Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mixed message on Highway of Tears killings

Solicitor General John Les has provided some rather confusing words to the debate over the string of murders that have happened along the Highway 16 corridor over the last number of years.

Les speaking in Victoria Tuesday, at one time acknowledged that there were some signs of a possible serial killer at work along the lonely stretches of the northern highway now known as the Highway of Tears, but then backed off from any conclusions, stating that he didn't want to have any words put in his mouth.

Which pretty well leaves residents of northern BC, much where they were back in 1990 when the first murder of what now totals nine young women was reported, worried for their communities, left uninformed and concerned over an investigation that seems to yield no clues and no progress.

The RCMP had no comments on the Solicitor General's thoughts, however they did reiterate that to date, there is no common ingredient to the nine disappearances or murders to suggest a link to any serial killer behavior.

The case files are under active investigation by 15 officers across the North, while 22 Officers in Prince George have been tasked to investigate the most recent murder of a 14 year old girl, the body of which was found on the outskirts of the city in January.

Of the nine cases under investigation, eight of the victims are aboriginal, only one is non native. The common link has brought together the numerous first nation's communities of the North and Northwest, with plans for a symposium on the issue to be held in March.

It's hoped at that time that the Solicitor General and RCMP will be able to provide more comprehensive information about the cases, which date back to 1990 and how they plan on approaching the investigation.

So far the government has been reluctant to create a dedicated task force to the assorted cases, but perhaps the time to take that step has arrived. While anyone could understand the hesitancy to create more fear by suggesting a serial killer is at work, there is obviously something horrific happening along Highway 16 and all resources possible should be provided to solve the list of unsolved disappearances and murders.

The families of the victims and the numerous communities from which they come from deserve full disclosure and nothing but a full out effort from their Provincial government. Somebody in Northern BC must know something about these cases, it's time for the authorities to be given the tools to make sure that all information possible is provided to bring closure and justice for all concerned.

Homework hell hits soccer superstar!

We at the Podunk tread carefully into matters of the homework of school children; we too have felt the agony of defeat, as we strive to “help out” when it comes to the decimal system, fractions, shapes and other assorted elements of the evil practice of mathematics. There has been many a night at the Casa Podunk where the math sent home has sent your faithful scribe off to a corner, mindlessly mumbling aloud about this new math and what circle of hell it may have sprung from.

However, we must share a snicker at the fate of David Beckham, one of England’s supreme stars of the soccer pitch, a man showered with millions of dollars in salary and commercial endorsements, but apparently a bit of a dolt when it comes to helping out after school.

Beckham has confessed (and subsequently set himself up for ridicule) that he turns over the math homework to wife Victoria, when it comes to helping young six year old Brooklyn Beckham work on his grade school math homework.

The Beckham’s who send their young ones to a $1200 ( $2385 Cdn) dollars a month private British form school in Madrid, Spain, are finding that the math curriculum is a tad challenging (well for Mr. Beck’s anyways).

The website This is London, lists the following as some sample questions that young Brooklyn may be bringing home to challenge dear old Dad!

1) Subtract 11 from 50,

2) Or how much change would you have from 50p after buying a 24p pencil and a 7p eraser?

3) Bet went to the shop at 11:45. She came back half an hour later. What time did she come back?'

4) What is 12 divided by three?'

At $1200 a term, one would think that the posh schools of Madrid would send home a tutor to help out their math phobic parents. Perhaps this answers that age old question as to why athletes require the services of player agents.

Pictures of Podunk: Freighter heading to anchor

A freighter prepares to head towards anchor in Prince Rupert Harbour, this picture was taken from the beach at Ridley Island.

Food for thought, or thoughts on food!

Courtesy of the princerupert.com website we discovered this little gem of a site, a link to the Northern Health Authorites Food Inspection reports.

All of Podunks homes of dietary subsistence can be found, from those in the practice of good behavior and those which require a little work on the hygienic front. The inspections focus on food preparation practices of the handlers and the general sanitation of each establishment.

It makes for interesting reading, and might be a good guide for those looking for a bite to eat without the risk of feeling rather crummy later on in the evening.

Here is the alphabetical list from the highest risk category down to those locations offering the lowest worries for the Podunkian followers of epicureanism.

Monday, February 27, 2006

One project goes ahead slowly, another one stalls out!

The Daily News had two front page stories today, each of equal importance to the future economic growth of the region. One featured a positive step in the Container Port project as construction trailers begin to arrive at the Fairview location and steel pilings prepare to make their journey from Vancouver to Rupert. It’s a positive move in a project that carries quite a few hopes, but few tangible steps thus far.

