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Alberta

The world is full of options

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The world is full of options.

Keep dreaming or cut your hopes? With opinions dominating every aspect of life, whose judgment can you trust? Should we step outside or wait until the siren stops wailing?

Right now, almost at this moment, the National Hockey League is asking those questions: push aside all obstacles and restart the abbreviated current season, or accept that games without fans won’t provide the answer, and the emotional, fan-driven thrills, that supporters truly want? Those questions are front and centre for commissioner Gary Bettman and his paid advisers, as well as for all of us who count on sports – especially hockey, even in what should be baseball season – to fill essential blanks in our schedules. Another group waits more anxiously than ticket-buyers or big-screen addicts possibly could.

The players, of course.

For many, their future next season – even beyond whatever shape their game takes in the short term – is transcendent. Those who have endured a difficult partial season obviously have more concerns than those whose team standings and personal statistics are beyond rebuke. But that, in every sport, is a minority. Far more common are those who cannot tell what next year will bring.

It’s entirely possible that one such man will be Mark Pysyk, the former Edmonton Oil Kings captain who became a first-round draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2010 entry draft and later was traded to the Florida Panthers, where his career has been solid but, as he would clearly admit, not spectacular.

Pysyk holds a high place in Oil Kings junior history. Although his profile never reached the level of Hall-of-Famers Johnny Bucyk or Norm Ullman, nor Al Hamilton and coaching great Pat Quinn and Hall-of-Fame builder Glen Sather, he was the first prospect to don an Edmonton uniform when the franchise returned to organized hockey in 2007 after a long period of ugly sports politics kept this community on the outside looking in.

Pysyk played only 14 Western Hockey League games that season but was a junior star from then on. After Buffalo grabbed him, he played part of one season in the American Hockey League. Since then, he has been fully employed, except for three games in Rochester while recovering from an injury in the 2015-16 season, shortly before he became part of a draft day trade that sent him to the Florida Panthers.

In the next two seasons at his sunny South home, Pysyk performed almost exactly as before: go to work, do the job, get ready for practice tomorrow. seven goals and 33 points in 164 regular-season games; impressive enough, he was, to remain protected in the Las Vegas expansion draft. Then, last season, it was down to one goal and 10 points in 70 games. Word leaked that he would be available for the right trade offer.

Some idle time at the start of this season could not have been unexpected. New head coaches – Joel Quenneville, in this case – always bring change. Blueliners Aaron Ekblad and Anton Stralman played longer minutes. Mike Matheson and MacKenzie Weegar contributed to Pysyk’s extra rest. Then came the change that provided a whole new picture – at least potentially.

Pysyk became a right winger. He scored nine goals – easily his best ever – and the Panthers remained, somehow, as playoff possibilities. His defensive abilities helped keep opposition scoring chances down while this third (sometimes fourth) line improved the offence.

That happy collection of events certainly has presented new possibilities. Will he be a Panther next season? Will he be a forward or a defenceman? Is there any chance that the astute Quenneville saw something other analysts missed before Pysyk arrived.

Eventually, this quality young man will use his ability and his character to answer those questions.

What is Calvin McCarty’s future with the Eskimos?

Alberta

Pastor, candidate under restraining order arrested for allegedly breaking COVID laws

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CALGARY — A Calgary mayoral candidate who is under a restraining order and a pastor both face charges for allegedly violating COVID-19 laws over the weekend.

The Calgary Police Service alleges Kevin J. Johnston was in violation of a court order when he attended an illegal gathering Saturday morning.

The injunction, obtained by the province’s health delivery agency on May 6, mandates that event organizers comply with public health restrictions, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits.

Police also say Pastor Tim Stephens was arrested Sunday afternoon for organizing a church service that was held earlier in the day at Fairview Baptist Church, which police allege did not comply with public health orders.

Police say they received repeated calls from concerned citizens about services at Fairview Baptist Church in recent weeks, and that Stephens was proactively served a copy of the May 6 order last weekend.

