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Alberta

Last week our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles

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To become a true sports fan, everyone must understand the day-to-day definition of miracle.

League championships count, of course. So do record-setting performances and, rarely, the sort of team or individual success that stamps itself on the viewer’s memory for many years.

Last week, in this humble view, our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles:

* Felix Auger-Alliasime, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil became the first Canadians to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open, among the world’s most iconic tennis tournaments;

* Little-known goaltender Thatcher Demko, a San Diego product who was virtually unknown in the NHL, constructed an amazing goaltending streak that carried the underdog Vancouver Canucks all the way to a seventh game in a Stanley Cup playoff quarter-final;

* Our best-ever basketball player, Steve Nash, accepted a contract to coach the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association.”I knew I wanted to pursue coaching if and when the right chance came.”

* Occasional starter Ogi Anunoby combined with team leader Kyle Lowry on a buzzer-beating, three-point shocker with a half-second remaining — repeat, a HALF-SECOND remaining — to keep the Toronto Raptors alive in their bid to repeat as NBA champions.

Probably the worst thing about sports miracles is that they sometimes fade at painful speed.

Apart from Shapovalov’s victory over Belgian vet David Goffin and the fact that Nash signed a long-term coaching arrangement, that’s exactly what happened this time.

After spotting Goffin the first set in a tie-breaker, the 22-year-old lefty took total control of the next three sets. Pospisil and Auger-Aliassime — known to most of his fans simply as “Double-A” — each played well but lost in the first set. There was little excitement for Canadian fans as they failed to win another set, and probably didn’t reach another break point.

Arguably, the most exciting moments, win or lose, were split between Anunoby and Demko. They also shared immense “cool” when discussing their feats.

Demko, a San Diego product who spent three years in goal at Boston College, made several references to teammates who sacrificed their bodies numerous times in the three games he played at Edmonton’s Rogers Place — two of them victories — against a bigger, stronger, faster Las Vegas team.

Anunoby was even more succinct: “I took the shot because I thought it would go in,” the budding star said without a smile. “I don’t take a shot and expect to miss it.” Later, experts compared his moment of brilliance with Kawhi Leonard’s unforgettable four-bounce shot to defeat Philadelphia on the way to last year’s title.

The future is bright for all of the young players — AA is the baby, just turned 20 years old — and for the 46-year-old Nash, as well as for Demko’s Vancouver Canucks allies, a collection of solid journeymen and fast-improving youngsters.

But things don’t look so good for the Raptors. After Anunobi’s stunner in that 104-103 victory over Boston, they posted a second win and squared the series. Unfortunately, miracles do not always carry long guarantees: the Raptors were humiliated in the fifth game of the series and could be on the sidelines for good by Thursday morning.

If another miracle arrives in Orlando tonight (Wednesday), Nick Nurse and his players are sure to make it welcome.

Edmonton’s connection to the defection of Baltimore Orioles’ superstar Jose Iglesias

Alberta

Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

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SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta church charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules.

On the first Sunday since GraceLife Church was shut down and fenced off by Alberta Health Services, an estimated 500 people gathered outside to oppose COVID-19 regulations and show support.

GraceLife Church and its pastor, James Coates, are charged under the Public Health Act for holding services that break health restrictions related to capacity, physical distancing and masking.

Alberta’s health agency said in a statement when it shut down the church on Wednesday that the church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public health measures meant to contain the spread of the virus.

Dozens of police officers monitored the large crowd as they sang hymns and prayed for the church to reopen. 

Some supporters shouted at police, saying officers should be ashamed of themselves for the closure.

RCMP said in a statement they will only use the level of intervention necessary to maintain peace, order and safety.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

World men's curling championship resumes amid COVID scare

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CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship playoffs were given the green light to resume Sunday after a suspension of games due to COVID-19.

Four participants, including three from non-playoff teams, tested positive from the virus. The other athlete from a playoff team who tested positive wasn’t allowed to compete Sunday.

Saturday’s playoff game and a pair of semifinals were postponed while more testing was conducted. 

Alberta Health approved the resumption of the championship, the World Curling Federation said.

The United States and Switzerland were to meet in a playoff game  Sunday morning, followed by afternoon semifinals involving Sweden, Russia and Scotland and the playoff winner.

The gold and bronze-medal games were scheduled for the same draw in the evening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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