Left out of the article is any indication as to whether there has been a resolution to the concerns of First Nations, over the land issue surrounding the southern spit of land that was in question, as outlined in a past Podunk. At the end of January a “breathing space” of one month had been set before legal issues would be pursued, that “space” has now passed by, it will of interest to Podunk to see what the next steps there will be. The issue played itself out through February in the pages of the Vancouver Sun, as the temperature around the city inched upwards as the container project seemed to become caught up in the throes of a political debate.

The other project that made headlines was the long running saga of the Skeena Cel pulp mill at Watson Island, today it was announced that SunWave Forest Products has requested a two month extension before revealing its plans for the site. This marks the umpteenth time the fate of the large industrial site has been granted an extension, a situation that might seem rather laughable if only it were not so serious. The request for an extension was required as the Chinese government wished to receive more information about the project, in the interim SunWave has provided another million dollars to cover the costs of keeping the deal alive. Podunkians are unfortunately quite used to hearing the word extension when it comes to Skeena Cel, so probably the news won’t be greeted with surprise or worry. Rather we will just continue along the path of slow torture, waiting for word one way or another about the mill which hasn’t produced a roll of paper in years.

Two projects with a bit of history in the region, one cautiously seeming to move forward, the other stalling in the gate. Once again the folks of Podunk can only sit back and read the fine print, hoping that something concrete takes place in short order. Hoping that nothing else may come up to give cause for concern for the viability of either one.

For the benefit of those that may have missed the paper today or live in far off locales, we provide the Podunkicized versions of both stories below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, February 27, 2006
Page One and Five

The steel pipe that will be used as piles to support the wharf extension a the Fairview Container Terminal are in Vancouver and should start arriving in Prince Rupert during the next month, says the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

“We are excited to see the materials arrive and look forward to the first visible signs of construction in Prince Rupert,” said Mike Graham, Port Engineer for the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

“We anticipate construction activity at Fairview will ramp up significantly over the next 30 days.”

The materials for the berth extension component of the construction project are currently sitting at Lynneterm in Vancouver’s inner harbour.

Meanwhile, the site itself here in Prince Rupert has been cleared and offices that will be used by the terminal construction contractors are being moved in.

The materials for the wharf extension consist of 3,900 metres of spirally welded pipe, just under one metre in diameter, and fabricated from 20mm thick steel plate.

The pipe was produced in China and was supplied in 18-metre lengths to permit efficient transportation.

The entire stock equates to about 200 lengths of pipe that, positioned end-to-end would cover almost four kilometers.

The pipe will be pre-sized according to site conditions and welded into 99 individual piles before being shipped to Prince Rupert in an estimated three barge loads. The pipe has a special wear-resistant and corrosion-resistant polyethylene coating system applied at the factory.

In January, the Prince Rupert Port Authority announced approval to proceed with the conversion of the Fairview Terminal into Canada’s newest container-handling facility and award of the contract for the first component of the construction program.

A joint venture partnership of Fraser River Pile and Dredge, which also worked extensively on the Northland Cruise Terminal dock, and Western Industrial Contractors were selected to complete the marine portion of the Fairview Terminal conversion, which consists of extending the current dock face out into deep water through the construction of a 400 metre new berth.

This new wharf will extend 20 metres into the channel to minimum water depth of 17 metres, sufficient to accommodate the next generation of super post-panamax ships.

The new wharf upgrades will support the installation of three super post-panamax container cranes. It is expected to cost $110 million, one third of the construction budget.

Western Industrial Contractors will construct both the new deck and structure to carry the new rails for the three large container cranes to be installed at the terminal. Fraser River Pile and Dredge will complete the pile driving and marine-related work.

Future plans feature the expansion of the terminal to reach an annual capacity of two million TEU’s.

A report: the Prince Rupert/Port Edward Container Port Business Opportunities, found that in Phase 1 of the development (expected to be completed in early 2007 with a capacity of 500,000 standard-size containers (TEU’s), there will be 1,025 person-years of direct and indirect construction employment.

Other expected employment impacts include jobs at the terminal (150), jobs at container port servicing businesses and a variety of indirect jobs (135).

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, February 27, 2006
Page One

SunWave Forest Products has been granted another two-month extension on the purchase of the former Skeena Cellulose pulp mill, but the company has also bellied up to the bar with more than $1 million to cover the interim costs.

The China Paper Group, SunWave’s parent company whose majority shareholder is the Chinese government, has asked for more time because of additional information requests by the purchaser’s review committee in China.

The sale, which was expected to close by Feb. 28, has been extended to April 27.

SunWave Forest Products, a subsidiary of the China Paper Group, remains confident that the purchase will be completed and has committed in excess of $1 million to the receiver to fund ongoing costs and other issues, funds that would not be refundable in the vent that the sale does not complete.