On Friday, Alberta Health Services said the Court of Queen’s Bench imposed a restraining order on Johnston, requiring that he stay at least 100 metres away from health officers and must not publish any threats or hate speech directed at them.

Johnston is running in this fall’s municipal election and has been a vocal supporter of anti-lockdown protests.

“We are at a critical point in our province’s response to the pandemic and citizens must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being,” police said in a news release announcing Johnston’s arrest.

They didn’t say what event he allegedly attended.

Alberta Health Services has said Johnston has been aggressive and threatening towards two particular health workers as well as to the general AHS workforce.

Johnston appears regularly online, promoting far-right ideology.

Premier Jason Kenney tweeted Saturday that he was glad the restraining order was issued, calling Johnston a “nutbar.”

Police, meanwhile, said they did not enter Fairview Baptist Church during Sunday morning’s service, and that Stephens was arrested in the afternoon.

“The Pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today’s service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees,” police stated in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

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EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the third period Saturday as the Vancouver Canucks topped the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. 

Travis Boyd and Bo Horvat also had goals for the Canucks (22-28-3), and J.T. Miller registered a pair of assists.

Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season midway through the first period.  

Thatcher Demko had a big performance for Vancouver, stopping 31 shots, including a breakaway chance by Connor McDavid. Mikko Koskinen had 37 saves for Edmonton (35-19-2). 

The result ended a two-game losing skid for the Canucks, who linger at the bottom of the North Division standings with three games left to play. 

With their final playoff tune-up complete, the Oilers will turn their attention to Wednesday’s first-round playoff series opener against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.

The Canucks broke the game open midway through the third period.

Highmore’s second goal of the afternoon came with 6:33 left to play. He sent a backhand shot towards the Edmonton net from the top of the slot and Koskinen fumbled with the puck before it dribbled over the goal line.

The goal, the Vancouver forward’s third of the season, sealed the score at 4-1. 

An odd-man rush saw Highmore blast a shot up and over Koskinen’s glove 9:13 into the period. Just 16 seconds later, Boyd snapped a shot past the Edmonton netminder from the middle of the slot to make it 3-1.

The Canucks outshot the Oilers 17-5 in the final frame on Saturday. 

McDavid had a prime chance to add to his NHL-leading 105 points in the third period when he picked up a Canucks turnover in the neutral zone and sped away for a breakaway. 

The Oilers captain attempted to put a wrist shot in from the top of the crease but Demko made a blocker save.

The Canucks netminder kept the score tied at 1-1 with a stellar stop midway through the second period. 

The Oilers were awarded their second power play of the game when Zack MacEwen hauled down Joakim Nygard. Alex Chiasson’s snapshot from the bottom of the slot nearly restored Edmonton’s lead, but Demko swept it off the goal line with his right pad. 

Edmonton’s first power play of the afternoon didn’t go as planned. Vancouver’s J.T. Miller was called for holding 1:12 into the second period and 15 seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Edmonton net. 

A shot by Leon Draisaitl went wide and was picked up by Tanner Pearson. He streaked up the ice and sent a backhanded pass across the top of the crease to Horvat, who popped it in to tie the game at 1-1. 

It was the Canucks’ fifth short-handed goal of the season and Horvat’s 18th goal of the year. 

Still stationed in the penalty box, Miller tapped his stick against the glass in appreciation. 

Edmonton was 0 for 3 on the power play and Vancouver went 0 for 2. 

Larsson opened the scoring 12:45 into the opening frame, blasting a slapshot past Demko from above the right faceoff circle. 

McDavid and Draisaitl had assists to extend their point streaks to eight games. McDavid has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) over the stretch and Draisaitl has 17 points (7-10).  

Edmonton still won the 10-game season series with six victories over Vancouver. 

The Canucks will host the Calgary Flames on Sunday, kicking off a three-game series that will close out the season for both sides. 

Notes: Slater Koekkoek returned to the Oilers lineup after missing 20 games with a broken collarbone. … Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield turned 25 on Saturday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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