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Waiting Game: After cancellation of mixed doubles trials, curlers waiting on decision

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After COVID-19 challenges forced the cancellation of Canada’s mixed doubles trials, several top curlers are anxiously waiting to learn whether they will be chosen to represent the country in the discipline at the Beijing Games.

Curling Canada has said it will consult with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium before an announcement will be made.

Specifics on a timeline haven’t been determined, making an extended wait for the contenders seem even longer.

“This is a position we’ve never really been in before where it’s completely out of your control,” said John Morris, who won Olympic mixed doubles gold in 2018. “I think that’s the biggest thing. As an athlete, you always want to control your own destiny. That’s been the tough part.”

The trials were originally scheduled for Dec. 28-Jan. 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man., but were cancelled on Boxing Day. The federation cited travel risks and positive cases among athletes for its decision.

Olympic mixed doubles play begins Feb. 2 at the Ice Cube in Beijing, two days before the opening ceremony. The Canadian nomination decision was still in the “consultation process,” a COC spokesman said Tuesday in a text message.

Morris teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes to win gold in the discipline’s Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

His usual partner, Rachel Homan, was not available for the trials that year as she had secured an Olympic spot in the women’s team competition. Curling Canada doesn’t allow curlers to play in both disciplines at the same Games.

Homan and Morris, currently ranked fifth in Canada, are both available for selection this time around. Now they just have to cross their fingers and hope they get the nod when the decision is finally made.

“It’s definitely hard on the heart,” Homan said Tuesday from Beaumont, Alta.

Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are ranked No. 1 in Canada but both are already Beijing-bound after victories in the four-player team trials last November in Saskatoon.

Peterman helped Team Jennifer Jones to victory and Gallant helped Team Brad Gushue win the men’s berth. Jones and Brent Laing are ranked second in mixed doubles.

Given the unique scenario, it’s possible — although seemingly unlikely — that Curling Canada could make an exception to its rule. Many countries allow players to compete in both disciplines at the Games, but it appears doubtful the Canadian federation would want to disrupt team plans at this late date.

Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith are ranked third ahead of Lisa Weagle and John Epping. Weagle is part of Jones’s five-player team but is eligible for mixed doubles since she’s listed as an alternate for Beijing.

Another potential contender is the duo of Kerri Einarson and Brad Jacobs. Einarson, who won the Canadian mixed doubles title last season with Gushue, planned to play the trials with Jacobs.

Rankings and recent results will likely impact the decision-making process. Experience in major events like world championships and Olympic Games could also be factors.

Morris said he was “champing at the bit” to get on the ice before the playdowns were cancelled.

“Rachel and I had a great training camp leading up to the trials,” he said in a recent interview. “We were so ready to go. That’s the hard part. You can’t go and prove yourself.”

Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland, Norway and the United States are some of the headliners in the 10-team Olympic mixed doubles field.

“I would absolutely love to have the chance to take them on but I’m sure there’s some other curlers that are saying that too,” Morris said from Canmore, Alta. “I just love going to battle against the world’s best and I would absolutely love that opportunity.”

Homan, meanwhile, is also waiting for news on another curling front. The Ontario Curling Association recently suspended its Jan. 5-9 provincial championship in Thornhill due to new restrictions in the province.

On Friday, the association plans to declare a representative for the Jan. 28-Feb. 6 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“It has just been a crazy couple of weeks really,” Homan said. “Just so many emotions that come with it.”

Homan, a three-time national champion who has led Ontario to three straight Scotties final appearances, would normally be a slam dunk for selection.

However, if she gets the Olympic mixed doubles call, it could open the door for Ontario contenders like Team Hollie Duncan (ranked sixth in Canada) or Team Jacqueline Harrison (tied for sixth at trials).

MORE CANCELLATIONS

The 2022 Canadian Under-18 Championships were postponed Tuesday due to ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, Curling Canada said.

The event was scheduled for Feb. 14-20 in Timmins, Ont. The federation said it will try to reschedule the competition for later this year in a different location.

The 2023 U18 nationals will be held in Timmins next year. Curling Canada also said the inaugural Under-23 Lethbridge Classic in March will be cancelled.

SUPER SUNDAY

Five different provincial and territorial championships were on tap this week to fill out the field at the upcoming Canadian women’s curling championship.

Finals were set for Sunday in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

Kerri Einarson’s team will wear Canada colours at the 2022 Scotties. The Manitoba-based rink will be joined by Christina Black (Nova Scotia), Brigitte MacPhail (Nunavut), Sarah Hill (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Mackenzie Zacharias (Manitoba) in the field.

Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have either cancelled or suspended their playdowns and have yet to announce their representatives. A single wild-card team will also be added.

The men’s national championship, the Tim Hortons Brier, is set for March 4-13 in Lethbridge, Alta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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Arts

Longtime New Yorker writer, editor Roger Angell dies

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Angell, the celebrated baseball writer and reigning man of letters who during an unfaltering 70-plus years helped define The New Yorker’s urbane wit and style through his essays, humor pieces and editing, has died. He was 101.

Angell died Friday of heart failure, according to The New Yorker.

“No one lives forever, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Roger had a good shot at it,” New Yorker Editor David Remnick wrote Friday. “Like the rest of us, he suffered pain and loss and doubt, but he usually kept the blues at bay, always looking forward; he kept writing, reading, memorizing new poems, forming new relationships.”

Heir to and upholder of The New Yorker’s earliest days, Angell was the son of founding fiction editor Katharine White and stepson of longtime staff writer E.B. White. He was first published in the magazine in his 20s, during World War II, and was still contributing in his 90s, an improbably trim and youthful man who enjoyed tennis and vodka martinis and regarded his life as “sheltered by privilege and engrossing work, and shot through with good luck.”

Angell well lived up to the standards of his famous family. He was a past winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, formerly the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, an honor previously given to Red Smith, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon among others. He was the first winner of the prize who was not a member of the organization that votes for it, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

His editing alone was a lifetime achievement. Starting in the 1950s, when he inherited his mother’s job (and office), writers he worked with included John Updike, Ann Beattie, Donald Barthelme and Bobbie Ann Mason, some of whom endured numerous rejections before entering the special club of New Yorker authors. Angell himself acknowledged, unhappily, that even his work didn’t always make the cut.

“Unlike his colleagues, he is intensely competitive,” Brendan Gill wrote of Angell in “Here at the New Yorker,” a 1975 memoir. “Any challenge, mental or physical, exhilarates him.”

Angell’s New Yorker writings were compiled in several baseball books and in such publications as “The Stone Arbor and Other Stories” and “A Day in the Life of Roger Angell,” a collection of his humor pieces. He also edited “Nothing But You: Love Stories From The New Yorker” and for years wrote an annual Christmas poem for the magazine. At age 93, he completed one of his most highly praised essays, the deeply personal “This Old Man,” winner of a National Magazine Award.

“I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse,” he wrote. “The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.”

Angell was married three times, most recently to Margaret Moorman. He had three children.

Angell was born in New York in 1920 to Katharine and Ernest Angell, an attorney who became head of the American Civil Liberties Union. The New Yorker was founded five years later, with Katharine Angell as fiction editor and a young wit named Andy White (as E.B. White was known to his friends) contributing humor pieces.

His parents were gifted and strong, apparently too strong. “What a marriage that must have been,” Roger Angell wrote in “Let Me Finish,” a book of essays published in 2006, “stuffed with sex and brilliance and psychic murder, and imparting a lasting unease.” By 1929, his mother had married the gentler White and Angell would remember weekend visits to the apartment of his mother and her new husband, a place “full of laughing, chain-smoking young writers and artists from The New Yorker.”

In high school, he was so absorbed in literature and the literary life that for Christmas one year he asked for a book of A.E Housman’s poems, a top hat and a bottle of sherry. Stationed in Hawaii during World War II, Angell edited an Air Force magazine, and by 1944 had his first byline in The New Yorker. He was identified as Cpl. Roger Angell, author of the brief story “Three Ladies in the Morning,” and his first words to appear in the magazine were “The midtown hotel restaurant was almost empty at 11:30 in the morning,”

There were no signs, at least open ones, of family rivalry. White encouraged his stepson to write for the magazine and even recommended him to The New Yorker’s founder, Harold Ross, explaining that Angell “lacks practical experience but he has the goods.” Angell, meanwhile, wrote lovingly of his stepfather. In a 2005 New Yorker essay, he noted that they were close for almost 60 years and recalled that “the sense of home and informal attachment” he got from White’s writings was “even more powerful than it was for his other readers.”

Not everyone was charmed by Angell or by the White-Angell family connection at The New Yorker. Former staff writer Renata Adler alleged that Angell “established an overt, superficially jocular state of war with the rest of the magazine.” Grumbling about nepotism was not uncommon, and Tom Wolfe mocked his “cachet” at a magazine where his mother and stepfather were charter members. “It all locks, assured, into place,” Wolfe wrote.