“This level of financial commitment shows how serious we are to acquire this pulp mill. We are continuing to get great support from other stakeholders; including First Nations, Local 4 of the PPWC and the communities and businesses of Northwest B.C .” said Susanna Xu, SunWave spokesperson.

Larry Prentice of receiver Ernst and Young Inc. said he was disappointed the full approval process could not be completed within the time frame established in December, but added that he is encouraged the request that SunWave increase its level of financial commitment to the deal was readily accepted.

The sale includes the pulp mill site assets not previously acquired, as well as the real estate and other assets in Port Edward and New Hazelton and a substantial forest license in the Kispiox forest district.

The China Paper Group, through its B. C. subsidiary SunWave Forest Products, put in an offer on the Watson Island land in May 2005 after purchasing the mill equipment from Maynard’s Auction.

While the purchase price for the lands and licence is no more than $5 million, a decision to operate the pulp mill will represent close to a $100 million investment on the part of the China Paper Group.

Last year, an expert in the forest industry from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP explained the interest of the Chinese in Skeena reflects the tremendous growth in, and demand for, primary products in China because of the country’s rapid economic growth.

Currently, there’s a tremendous demand for pulp and lumber in the Chinese market, he said.

Success has many fathers, failure it seems is an orphan!

Two Team Canada's will return to the homeland today, the hockey version arrives back in Canada and the welcome home is expected to be a quiet affair, family and friends will greet the plane upon its arrival. Missing will be the wild eyed zealots that traditionally greet the arrival of conquering heroes, of course this years entry in Olympic hockey didn't quite reach the hero status the early exit from the competition secured their trip home without medals and apparently without fanfare.

For the most part they understand the disappointment of their fans, as Martin Brodeur put it, "Expectations are high and the players that are playing for these teams feel it every time they put their jerseys on."

But if there is a lack of passion for their result, the complete opposite reaction will greet the medal winners and the rest of the very successful Canadian team. As the planes start to land later today, the reception is expected to be gleeful and celebratory. A tribute to an Olympic team that met many expectations and indeed exceed many others. They are fully deserving of the spotlight as they return home, receiving the type of welcome that used to be the destiny of various hockey teams returning home from battle.

We're pretty sure that this current Men's hockey team won't begrudge them their moment in the Sun, they probably only wish they too could be contributed to the tone of the celebration.

The above posting first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Class assignment revisited

Over the weekend the Podunk examined a story from the Daily News about possible changes to the way our public schools may be run in the future. The always controversial issue will no doubt inflame opinions as the plans and discussions continue through the year.

The debate over School Centered Leadership continued through the Bill Good show today on CKNW, Good hosted a one hour examination of the issue and featured Shirley Bond the Liberal government's Education Minister and a number of Teacher’s union officials, School board reps and parent’s advisory groups who gave their take on the project.

Guests included Penny Tees of the B. C. School Trustees Association and Tom Hierck a representative of the Principal and Vice Principal’s Association. They provided their insight into the issue and outlined their concerns or observations on how the project may unfold.

Giving more power to principals and parents was the subtext of the open line portion of the discussion, though many of the callers cast doubts on the workability of the project. Some parents phoned in to express frustration about the current system and wondered aloud how the new plan might change those troubles. Others pointed out that the idea of directed funding to some schools is already in place, an example of a school in Delta with a high profile hockey program getting more money than other schools. One parent worried that this may be the template for the program, making some schools more desirable than others.

It was a wide ranging discussion, but as with any forum with a variety of ideas, no real foundation was laid for the listener as to what the project might look like down the road.

If anything, the hour probably served to warn parents that they need to get up to speed on what is happening in their own district and what impact the changes may have on their individual school needs.

You can listen in for yourself by taking advantage of the CKNW Audio Vault; the program ran on Monday morning, February 27th from 9-10 am.

George Bush and the statute of limitations in Scotland.

The Scotsman, the leading newspaper of Scotland has released a few details about that bike crash that President Bush was involved in last summer while visiting Scotland in July for the G8 summit.

If you remember, the President had hopped onto his bike for his regular high tempo workout when he lost control of his bike on slick roads and ran over a Scottish police constable.

At the time the incident was brushed off as just one of those things, but as it turns out it's become a bit of a cause celebre in Scotland.

For one thing the Scottish police constable was off duty for over three months due to his injuries, not quite the light injuries reported at the time of the incident.

But what really has the haggis boiling in Scotland, is the fact that the police in Gleneagles (the site of the G8 meeting and the Bush road rash race,) have been on a bit of a traffic blitz of late, writing up unsuspecting Scotsmen and women for improper cycling. A situation that is giving cause for many of them to wonder why Mr. Bush was not written up for moving violations and assault charges.

