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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

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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