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Minus suspended Kane, relaxed Oilers facing elimination: ‘No pressure on our end’


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EDMONTON — Zach Hyman was up big in a playoff series last spring.

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens know what happened next.

Duncan Keith, meanwhile, and his Chicago Blackhawks were down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks back in 2011 before triumphing in a trio of must-wins to force Game 7.

At the tail end of their first seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, both men know the climb their current team faces is a daunting one.

The Colorado Avalanche have captured the first three games of the Western Conference final, and have four cracks at advancing to their first title series since 2001.

The task for the Oilers at home Monday night is simple — win a game.

“Everybody’s counting us out, so there’s no pressure on our end,” Hyman said Sunday. “All the pressure flips to Colorado. They’re expected to win now.

“For us, it’s just about getting one and then go from there.”

The gritty winger, who signed with Edmonton in free agency last summer, and the Leafs were up 3-1 on Montreal in the first round just over 12 months ago before the Canadiens roared back with three straight victories — including two in overtime — to stun Toronto in seven.

“A lot of guys in (this) locker room have either been up or down heavily in series and seen a swing,” Hyman added. “I got a first-hand view of it last year. I don’t think anybody gave them a chance to come back in that series, and sure enough, they did.”

Hyman saw a straight-forward formula on the other side.

“It’s hockey — you’re not knocked out until you’re knocked out,” he said. “You’ve got to continue to plant that seed of doubt. It starts with one win.”

Keith and the Blackhawks’ comeback against Vancouver in the first round more than decade ago ultimately fell short — the Canucks won a dramatic Game 7 in OT — but he could feel the tension ratchet up with each Chicago victory.

“The pressure now kind of shifts,” said Keith, a veteran defenceman and three-time Stanley Cup champion acquired by the Oilers last summer to provide steady, calm leadership in tough moments. “Not a lot of people are expecting us to do much now.

“Just go play hockey.”

The fast, talented, skilled, unrelenting Avalanche, however, are a different animal.

And the Oilers will try to extend their season without Evander Kane after he was suspended one game for Saturday’s ugly boarding incident involving Nazem Kadri.

“The most dangerous play in hockey,” Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said in wake of his team’s 4-2 win. “He puts him in head-first from behind.”

Following a wild 8-6 opener in Denver, the West’s top seed has given up just two goals over the last 127 minutes 24 seconds, with both coming in Saturday’s victory that pushed Edmonton to the brink of elimination.

Looking to become just the fifth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0, the Oilers scored 31 combined goals in their five-game victory over the Calgary Flames and the curtain-raiser against the Avalanche, led by the ridiculous offensive pace set by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

But they haven’t generated much off the rush — Edmonton’s bread and butter all season and playoffs — against Colorado and have been either unwilling or unable to get to the middle of the ice off the cycle.

“I don’t think we’ve scored enough dirty goals,” Hyman said. “Those are the chances that we need to generate more frequently.”

Oilers interim head coach Jay Woodcroft said his group did a better job of that in a Game 3 that was tied 2-2 midway through the third before Edmonton hit a post on the power play and Colorado scored moments later to grab the victory.

But he’s looking for more.

“You have to be prepared to shoot through structure,” Woodcroft said. “You have to get the puck there, but you have to have bodies there as well in order to get those second and third chances.”

Woodcroft, who replaced the fired Dave Tippett with 2 1/2 months left in the regular season and led the Oilers to the NHL’s second-best record over his 38 games in charge, has moved plenty of chess pieces around the board through the conference final’s first three games.

He’s used different combinations up front — McDavid and Draisaitl together, then apart, then together again — but hasn’t found a solution.

That will have to change for the series to head back to Denver.

“We’re here to win a game,” Woodcroft said. “That message has been drilled into our team since Feb. 11. We’re here to win one hockey game and take care of that day’s business.

“When you do that, outcomes take care of themselves.”

The series has been a nasty one by 2022 standards.

Edmonton lost winger Kailer Yamamoto to a high hit from Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in Game 2, while Woodcroft accused Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon of a slewfoot on Draisaitl in Game 3.

And then there was Saturday’s other incident that saw Kane, who leads the playoffs with 13 goals, crush Kadri from behind.

Assessed a five-minute penalty on the play, the Oilers forward was suspended by the NHL’s department of player safety Sunday and will watch Game 4 with his team’s season on the line.

Kadri, meanwhile, has been ruled out for at least the rest of the series, but Bednar said Sunday before Kane’s ban was announced that Colorado is better equipped to handle a loss of that magnitude — the Avalanche are also minus top-4 defenceman Samuel Girard and No. 1 goaltender Darcy Kuemper — than in years past.

“The depth that we added at the (trade) deadline really helped us,” said Bednar, whose team acquired the likes of Arturri Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Josh Manson in March.

“Those guys have all come in and made impacts.”

On the other side, the Oilers need an impact performance and an even better effort in order to take a first step out of this deep hole.

Because if they don’t, Edmonton’s first trip to the conference final since 2006 will come to an abrupt end.

“We’re a team that’s faced adversity, we’ve talked about it all year long,” Hyman said. “We’re a confident group, still. If there’s ever a team that could do it, I believe that this is the team.

“It starts with one.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2022.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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Running Reins Ranch in Red Deer County picks up $250,000 grant from province

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Running Reins Ranch partners with members of the local Indigenous community to set-up teepee accommodations and host regular cultural programming for guests.