Between the bike riding exploits of the president and the gun toting misadventures of his vice president, it might be an idea to give them both a wide berth should they come to your town anytime soon!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Games of the XX Olympiad: Arrivederci Torino, See you in Vancouver world!

The flame of Torino has been extinguished, the flag passed on to its guardians in Vancouver. These games of the XX Olympiad of Torino have come to a colourful and pageant filled end. And for Canada it has been nothing but a stellar showing; with promise of much more to come on home turf in 2010.

Canada recorded a record haul of medals, taking 24 in total, the bulk of them earned by the women who by far shone the brightest at these games. No athlete shone brighter than speed skating sensation Cindy Klassen, who brought home a record five medals from these games, giving her legend status in Canadian Olympic sports. Dubbed woman of the games, one wonders how many young Canadians will be taking up speed skating with her inspirational performances.

And while we celebrate our achievements in the medals, we can truly look forward to even better days ahead. Canadians finished in fourth place thirteen times in these games, mere hundredths of a second separating many of them from a medal placing, just a wee bit down the list eight other Canadians tallied fifth place finishes. And on through the list, personal bests, top ten finishes, in short probably the best ever performance Canadians have ever had at an International sporting event.

Our success in Torino has resulted in our christening as a rising Olympic powerhouse, and you know it has kind of a nice ring to it don't you think?

Yes there were a few disappointments along the way, the mens hockey program for instance imploded upon itself in Torino, but when you look at the giant leap our Olympians made in these games, even the hockey loss doesn't seem to sting as much today as it did last week. In fact, disappointment this time, should be all the motivation that Canadian hockey needs next time to sweep both women's and mens hockey on home ice in Vancouver.

Now the Vancouver organizing committee will truly feel the task at hand. The flag is in their possession, the flame on the way and the world is planning it's trek to the mountains by the sea. Our athletes are holding up their end of the bargain, with the promise of much more to come.

The Prime Minister heaped some praise on his fellow citizens today, applauding the record breaking haul and spectacular performances along the way. It's probably one political statement that all Canadians will find favour with as we bring to an end of one chapter of the Olympic experience and begin another, one surely destined to be even bigger and better!

The countdown is on, until Vancouver welcomes the world. The stage will be ours and it would appear that we are ready to step out!

Waiting on the boom times

We at the Podunk enjoy our web surfing, tonight we stumbled across an interesting presentation about the future of Podunk, tied in as it is with the future development of the Port of Prince Rupert.

UNBC held a course last year at the North Pacific Fishing Village Historical site, part of their political science program. The findings of that symposium on Northern Communities in Transition has been posted on the UNBC website and it makes for a pretty good read and view.

Included is a video of approximately 26 minutes which outlines the goals and eventual findings of the group’s weekend.

The website offers up some interesting tidbits for all Podunkians to ponder as we await the great boom to come. Census figures used from 2001 seem almost utopian now, as they list our population at over 16,000 souls. Anyone who has remained behind as the economy has faltered over the last five years would suggest that our base is significantly lower than that mark now, dangling dangerously closer to the 10,000 mark than 16,000.

Viewing the video answers a few questions for Podunkians, such pressing issues as hey what kind of view does Don Krusel’s office have? And what progress Jim Rushton is making at Economic Development! (Well, ok we were hoping anyways).

We also get a history lesson from Herb Pond on our long time ties to transportation and how container shipping works. The mayor is in top verbosity (definitely a guy that likes the media spotlight) as he does his best imitation of Charles Hays himself, making a presentation in which he proclaimed that we are on our way to a population of over 100,000. Not quite sure what he is basing that figure on (and even that was questioned during the course of the video presentation), but it would surely be a welcome thing at city hall’s tax department, a place which could use a few more names on their rolls, folks that might be able to pay some property taxes. As Herb pointed out in his presentation, we're still broke and apparently will be for a while yet. Lets hope that isn't going to be our community slogan for 2006! Though it would make a catchy little thing on that old Welcome to Prince Rupert sign by the Industrial park!

We are treated to a vignette from the Museum of Northern B. C. which recaps our history and we learn more about the boom and bust cycle of development in Prince Rupert. Video footage from the course participants leads us to the discovery that they’re flying a Chinese flag out at the pulp mill now, though that’s about all that’s flying there at the moment, as it’s still not a working bit of industrial might.

The website reprises that CN promotional video that got Podunk’s heart pumping last year when it first came out, as we ponder the days that soon may be.

Guest appearances from Erika Rolston and Sheila Dobie ask the questions that need to be asked about environmental and societal impact and give the viewer some interesting viewpoints about growth in our community.

Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery where snapshots of the symposium are provided complete with commentary.

From snapshots of the grain elevator, to sunsets, mountains, the mayor and the participants gathered around the table, the photo gallery gives you an idea as to what the course was all about.

We also gather that the group must have had complimentary drinks and appys at the Crest considering the free plug they gave the Hotel and it’s much vaunted view from the deck!

Fishing boats and fishing lodges both were prominent in the photo gallery, highlighting the state of the fishery in the Northwest as the commercial sector continues to rationalize itself and the sport industry continues to grow in the tourism field.

Another interesting part of the website home page is the commentary provided by the course participants who provided their perspective on not only the course but on the future of the city as well. Some of them had some pretty impressive perspectives on how growth could impact us and the fabric of life on the northwest.

It’s a pretty comprehensive if short look at the positives and negatives of potential growth on our community; you can begin your journey to the future of Podunk right here.

Credit to the hackingthemainframe site and the blog menino.com where we at the Podunk discovered this little known view of our little corner of the world and where it may be going.

Pictures of Podunk: Seal Cove Plant

Part of the Jimmy Pattison empire, the Seal Cove Plant is the fresh fish operation of Canadian Fish in Prince Rupert.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Today’s class assignment: Divining the true meaning of School Centered Leadership

The Daily News put out an interesting debating point on Thursday with its front page story on the possibility of a privatized school system. The Daily based its story apparently on the basis of some documents it received, that suggest the province is planning to go ahead with a plan that would basically eliminate local school boards and force the school system to be run more like a corporation.

Needless to say the idea has raised a few red flags with the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union, which divines this as a plan to put all the power of budgeting education in the area in the hands of principals and something called school planning councils, which reading the union’s position will replace the currently elected school board system.

No doubt the main worry of the Teacher’s Union is the possibility of a contracting out plan with a revised education system; perhaps they see the idea as an end run around their collective agreements. Maybe their right, maybe their wrong, but without full disclosure on the issue the worst case scenarios will always come to the top of the pile.

Another worrisome thought on the privatization idea is the concept of local schools competing for students, a situation that unofficially already seems to take place, as parents sometimes arrange for their children to be placed in a more desirable (in the parent’s mind) school outside their catchment area. One of the concerns about a privatization scheme is the emptying of some area schools as parents scramble to get their children into those schools that may be benefiting both financially and in extra resources from the more competitive nature. Also the idea of amalgamating schools in the area is a possibility, resulting a closing of neighbourhood schools.

The privatization plan, while not really explained in any detail, does not appear to be tuition based system, where parents pay an extra premium as those who send their child to an Independent school do, but rather it’s a reallocation of resources within the structure of the current public school system. Which will make for an interesting study as to which schools may benefit from increased resources and why.

Education is always a flash point issue in British Columbia, one of the most contentious of labour relations in a province steeped in ancient battles. The Province and its various school boards have always had a rather rough co-existence, much finger pointing and raised voices always seem to come to the forefront whenever the two sides exchange opinions. Likewise the recent labour disruption between teachers and the province have shown there is always a simmering pool of distrust of each other in those camps as well, just waiting for a reason to come to a full boil.

Another problem in the system of the day is a lack on interest from parents who tend not to take much notice as to what is happening in their local schools. Whether it’s a very busy lifestyle or just a plain lack of interest, far too often parents take the easy way out and just let the system evolve as it will.

Drastic change can happen quite easily, unless parents choose to inform themselves properly on what is working and what needs to be fixed in their school system. This situation seems like one of those seismic shifts in education, that all parents should have a better understanding of. In the Daily article the paper recounts the concerns of the local school board over the difficulty in getting parents involved as it is, without now adding a new dynamic to the mix. But in the end it really is up to the parent to take a more active role in their children’s education. Unless they ask the questions and get more involved there will be no recourse later to say; "what's going on here?"

The secrecy surrounding these latest options in British Columbia education certainly won’t do much to calm down the suspicions and anxieties from all the stake holders in our children’s education. There may very well be a benefit to the ideas being floated out there at the moment and really anything that may improve the educational lot of our children is a welcome thing.

Information is a key ingredient in any change to long held conventions. In this case a full examination of the issue is required, as well as full involvement from all concerned, politicians, administrators, teachers, school board members and most importantly parents.

Below in Podunkicized form is the original story from the Daily News.

James Vasallo
The Daily News
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Page One

According to documents obtained by the Daily News, the province is pushing ahead with a plan that would all but eliminate school boards, force schools to be run more like individual corporations and hire more business-minded administrators to run them, rather than promote teachers to the post.

