Friday, April 29, 2011

Election Fever

Who would have thought there would be so many surprises coming from the federal election campaign. When the Conservative government fell and an election was called, it looked like it was going to be a useless election and that the status quo would remain.

Now with the election coming up on Monday, things are looking different. Depending on what polls you believe, the Harper government could be pushing towards its first majority government or falling short of the 155 seats needed. Either way, the Conservatives aren't losing this election.

The big surprise is the contrasting fortunes of the Liberals and the NDP. Iggy and the Liberals haven't seemed to connect with Canadians and that disconnect has seen them drop to a distant third in the polls. Steven Harper's dream of the destruction of the Liberals as a centrist-political force might be coming true.

On the other hand, Jack Layton and the NDP have risen like a phoenix. Layton is riding a surge of personal popularity in Quebec. This has translated right across the country. Smilin' Jack seems to have finally broken through.

For an election that people were decrying as a farce and useless, things are starting to get interesting. Canada could be changing in some fundamental ways after this election.

Monday will be an interesting day to see how it all plays out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Visit Manitoba's Parks

Spring has officially kicked off, with the beautiful weather of the last few days. That means camping season is right around the corner. After spending eight months traveling around Manitoba and camping last year, I can tell you that there is much more to this province than the same old crowded campsites.

Head over to the Manitoba Parks: A(sessippi) to Z(ed Lake) blog at the Winnipeg Free Press to find out about Manitoba's excellent and undervalued provincial parks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Worst Jets

So, all those guarantees that the Jets were returning to town might have been a little bit premature. The situation in Phoenix is still looking pretty dire for the Coyotes, but Gary Bettman seems to be working a little bit of his magic.

I will never underestimate Bettman’s weaselness or his complete inability to ever admit that he made a mistake. He and Hulsizer have apparently struck some sort of new deal that they hope will be more favourable to the Goldwater Institute.

With this news, Jets talk has quieted down here in the Peg. Gary Lawless has given up on reaching his one Jets story a day quota for the Free Press. So what a great time to write a blog post about you guessed it…the Jets.

There’s been a lot of reminiscing recently about everyone’s fond memories of the team. Whether it be Teemu’s glove hunting, Ducky, the animated clapping hands, “Jump” or the Queen, everyone remembers the good times that the Jets provided in the NHL between 1979 and 1996 and the previous decade in the WHA.

I have all these same great memories of the team. I have great memories of heading down to the old Winnipeg Arena as a kid to see my heroes, like Teemu, Dale, Phil, Khabby, Tie, and Pokey. But I also remember the bad times. In honour of the team that when they managed to make it to the playoffs could never get past the first round…I give you the worst players to ever pull on the blue, white, and red.

I’ll preface this list by saying that this is completely subjective. My frame of reference is 1990 to 1996. I’m sure some of the worst players to play for the Jets (and likely in the NHL) were on those record breaking losing teams that the Jets put on the ice during those first couple of seasons after they entered the NHL. But, I wasn’t around back then, so I’m going to ignore them. For me, the Jets started with Hawerchuk and the legendary 1990 Oilers playoff series and ended when the team skated off the ice at the end of the 1996 Red Wings series.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the worst players I that I ever saw take the ice at the Winnipeg Arena.

Sergei Bautin

A supposedly offensively-gifted defencemen and a first round pick, Bautin chocked up 30 points in 130 games with the Jets. Basically a pylon on the blue line.

Oleg Tverdovsky

He was the guy that came over for Teemu Selanne (should have traded Tkatchuk). He had a lot to live up to, which he didn't come anywhere near to. Had a semi-successful career after he left Winnipeg, though.

Russ Romaniuk

Hometown boy and that was the only reason he was with the Jets. Wouldn't have been able to crack the roster of any other team.

Doug Smail

As a kid, I just remembered hating his mustache. No other reason.

Evgeny Davydov

Another highly-touted player who never really amounted to anything in the NHL. He's mostly known for being involved in the 1987 World Junior brawl with Canada and not for his play with the Jets. I did enjoy Curt Keilbeck pronouncing his name though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Carp Samurai

This blog has kind of been meandering all over the place lately and that will continue with this blog. I found a video that, while being extremely redneck, is pretty funny.

Asian carp are probably the greatest threat to North America's freshwater rivers and lakes. Introduced in the 1980s in the American South, this invasive species quickly spread into the Mississippi River and has been making its way north ever since. Because they reproduce so fast and eat literally everything in a freshwater ecosystem, if they reach the Great Lakes (which they are close to doing) the damage to the ecosystem of the lakes will likely be devastating and permanent.

A second danger related to the Asian carp is that at the sound of a motor boat, they will jump out of the water, sometimes up to ten feet in the air. These flying fish have injured water skiers, fishers, and boaters.

Some fishermen in Illinois have decided to fight back against these ecosystem damaging fish in some pretty bizarre ways. Warning - if you don't like rednecks or have a special affinity for fishing industry destroying, invasive species - don't watch this video.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Moose Revisited

The Manitoba Moose came back from the brink of elimination to down the Lake Erie Monsters in the first round of the American Hockey League playoffs. The 4-1 victory in game seven means they now have to face off against their division rivals, the Hamilton Bulldogs.