Tourism investment fuels growth in rural Alberta

Alberta’s government continues to support regional tourism opportunities across the province, generating jobs and new tourism destinations for locals and visitors alike.  

Ahead of World Tourism Day 2023, Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow visited Running Reins Ranch to see first-hand how tourism investment grants are making a difference in the lives of Albertans.

“Alberta’s government is proud to invest in growing visitor destinations like Running Reins Ranch that celebrate the richness and diversity of Alberta’s rural destinations and provide a sustainable tourism experience for visitors to enjoy.”

Joseph Schow, Minister of Tourism and Sport

As part of the Tourism Investment Program, Running Reins Ranch received a $250,000 grant from Travel Alberta.

“Our investment will support the building of additional unique accommodations at the ranch that will triple their capacity, emphasize their year-round offerings and create five new full-time jobs. This investment in Running Reins Ranch is a perfect example of how Travel Alberta is driving tourism growth in rural communities across the province.”

Jon Mamela, chief commercial officer, Travel Alberta

Running Reins is located east of Innisfail, offering cabin and teepee accommodations and a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors looking to combine the beauty of the Prairies with farm experiences for a one-of-a-kind getaway.

Right to Left: Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow, Owners of Running Reins Ranch Terry and Janice Scott, and team member Grace Finlan.

“This funding is a game-changer for us and our business. We are excited to bring our vision to life and provide visitors with unforgettable experiences while supporting the economic growth of the surrounding community.”

Janice and Terry Scott, owners, Running Reins Ranch

Tourism is Alberta’s No. 1 service export sector. In 2019, Alberta welcomed 34.6 million visitors, generating $10.1 billion in expenditures and supporting more than 80,000 full-time jobs. The Tourism Investment Program is Travel Alberta’s commitment to investing $15 million annually with communities and operators to develop the province’s tourism sector. Developing Alberta’s rural and agri-tourism sector is an essential component of the government’s efforts to grow Alberta’s tourism economy to more than $20 billion by 2035.

Quick facts

  • In 2022-23, Travel Alberta funded 166 projects across 73 communities – about 75 per cent of the projects and 70 per cent of the funding were in smaller urban and rural areas of the province.
  • In December 2022, Alberta’s government released its Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan, with supporting initiatives that demonstrate the government’s commitment to building healthy and prosperous communities across rural Alberta and Indigenous communities.
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Company at centre of E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares faces licensing charges

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Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks to the media about an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Colette Derworiz in Calgary

The company that runs a commercial kitchen at the centre of an E. coli outbreak that has infected hundreds at numerous Calgary daycares has been charged with operating without a business licence.

The City of Calgary announced Wednesday that Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors face a total of 12 charges under municipal business bylaws and face a total fine of up to $120,000.

The company declined to comment on the charges in an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Mark Joffe said the number of cases has plateaued at 351, and tests and interviews indicate the cause of the outbreak was meat loaf and vegan loaf.

He said there are also 37 confirmed secondary cases and four children remain in hospital.

Fueling Minds provided meals to six of its own daycares that were affected by the outbreak, which was declared Sept. 4, and also to five separate daycares.

The city alleges Fueling Minds did not have the proper licence to serve those other five.

Joffe said the investigation into the cause of the outbreak included interviews with hundreds of parents and daycare staffers and the testing of 44 food samples.

“We believe that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals that were served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to these infections,” said Joffe.

“Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before this outbreak was identified.

“While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how.”

The company’s statement said the “exact source of the infections has not yet been identified” and it continues to work with Alberta Health Services on its ongoing investigation.

Joffe said the province is to hire a third party to verify its work and findings.

Premier Danielle Smith said former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson would lead a panel to investigate what went wrong and make recommendations on how to make commercially prepared food safer in daycares.

Smith said the panel does not have a set timeline, but she expects to hear from him monthly and would implement interim recommendations if necessary rather than wait for the final report.

“Mr. Hanson will be joined by Alberta parents, childcare operators, food service operators, and food safety and public health experts,” said Smith.

“The panel will be examining all aspects of this tragic situation, large and small, as well as taking a full broader look at the legislation and regulations that govern food safety in our province.”

Smith said she met with parents of affected children, and a policy change they suggested was posting kitchen health inspection reports in a daycare rather than just online.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Searle Turton, minister for children and family services, are already reviewing food handling in commercial daycare kitchens.

The kitchen remains closed and in recent months has been flagged for numerous health violations, including food transportation concerns.

Diana Batten, the Opposition NDP critic for childcare and child and family services, said Wednesday’s developments were a good start to getting answers.

“This will really help some of the families I’m speaking with,” she told reporters.

“However, it brings up or illustrates there’s a lot of problems inside the system. We heard Premier Smith talk about how we should trust now that the system is safe. Why? We continue to identify more concerns.”

Batten said a panel isn’t going to help solve those problems.

“It’s just spending more money and, honestly, putting a Band-Aid on what is honestly a huge public health crisis.”

The province has promised parents affected by the closures in the original 11 daycares a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to cover off financial hardship. Those facilities were closed Sept. 4 but have since reopened.

Eight more daycares faced closures or partial closures in the days that followed as secondary cases were identified.

Smith said last week that the compensation program would only be available to parents of the 11 daycares at the root of the outbreak.

Turton, however, confirmed parents affected by the later closures would also be eligible for the one-time payments, and that was the plan all along.

“The program hasn’t expanded,” said Turton.

“It’s important to note that just more daycares since the original announcement have actually become eligible for those payments.”

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 27, 2023.

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