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Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

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Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

Each of those words can be applied — and probably will be, for many years — to the first round of the best-of-seven NHL playoffs in a season already shaken, but not broken, by COVID-19.

It can be guaranteed that the five overtime periods needed before the Tampa Bay Lightning could stun the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in the record books for years. Brayden Point’s winning goal in the marathon victory will be forgotten long after other details are etched in sports history.

That’s the way it happens when a game in a “hub community” lasts more than six hours, total shots on goal reach record levels and another scheduled playoff game is delayed for almost a full day.

When the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes were ordered to reschedule Game One of their quarter-final showdown, it was not the first official delay of a playoff game — just the first time that the only available ice surface was already in use

Boston and Carolina were installed as the first act in a run of five consecutive series openers on Wednesday. Fortunately, the Lightning and Blue Jackets will have a full day off, as will the Calgary Flames, who edged Dallas 3-2 in the only other match completed on Tuesday.

Columbus vs. Tampa Bay was in many ways.a classical matchup: power against finesse, labour against sheer talent. Joonas Korpisalo faced a few dozen more shots than winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy but the buzzing Blue Jackets defeated every challenge except Point’s ultimate point (pun intended).

It had been expected that the Lightning might win easily. Assured of a berth among the final 16 teams, they cruised through an unimportant round-robin series while the Blue Devils were fighting for their playoff lives in a bitter five-game elimination war with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For Tampa Bay, the victory was essential in the organization’s bid to shake off their miserable 2019 playoff, when they bowed in the first round after running away from all opposition.

The Calgary Flames went through similar miseries at the same time, dominant for most of last season before they won only a single playoff game and headed meekly to the golf course.

This year, the Flames survived at least one major problem: head coach Bill Peters resigned after an ugly racial incident was exposed. Individual on-ice performances faded, too, amid growing claims that the team was made up of casual performers quite content to win the easy ones.

Well, there was nothing easy in beating the Winnipeg Jets to qualify for the final 16 and nothing came easily in the 3-2 victory over Dallas on Tuesday. The Flames have flaws — every team has flaws — but these guys proved again that lack of character is not one of them.

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

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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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