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Alberta

Was the quick evolution of Draisaitl from prospect to standout THE biggest on-ice element in this positive building project?

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It was a little more than three years ago when Wayne Gretzky predicted the Edmonton Oilers were on their way to big improvement in the National Hockey League.

And he did it in one simple sentence: “We’ll be a really good team when the big guy decides he wants to run his own line.”

Now it’s obvious that “the big guy” was, and is, Leon Draisaitl. Gretzky’s words came as a team-wide selection of alleged experts insisted the Oilers would reach their peak if then-coach Todd McLellan would leave Draisaitl and the remarkable Connor McDavid as allies on the same forward line long enough to allow some solid second- and third-line players to become consistently valuable.

The operative words in Gretzky’s sentence — “decides to” — became memorable only after Draisaitl matured enough to recognize his own potential. The specific turning point from bright prospect to budding superstar Is impossible to define precisely, but it certainly happened last season.

Until then, the German youngster remained only an intriguing prospect. He operated comfortably, and often effectively, with McDavid doing most of the work, getting almost all the attention and still scoring points at a ridiculous level

To state the obvious once again, Draisaitl’s status as scoring champion and likely winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player has erased any fear that he might fall short of the potential that showed in his junior career.

Now, he faces another step: showing his dominance — on his own line much of the time and in partnership with McDavid on Edmonton’s ominous power play. The Chicago Blackhawks are certain to see brilliance from their offensive co-leaders through at least three first-round playoff games, and perhaps as many as five games.

Since almost the moment, months ago,when commissioner Gary Bettman’s dream of completing a Stanley Cup playoff was first circulated, respect has grown for the Oilers as potential champions — this year, not next year.

Coach Dave Tippett and general manager Ken Holland have been extremely strategic in their public utterances: “sure we’re good, but we’re still growing,” is a shared outlook. Holland, in particular, has been cautious. His years of success as the operational head of the Detroit Red Wings showed him that depth and experience are essential to reach the top of any competitive ladder.

The season-long improvement of defender Ethan Bear and winger Kailer Yamamoto has done much to improve team depth, back and front. Evan Bouchard, Phil Broberg and Caleb Jones are all nearing regular play on a big-league blueline crew. Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod, Ostap Safin show similar signs up front.

These future additions make it obvious the Oilers have potential as serious candidates, both short- and long-term.

Was the quick evolution of Draisaitl from prospect to standout THE biggest on-ice element in this positive building project? It’s hard to argue otherwise.

Coronavirus invasion of major league baseball was bound to happen sooner or later

Alberta

Regulator rules in favour of Trans Mountain route deviation

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Workers place pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary

The Canada Energy Regulator has approved Trans Mountain Corp.’s application to modify the pipeline’s route, a decision that could spare the government-owned pipeline project from an additional nine-month delay.

The regulator made the ruling Tuesday, just one week after hearing oral arguments from Trans Mountain and a B.C. First Nation that opposes the route change.

It didn’t release the reasons for its decision Tuesday, saying those will be publicized in the coming weeks.

By siding with Trans Mountain Corp., the regulator is allowing the pipeline company to alter the route slightly for a 1.3-kilometre stretch of pipe in the Jacko Lake area near Kamloops, B.C., as well as the construction method for that section.

Trans Mountain Corp. had said it ran into engineering difficulties in the area related to the construction of a tunnel, and warned that sticking to the original route could result in up to a nine-month delay in the pipeline’s completion, as well as an additional $86 million more in project costs.

Trans Mountain has been hoping to have the pipeline completed by early 2024.

But Trans Mountain’s application was opposed by the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, whose traditional territory the pipeline crosses and who had only agreed to the originally proposed route.

In their regulatory filing, the First Nation stated the area has “profound spiritual and cultural significance” to their people, and that they only consented to the pipeline’s construction with the understanding that Trans Mountain would minimize surface disturbances by implementing specific trenchless construction methods.

The Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc argued that Trans Mountain never said its originally proposed construction method was impossible, only that it couldn’t be done in time to meet a Jan. 1 in-service date for the pipeline.

The First Nation didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.

The Trans Mountain pipeline is Canada’s only pipeline system transporting oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Its expansion, which is currently underway, will boost the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 300,000 bpd currently.

The pipeline — which was bought by the federal government for $4.5 billion in 2018 after previous owner Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. threatened to scrap the pipeline’s planned expansion project in the face of environmentalist opposition and regulatory hurdles — has already been plagued by construction-related challenges and delays.

Its projected price tag has since spiralled: first to $12.6 billion, then to $21.4 billion and most recently to $30.9 billion (the most recent capital cost estimate, as of March of this year).

Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada said it’s alarming to see the regulator over-rule the wishes of Indigenous people in order to complete a pipeline on deadline.

“Every Canadian should be outraged that our public regulator is allowing a publicly owned pipeline to break a promise to Indigenous people to protect lands of spiritual and cultural significance,” Stewart said.

The federal government has already approved a total of $13 billion in loan guarantees to help Trans Mountain secure the financing to cover the cost overruns.

Trans Mountain Corp. has blamed its budget problems on a variety of factors, including inflation, COVID-19, labour and supply chain challenges, flooding in B.C. and unexpected major archeological discoveries along the route.

Given the Canadian regulatory system has a reputation for being slow and cumbersome, it was surprising to see the Canada Energy Regulator rule so quickly on Trans Mountain’s route deviation request, said Richard Masson, executive fellow with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

“It’s a challenging decision to have to make, when you’ve got a $30 billion pipeline that needs to be completed,” Masson said.

“If there’s no feasible way to do that tunnel, then I guess you have to allow for this.”

Masson added that if the regulator had denied Trans Mountain’s request, it would have been bad news for taxpayers as well as the federal government, which is seeking to divest the pipeline and has already entered into negotiations with several interested Indigenous-led buyers.

It also would have been bad news for Canadian oil companies, who have been eagerly anticipating the pipeline’s start date to begin shipping barrels to customers.

“If this can result in the pipeline being completed by year-end and started up in the first quarter, that’s good news. The world is still looking for oil, and oil prices are up at US$90 a barrel,” Masson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.

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Alberta

Partial settlement approved in lawsuit against Calgary Stampede over abuse of boys

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Calgary

A judge has approved a partial settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the Calgary Stampede that alleged the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.

Phillip Heerema received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring.

Heerema admitted to using his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships.

The school is operated by the Calgary Stampede Foundation.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Alice Woolley approved the deal in which the Stampede has agreed to pay 100 per cent of the damages.

Hearings on the amount will take place on Dec. 14 and 15.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023

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