New Car-Race Season Blends Memories and Hope
As these words take shape, one familiar sport is being performed on a regular (not daily) basis in this area. By the end of the weekend, two such adventures will be part of the official record.
Horse racing was first. Auto racing, scheduled Saturday at Castrol Raceway, will be second. A big step, possibly, in the ongoing struggle by addictive fans, sponsors and drivers to preserve an annual summer attraction that once held a lofty place on Alberta’s sports calendar.
Soon, the ongoing dance about when and where for NHL playoffs is expected to end, allowing Edmonton to be named, officially and finally, as a “hub city” with the majority of games to take place at Rogers Centre. After that, we can all hope the sky is the limit for the Canadian Elite Basketball League, top local and area soccer and numerous other long-awaited events.
But, first things (or second things) first.
Ron MacDonell, who holds a lease on the oval at Castrol Raceway near the International Airport, surprised me with his first few words after telephoned for confirmation that the season would begin. “Absolutely,” he howled. “And we’re guaranteed a sellout!!
“The government is allowing us to have 200 spectators (in a facility that regularly has held more than 7,000). If the weather holds up, it will be a great start.”
Aha, the weather. Last year, seven scheduled events were washed out by rain. “Too bad we had so much trouble,” MacDonell moaned. “We were getting better crowds, and we were getting more cars.”
If all goes well, with perfect weather and continued easing of the coronavirus safety requirements, the maximum will be six Saturday race nights. “It’s almost like starting over.”
Such restarts are a big part of Alberta’s auto-racing tradition, topped by the presence of prominent Edmontonian Ron Hodgson, now a member of the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame and the Canadian Auto Racing Hall of Fame. In the 1970s, he teamed with Gordon Jenner and driver Gordie Bonin in winning six NHRA Funny Car medals and two world championships. Gord Beck was another top-level driver to benefit from his association with Hodgson.
More recently, Hodgson and driver Terry Capp carried Alberta’s banner throughout the western U.S., winning major events in Tucson, Bakersfield and other communities. They earned high-profile international recognition. “We could race every week,” Hodgson told me. “We could go to the east, too, but there isn’t enough time.”
Two other sons carried on the tradition: Jeff was a successful sprint-car driver at Castrol Raceway and Ryan, streaking on a quarter-mile drag strip, once owned the world’s fastest time, 268 miles per hour.
Jeff followed in the impressive short-track oval footsteps of Sean Moran, Wade Fleming, Tim Gee and Mark Duperron, among others. Fleming and Moran, first-cousins who operate Central Tire in downtown Edmonton, share the local record for points victories: nine titles each.
“We got along really well on the track, most of the time,” Moran grinned on Friday. “But sometimes we were close to the finish line.”
Wade’s dad, the late sportsman Larry Fleming, was a successful racer for many years before retiring.
Ron Hodgson once owned Castrol Raceway after years as a supporter of Speedway International. After he stepped away last season. Long-time track announcer Gord Craig found it hard to maintain his standard level of optimism. “There is still a pulse – call it a pulse – for racing in Alberta,” he said.
Facilities at Drumheller, Rimbey and elsewhere have been successful at time, “but the sport needs a major boost. In this sport, sponsors always turn out to be people who love the sport and don’t just contribute for business reasons.”
Calgary Flames take 2-1 series lead with 6-2 win over Winnipeg Jets
EDMONTON — Calgary scored a trio of power-play goals on Tuesday en route to a 6-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets and a 2-1 lead in their qualifying series.
Sean Monahan led Calgary’s attack with a goal and two assists. Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund each scored and had an assist.
Matthew Tkachuk and Milan Lucic also scored, and Johnny Gaudreau produced an empty-netter to go along with a helper. Andrew Mangiapane had a pair of assists.
Calgary starter Cam Talbot made 33 saves for the win. Winnipeg counterpart Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 in the loss.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp scored for the Jets.
Game 4 is Thursday night at Rogers Place. Calgary won the series opener 4-1 and Winnipeg took the second game 3-2.
The lower seed and thus the visiting team for the first two games of the series, Winnipeg was the home team Tuesday.
Playing their second game in as many days, and third in four, neither team asserted itself early. Calgary took control with a three-goal second period.
After scoring a pair of power-play goals in Game 1, the Flames had blanked on six chances Monday.
Calgary’s units recovered in the third game scoring three times on four opportunities.
The Jets were minus top-line centre Mark Scheifele, winger Patrik Laine and centre Mason Appleton a second straight day.
Scheifele hasn’t played since the first period of Saturday’s opener. He injured his left leg tangling along the boards with Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk.
Laine suffered an apparent wrist injury colliding with Flames captain Mark Giordano in the third period of Game 1.
Attrition continued for the Jets on Tuesday. Forward Mathieu Perreault went to the dressing room in the second period and did not return. He was checked hard by Sam Bennett near Calgary’s bench.
Defenceman Tucker Poolman missed the majority of the second period. He leaked blood onto the ice after taking a Backlund shot off his head.
Poolman was back on the bench to start the third, however, wearing a cage until switching to a full shield.
With the Jets trailing 5-2, Hellebuyck was pulled with four and a half minutes to play in a bid for extra-attacker goals.
Lucic buried a rebound off a Dillon Dube shot for Calgary’s fifth goal and third with a man advantage at 8:28 of the third.
Mangiapane fed Tkachuk in the slot from behind the net at 12:48 of the second period.
Winnipeg had pulled within a goal at 8:09. Copp stepped out from behind the net and went backhand top corner for a power-play goal.
Monahan lost his helmet when he was pushed hard into the boards by Jansen Harkins. On Harkins’ resulting minor, Monahan chipped a wobbling puck over Hellebuyck’s stick on a broken play at 7:49.
Winnipeg successfully challenged a Lucic goal for goaltender interference seven minutes into the second period. Calgary led 2-1 on Backlund’s goal at 5:17.
Just 18 seconds after Ehlers’ goal at 10:04 of the first period, Lindholm pulled Calgary even with a power-play goal.
Lindholm redirected Erik Gustaffson’s pass over Hellebuyck’s glove for the Swede’s second goal of the series.
From behind Winnipeg’s goal-line, Dmitry Kulikov put a pass off the wall to Ehlers lurking at Calgary’s blue-line. Ehlers beat Talbot far side with a wrist shot.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 4, 2020.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Alberta sees dip in COVID-19 cases over August long weekend: Hinshaw
EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the dip in COVID-19 cases over the long weekend appears to show that people are following public health guidelines about physical distancing and wearing masks.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Alberta’s case numbers have been below 100 for four days straight.
She says the downward trend began Friday with 97 new cases, followed by 67 new cases reported Saturday, 74 on Sunday and 65 on Monday.
Bylaws requiring masks be worn in public places went into effect in both Edmonton and Calgary on Saturday.
Hinshaw also reported five new deaths, bringing Alberta’s total to 201 since the pandemic began.
She says three of the five deaths were at the Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre in Edmonton, which has become the deadliest outbreak in the province.
The facility is reporting 24 deaths on its website on Tuesday. There have been 112 cases at the centre — 80 residents and 32 staff — since the outbreak began July 17.
Currently, there are 42 active cases among residents and 20 among staff members.
“This outbreak underlines the importance of our collective efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Hinshaw said.
“Part of this protection requires continually evaluating our response efforts and using the best available evidence to update our approach when warranted.”
The most recent update reported 1,191 active cases in the province, down from the 1,386 cases reported before the long weekend.
Hinshaw said there were 85 people being treated in Alberta hospitals, 23 of them in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020
The Canadian Press
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