“This program would put all of the power of budgeting within the hands of principals and school planning councils, whereas now all that goes through an elected school board,” said Marty Bowles, Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union President (PRDTU). “(Administrators will be number-crunchers, not necessarily a person interested in the social issues of a school.”

Earlier this month, administrators met at a government-funded education leadership conference under the guise of discussing succession planning. Some principals and vice- principals were surprised once the conversation turned away from ensuring the future viability of their profession to setting up their own accrediting college. Up to now, administrators have always started out as teachers.

“It turns out, in my opinion, the real agenda was to separate administrators, principals and vice-principals, out even further from teachers. To move administrator-teachers out of the system (by creating) their own credentials, their own college,” said Bowles. “You lose the most important aspect of a school, the social learning that goes on in the environment.”

This information taken in the context of a Ministry of Education document presented at the time on School Centered Leadership and Shared Business systems seems to show a plan to privatize schools with the manager-principal and a small group of parents, in the form of School Planning Councils, making all future budgeting decisions in schools. Schools will be funded solely using a per-student formula.

“The thing I don’t understand is we have trouble enough getting parents out to PAC meetings and SPC meetings,” said Tina Last, School district 52 board chair. “Parents are involved in a lot of other things, now we want to them to say what the education will look like in their school. Suddenly, will there be enough students in schools? Will they start to go cross-boundary, because one school looks more attractive? Will it create competition between schools and discord in the district?”
Bowles believes that could be precisely what happens, a situation that would lead to the eventual death of the neighbourhood school.

“Can you imagine what it’s going to be like when this big school has got all these dollars, and this little school hasn’t got enough? They’re going to be saying ‘Gee aren’t we glad we amalgamated these two neighbourhood schools now we’ve got a bigger pot to draw from.” he said. “I certainly could not sit on a committee and say Johnny gets to eat. Freddy gets a childcare worker and Martha over there doesn’t get any help at all.”

The document also outlines how services could be shared, including support staff (IUOE and CUPE members at this time.)

“This is definitely a pretext to contracting out of all union positions,” Bowles said. “They say that local contracts will protect workers but we all know what this government thinks of contracts. They shred contracts at the slightest provocation or need.

They’ll start with support staff and then eventually work towards teachers for sure.”

North Coast MLA Gary Coons, a former teacher, said he was disturbed to see the province’s model of school centered leadership, a diagram with Principals and SPC’s in the middle surrounded by a “wheel” of data that drives the decisions. Outside the wheel are all the groups that seemed to oppose the government during the teacher’s job action last September, he said.

“In the ‘secret documents’ it shows principals and school planning council’s in the middle,” he said. “On the outside it shows the community, students, parents, teachers, support staff, trustees…. I think this is totally backwards.

“I think this whole concept is wrong, it might benefit some large schools but it is an attack on rural communities.”

The Ministry of Education is presently offering five schools the opportunity to pilot the concept. The document also offers special funds to those willing to play along.

Bowles says this is a bribe pure and simple and ultimately a wedge to be used in making all schools in the province private.

“It’s so obvious that they’re just going to ram it through anyway,” he said. “It’s up for all of us standing outside that circle, and hopefully a few inside, to say no and stand up for public education.”

Games of the XX Olympiad: Sk8ter Boyz

With the Closing ceremonies of Torino coming up fast now, Canada claimed two more medals on Saturday to put its stamp on these Olympic games.

Francois Louis-Tremblay added double silvers to Canada's medal totals, placing second in the 500 metre short track race and then joining his fellow team mates one hour later for the 5,000 metre endurance race, placing second there as well.

While Tremblay earned his own spot on the podium for his 500 metre finish, he was joined in the silver spot in the team competition by Eric Bedard, Charles Hamelin, Jonathon Guilmette and Mathieu Turcotte.

The medals brought Canada's total medals won to 24, a mark that will set the standard for the Vancouver games of 2010. A truly remarkable performance by Canada's athletes which more than takes away the sting of any medals that were supposed to be ours that didn't quite come through on delivery.

Games of the XX Olympiad: Sk8ter Girlzz

The Canadian women are ruling the world in Torino. Canada picked up two more medals in women's speedskating as Clara Hughes had the skate of a lifetime to grab the gold medal in the 5,000 metre, the longest skate there is in the competition.

Hughes who has been an Olympian since the summer games in Atlanta of 96, finally won the elusive gold in a remarkable skate defeating the reigning world champion. In a phase of an event where many competitors merely try to hang on for the final metres, Hughes poured on the energy to secure her place in medal history.

Her team mate the amazing Cindy Klassen, who in her own right has become an Olympic legend had the lead in the competition until Hughes took to the track. Klassen's time held up as the potential gold medal time until that final round when she slipped to third a bronze medal, her fifth medal of these Olympic games and one medal from previous years giving her a new Canadian Olympic record.

