, students, spectators and staff remains as the dominant factor in every discussion. Principals at some institutions have made it clear they do not expect any sports to be played in what normally is the ACAC fall season. Close to 50 per cent of the principals have made clear their concern that moving too quickly in one sport or one schedule might destroy all the good that the current cautious program may achieve. If necessary, all games would have to be sacrificed.

The veteran administrator posed one conservative, hypothetical and frightening prospect: A school from a difficult place (where control of COVID-19 might not be at the ideal level) when it goes to play a road game in a safer area. Then, say, one player on the home team comes down with the virus.

“What options are open if that happens?” Obviously, no organization could possibly benefit from such an occurrence. “I understand fully what those presidents are concerned about. At this point, they’re all justified to be worried about the potential for an outbreak on campus.”

Fortunately, Kosak said, all of the presidents recognize the value of college sports, mentioning the appeal of an athletic event, additional enrolment and potential gate receipts. He did not mention students’ enthusiam when they support a successful individual or team, but that element has been demonstrated for as long as athletes have competed at any level of education.

Cost of operation has prompted some ACAC schools to make deep cuts in athletic expenses. “We all have a similar problem” said Kosak. “Each school deals with it as best they can.”

Hockey budgets have been questioned most severely. A few weeks ago, NAIT Ooks head coach Tim Fragle accepted an offer to become head coach and general manager of the Trail Smoke Eaters in the Junior A British Columbia Hockey League.

They are not, of course, the fabled senior Smoke Eaters who won the World Hockey Championship for Canada in 1961, but Fragle treats the switch as a sort of homecoming. He is a former Smoke Eater captain, having played there after his career with the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Fragle was named coach of the year three times for NAIT.

Former Ooks standout Scott Fellnermayr moves up from the assistant’s job to replace Fragle as head coach.

WCBL season cancelled ending the Edmonton Prospects run at Re/Max Field

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Pace, health, return to winning form the goals at Flames training camp, says GM

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CALGARY — Proper pacing, staying disease-free and being ready to beat the Winnipeg Jets when the NHL reboots is the balancing act at Calgary Flames training camp, according to the team’s general manager.

The Flames open training camp 2.0 Monday, which is four months plus a day after the NHL suspended the 2019-20 season for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minus defenceman Travis Hamonic, the first NHL player to opt out of returning to play, Calgary’s camp roster includes 20 forwards, 11 forwards and four goalies.

“My understanding right now is that’s your group, so you’ve got to manage your group,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said Sunday in a conference call with reporters.

Knowing their first games after training camp won’t be pre-season warmups, but a best-of-five elimination series against the Jets in Edmonton, Treliving says Flames coaches might have to pull on the reins the first few days of camp.

“I think they’re going to come out hot,” Treliving said. “You want to get your work done, but you’ve got to be smart about it.

“As much as the series against Winnipeg isn’t that far away, from a playing standpoint, we’ve still got three weeks.

“You’ve got to be careful you don’t leave it all on the table by Wednesday and then you’re trying to recover. The first couple of days you’re going to be focused on getting your speed and your pace up and you’re going to be focused on knocking the summer hockey habits out.”

Calgary (36-27-7) ranked third in the Pacific Division, four points back of the second-place Edmonton Oilers, when the NHL halted play.

Winnipeg (37-32-8) was fourth in the Central and held down the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

Theirs is the lone all-Canadian matchup when the play-in round starts Aug. 1 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

Each team is limited to 52 people, including 31 players, upon arrival in each hub city where they’re to be walled off from the public.

Treliving says what keeps him awake at night is the Flames staying virus-free before arrival in Edmonton.

“What we’ve learned about this virus is it’s not a dirty little secret. You don’t have to be doing something wrong to attract it,” he said. “It’s still out there.”

The Flames will enter Scotiabank Saddledome one by one wearing masks, the GM said, and be subject to daily temperature checks and COVID-19 tests.

Dressing rooms will be sanitized after use and players will physically distance from each other during dryland training, he added.

“Where you are susceptible is when you leave the rink,” Treliving acknowledged. “As an organization, we’ve given them all the instruction they need.

“We’re as on lockdown as you can possibly be right now, to try to be as safe as we can to get to the hub.”

Hamonic was among half a dozen NHL players as of Sunday who had opted out of returning to play.

In a statement, he cited his infant daughter’s respiratory illness earlier this year as his reason for sitting out the rest of this season.

The 29-year-old Manitoban is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season.

“Contractual status and all that stuff is a discussion for another day,” Treliving said. “As I told him, I respect his decision.

“Every player has that right, has that ability. But like everything else, our focus is on the people that are here.

“The focus is going to be on us getting ready over the next three weeks to play August 1st.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2020.


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Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Calgary man dies in mountain hiking incident, others injured by rock fall

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CANMORE, Alta. — The RCMP say a Calgary man died of injuries he suffered Saturday afternoon while hiking in Kananaskis Country near Canmore, Alta.

Police say the 30-year-old man was on a popular trail on Mount Yamnuska when he fell about six metres.

They say that as bystanders came to the injured man’s aid, several boulders broke loose from the scree slope above, striking the man as well as some other people.

Police say the hiker suffered a head injury and later died despite the life saving efforts of both bystanders and personnel from a number of emergency services.

The man’s name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin, and there was no immediate word on the condition of the others hit by the falling rocks.

The RCMP also say that in two other separate incidents Saturday in the same area, a 24-year-old man suffered a head injury in a fall on the scree slope, while another hiker sustained a fracture in a fall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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