Unlike White, known for the children’s classics “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little,” Angell never wrote a major novel. But he did enjoy a loyal following through his humor writing and his baseball essays, which placed him in the pantheon with both professional sports journalists and with Updike, James Thurber and other moonlighting literary writers. Like Updike, he didn’t alter his prose style for baseball, but demonstrated how well the game was suited for a life of the mind.

“Baseball is not life itself, although the resemblance keeps coming up,” Angell wrote in “La Vida,” a 1987 essay. “It’s probably a good idea to keep the two sorted out, but old fans, if they’re anything like me, can’t help noticing how cunningly our game replicates a larger schedule, with its beguiling April optimism; the cheerful roughhouse of June; the grinding, serious, unending (surely) business of midsummer; the September settling of accounts … and then the abrupt running-down of autumn, when we wish for — almost demand — a prolonged and glittering final adventure just before the curtain.”

Angell began covering baseball in the early 1960s, when The New Yorker was seeking to expand its readership. Over the following decades, he wrote definitive profiles of players ranging from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson to the fallen Pittsburgh Pirates star Steve Blass and had his say on everything from the verbosity of manager Casey Stengel (“a walking pantheon of evocations”) to the wonders of Derek Jeter (“imperturbably brilliant”). He was born the year before the New York Yankees won their first World Series and his baseball memories spanned from the prime of Babe Ruth to such 21st century stars as Jeter, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

Even as drugs and labor-management battles shared and even stole headlines, he thought the real story remained on the playing field. Angell never had official credentials as a sportswriter: He was just a fan, a grateful onlooker, a former high school pitcher who once aspired to the big leagues.

“At some point in my upper 30s or early 40s, I was seeing a psychiatrist and I came in with a dream,” Angell told The Associated Press in a 1988 interview. “I dreamed that there were some bushes and shrubbery, and there was a gravestone with my name and my birthday on it and the year I was in.

“I took this dream to my shrink with some trepidation and he asked how I felt and I said I felt sort of sad. He asked me what the gravestone reminded me of and I said it reminds me of those stones out in center field in Yankee Stadium.

“Then I realized it meant the end of my baseball dreams.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Hillel Italie, The Associated Press






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Alberta

A brief history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Battle of Alberta

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The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are fighting the Battle of Alberta in the playoffs for the sixth time in the rivalry’s history.

Here’s a brief look back at the five previous encounters between the two:

1983: OILERS WON 4-1

In the first meeting between the two sides in the playoffs, the Oilers began a trend of dominance against Calgary, taking the series in five games.

Wayne Gretzky finished with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in the series as Edmonton took the Smythe Division final with ease.

The series was among the least competitively played of the five encounters between the two in the post-season, with Edmonton outscoring Calgary 35-13.

However, it did begin the trend of the Oilers, more often than not, getting the better of the Flames in playoff play.

1984: OILERS WON 4-3

Case in point: Just a year after getting bounced by the Oilers in the Smyth Division final, the Flames got eliminated again.

This was a far more competitive series, going the full seven games and featuring two overtime contests — both Calgary win.

Ultimately, though, the star power the Oilers boasted — in particular, Gretzky and Jari Kurri — proved too much for Calgary to overcome.

The seven-game victory helped propel the Oilers to their first Stanley Cup championship.

1986: FLAMES WON 4-3

Another seven-game series, two years after the first one.

Taking place again in the Smyth Division final, Calgary finally got the better of Edmonton.

The series was decided by a goal scored a little over five minutes into the third period that broke a 2-2 tie in Game 7.

Oilers defenceman Steve Smith attempted a cross-ice pass but it ended up striking Flames goalie Grant Fuhr’s leg and trickled into Edmonton’s goal.

This series win still remains the only time the Flames have defeated the Oilers in the post-season.

It also helped catapult Calgary to its first Stanley Cup final appearance, where it fell to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.

1988: OILERS WON 4-0

The most dominant Oilers victory of the four they’ve earned, Edmonton swept Calgary and, outside of an overtime win in Game 2, had no issues handling the Flames.

Edmonton dominated despite not having home-ice advantage for the first time in their playoff series with each other.

1991: OILERS WON 4-3

The only series outside of the one happening now that didn’t see the two teams meet in the Smyth Division final, this one took place in the Smyth Division semifinal and, for the second encounter in a row, saw the Flames with home-ice advantage.

Unfortunately for Calgary, even with Gretzky no longer around in Edmonton, it was the Oilers coming out on top, this time breaking the hearts of Southern Alberta again as Esa Tikkanen scored 6:58 into overtime of Game 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.

The Canadian Press

 

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