The ladies were a foreshadowing of events later in the day as the men's short track squad took success from the rink as well, but in an early morning across Canada, it was the women who were the talk of Turin and across Canada as they added to our medal totals.

"We're not your monkey and so what!"

A simple thanks but no thanks, might have sufficed, but then that wouldn't be what one expects from the Sex Pistols.

The outrageous originals of the punk era, have chosen not to attend their March 13th beatification ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The lengendary punk rockers officially declined their invitation to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fames induction shindig venting their spleens in a wild declaration on their website.

The Pistols attacked the hall of fame voters as music industry people and disparaged the idea of the attendees paying the 25,000 dollar and 15,000 dollars required to take in the festivities. Expressing nothing but contempt for the whole idea of the hall of fame, it was vintage Pistol venom that jumped out from their website page.

After being snubbed five times before for inclusion, the Pistols have decided that they don't desire to be in any club that would choose to include them after all. Or as Johnny Lydon put it oh so eloquently "next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is nothing but a piss stain."

Now that my friends is a hell of an conclusion to the old RSVP process!

Live Sio's dream

As the owner of the first Quiznos restaurant in Montreal, Sio wants to continue to grow his business, "I've already bought a second Quizno's franchise in St. Laurent and I hope to have it open by the end of the year." said Sio Khayami.

And with that declaration, Podunkians are urged to pony up the cash and get in line for their very own Quizno's franchise in Prince Rupert. A half page advertisement on page 12, appeared in the Daily News on Friday, February 24th tempting Podunkians with bread, meats, cheese and possible riches.

Quiznos the fastest growing chain in Canada, or so the ad declares has apparently already picked out the site all they need are the bakers, the cheese shakers and someone wishing to be a money maker.

Interested Podunkians can check all the ingredients to the Quizno financial sandwich at the Quiznos website. While it looks to be a done deal for Podunk, we the Podunk will as always wait until we see that first Quizno's wrapper blowing down McBride Street.

Until then, we add this to yet another legendary Podunkian rumor for the rumor mill.

The Shroud from Turin

Over forty eight hours after our puck heroes were sent packing, the fallout continues on across the country. Canadians from St. John's, Newfoundland (though to be fair they were pre-occupied with happier matters Friday) to Prince Rupert, BC and Nunavut, to Windsor were busy digesting the complete collapse of the Olympic dream for our hockey psyche.

They say success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan and Wayne Gretzky probably feels that more than most. But there are many willing to offer up their two cents to Gretzky and those around him as to what has gone wrong on their European jaunt.

Bruce Garrioch of the Canoe papers points out the obvious this group never quite got it together as a team, more it was a collection of individuals who seemed intent to do their own thing and never could work on the same page at the same time.

Chris Stevenson also of Canoe, looks for professional advice and gathers the thoughts of Senators head coach Bryan Murray, who gave the sage advice that Canada did not seem to be intense enough in the preliminary games, leaving them in a vulnerable situation when the elimination round came along. Rather than improving one game at a time, Murray submits it may have been a wiser course to have come on stronger right from the start.

The Winnipeg Sun's Ted Wyman, doesn't take kindly to any slack being cut to Canada's team. He calls the performance embarrassing and completely unacceptable. He calls for wholesale changes before the 2010 team is put together.

Bob McKenzie of TSN bemoans the fate of the ancient warriors of Team Canada, wishing a better fate for the likes of Joe Sakic, Adam Foote et al. He looks for a younger and faster squad in 2010 and then an end to the NHL's involvement in the Olympic games.

Paul Romanuk weighs in from his perch in England, writing an article for Sportsnet. He suggests that we should turn our focus to passion over payroll, wishing for a return to the national team program of years gone by. Players playing purely for the goal of striving for the gold.

Sportsnet also sought out the opinions of the most talked about non member of Team Canada, Sidney Crosby. Taking a story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sportsnet relayed the feelings from Sid the Kid. Who burned no bridges with Hockey Canada, stating that he would have liked to have been able to help out, but didn't feel his absence made a huge difference. Instead he pointed to problems adapting to the larger ice as the main setback to Canada's chances of Torino.

Over at the Toronto Star, Damien Cox blogged his report on the Star website, in an item dated February 23rd his thoughts traveled from the 1984 mess of Sarajevo to suggestions that Pat Quinn is going to wear a lot of the responsibility over the losses, even though it was the players on the ice that suffered the power failures.

Cox also took a look at where Canada should go from this point on, in his February 24th column he gazes ahead to the 2010 Olympics and how a demanding Canadian nation will desperately want their heroes to recapture that which was lost in Torino.