As part of my Sports Journalism class at Red River College, I was able to cover a Moose - Monsters game from the press box, earlier this year. Because it was a school project it never saw the light of day. Here it is:

Three games of an 80 game schedule may seem insignificant, but when your team is mired in a losing streak, three games can seem like an eternity. Not wanting to extend their misery, the Manitoba Moose broke their losing skid in convincing fashion.

In front of minor hockey players from Swan River to Gateway to Altona, at the MTS Centre celebrating Hockey Night in Manitoba, the Moose downed the Lake Erie Monsters, moving back into a tie for first place in the American Hockey League's North Division. Recovering from a 5-1 loss to the Monsters the previous night, goaltender Eddie Lack backstopped the team to a 4-2 victory. The win prevented the Moose from setting a team record for futility. No Moose team had ever lost four regulation games in a row.

“A lot of things went our way tonight,” said Kevin Clark, the game's first star. “I don't know if it was the crowd, but guys we're making plays for each other. We showed that we weren't the same team from last night and that we're a first place team.”

The Moose took control early, pounding Monsters' goalie Jason Bacashihua with 17 shots in the first period. Their reward for this sustained pressure was a pair of quick goals near the end of the period. Alexandre Bolduc scored on a breakaway that pushed Bacashihua into his net, a minute and a half after Garth Murray opened the scoring.

The Moose kept the pressure on in the second period. Sergei Shirokov scored his team-leading 17th goal and then set up Mario Bliznak for the team's fourth goal of the night. Bliznak's goal meant an early exit for the beleaguered Bacashihua. The Monsters rallied late in third, led by goals from Ben Walter and Luke Walker, but it too little, too late.

After only scoring 15 goals in their past seven games, you couldn't fault the 14,775 in attendance for being surprised by the home team's offensive explosion. Moose coach Claude Noel chalked it up to some soul searching in the dressing room.

“Sometimes it's important to prove that you're a good team and we've got a lot riding on the next few games,” said Noel. “It's a lot about will, the will to play and the will to succeed. Tonight the guys showed that they have that will.”

The Moose have a few days of rest before hitting the road for a franchise record-tying ten game road swing, beginning Wednesday night in Rochester. A win against the North Division cellar dweller Americans would catapult the team past the Monsters for first in the division.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Honouring Manitoba's Athletes

Besides representing Canada at the Olympics, what do Jonathan Toews, Clara Hughes, Shannon Rempel, and Brittany Schussler all have in common? The answer is that they are all former winners of Sport Manitoba’s Junior Athlete of the Year award. On Thursday, April 28, two more young athletes will join these Manitoba sports heroes.

This past year was a banner year for Manitobans and their athletic endeavors. Manitobans made a splash on both the national and international level in many sporting disciplines – from baseball to volleyball, fencing to judo, and swimming to gymnastics (among many others).

A lot of these young athletes have flown under the radar of our province’s consciousness even though they have won major international events or set personal and provincial bests in the past year. Sport Manitoba will give these athletes some shine at the Sport for Life Gala tomorrow night at the Club Regent Casino here in Winnipeg.

At the Gala, awards will be handed out to the Junior Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Coach of the Year, Official of the Year, Volunteer and Youth Volunteer of the Year, and Manitoba Team of the Year. All categories are incredibly competitive this year, as Manitoba athletes had a year to remember on the national and international levels.

Alongside the presentation of the awards, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame will be adding two new members in the Veteran category. Ronald Turnbull will be inducted for his role in Manitoba cricket, both as an athlete and a builder. In the Team category, the 1963 St. James Rams senior football team is being inducted. Coached by Blue Bomber legend Bud Tinsley, the Rams were the first Western Canadian senior team to win the national championship on eastern soil.

The 2011 Sport for Life Gala takes place Thursday, April 28 at 7 PM at the CanadInns Club Regent. To see the full list of nominees visit here. If you’re interested in coming to the Gala, tickets can be purchased from Sport Manitoba.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Canada's Northern Artist Collective

As a follow up to my blog post yesterday, I think its essential to highlight a positive story coming out of Nunavut. That story is the Cape Dorset artist community. In a settlement plagued by crime, world renowned art has been used for the past half century as an economic engine.

It is mind blowing to learn that in one community, with a population of roughly 1200, roughly 25 per cent of the population earns their living through the arts. These artists bring in around $1.5 million in revenues each year. This is staggering. I'm not sure if there is an artist's collective like this anywhere in Canada.

Beginning in the late 1950s, Inuit artists set up an artists workshop in Cape Dorset, producing prints and soapstone carvings. Each year, the workshop, known as Kinngait Studios, has issued a print collection and carvings are sold through galleries in Toronto and Winnipeg.

It's interesting to note that a true artist community exists and thrives in Canada's North. While cultural forces have almost completely destroyed their traditional way of life, Cape Dorset Inuit have built an economy based on their past.