Fellow Star writer Paul Hunter sat down for a chat with Bob Nicholson of Hockey Canada, who stated once again that had they to do things over again, they wouldn't change anything except the result. He claims there is no need to tear down the program in place, but that there would be a review of the whole operation as they head towards 2010 in Vancouver. Nicholson also discussed the future of Wayne Gretzky and hoped that Gretzky would remain involved in the process in the years to come.

Tim Wharnsby of the Globe and Mail, put together his own blue ribbon panel of advisors on the state of the Olympic team and where to go from here. Seeking the comments of Vancouver assistant coach Mike Johnston, LA King head coach Andy Murray and New York Rangers coach Tom Renney. They had a variety of thoughts on the pressing issue of our day, Johnston urged more preparation time for the Olympians, Murray suggested that those wishing to be on the Olympic team must participate in World Championship efforts in non Olympic years, giving them a wider exposure to the international game. Renney looked at the lineup shortcomings and pointed to the absence of Scott Niedermayer from the line up as a key problem, figuring that Niedermayer would have been worth a couple of goals in the tournament, goals at key times that may have changed the dynamic of the tournament.

Roy MacGregor sums it all up nicely in his piece in the Globe, "it's hard to look forward when everyone is looking back!" True enough as the nation comes to grips with its early death in Torino. He succinctly puts it all into perspective, by quoting the very players that played the games. We lost because we didn't play well enough. We will leave our last words with MacGregor and his quotes from those involved the most, the players. They say much more about it all than all the other noise combined.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Games of the XX Olympiad: Boyos from the Rock, throw rocks of Gold!

Another Golden moment for Canada at Torino. As one group of Canadian men had some success on a frozen surface in Italy.

The Brad Gushue link, the pride and joy of Newfoundland had a monster sixth end, scoring six and putting away the challengers from Finland in quick order.

It was a solid performance for Gushue's St. John's based rink, as the Canadians took charge and carried on towards the 10-4 final mark and gold for Canada, the nation's first ever gold medal in the roaring game. The Canadian rink consisted of skip Brad Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Russ Howard and lead Jamie Korab and alternate Mike Adam.

The medal win brings Canada's medal total now to 20 at Torino, as day fourteen comes to an end. Canada can lay claim to six gold, 8 silver and six bronze medals, the nations best ever performance in the winter games.

Pictures of Podunk: Ghosts of the past

Relics of a bygone era, we revisit the Seal Cove area. Dotting the shoreline just below the cliffs there is a network of sheds and gun placements, all abandoned now, a living bit of history of the late forties.

Games of the XX Olympiad: Brooms of Bronze

Day Thirteen at Torino brought success at the rink for Canada's Women Curling team.

The Shannon Kleibrink foursome put their game back together on Thursday after Wednesday's disappointing set back on the road to gold and claimed bronze as theirs on the final day of women's curling at the Olympics.

Kleibrink's Canadian team defeated Norway's Dordi Norby in a convincing bronze final by a score of 11-5. The consists of Glenys Bakker, Christine Keshen, Amy Nixon, Shannon Kleibrink and substitute Sandra Jenkins.

The win provided Canada with it's 19th medal at these games, already Canada's best finish in Winter Olympic History with three days of competition to go.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Death Star dials in on Citywest

The advertisement almost slipped by this weekend, a page 7 offering in that weekend advertorial wrap called The Extra. But there it was, the latest salvo in the war for your eyes and your clicker fingers.

Star Choice in a half page ad, urging Podunkians to break free from Cable Now! And with a 99 dollar gift certificate the folks from the satellite service offered up a tempting offer to those folks still attached to the Cable option. With a limited time offer, the folks at Star Choice are on a blitz to add to their base at the expense of the Citywest option.

With No money down and a number of incentives listed, such as 20 Pay Per View movies to new subscribers and free installation, the battle has begun anew. Citywest which purchased Monarch Cable a number of months ago, has not really offered much new on the television dial since the deal was closed and they entered the cable business. In fact they still insist on having subscribers contact Monarch's Medicine Hat offices for information and billing matters, so much for the local advantage!

Limited at the moment to a small offering of channels, one wonders if perhaps they may find that their subscriber base continues to shrink, while the Star Choice folks continue to plant their dishes on the roofs and decks of podunk at a rapid pace.

Take a drive around town and you'll find those grey Elliptical dishes pointing south on ever increasing homes. Each one most likely a lost customer, most likely never to return once they've discovered the wider selection of options offered by the dish. Features such as High Definition channels, far more sports programming than available locally, specialty channels that are only a rumor in Podunk and of course the Pay Per view system are all things that have already lured many a cable subscriber to the death star.

The entire Monarch purchase was done in a rather quiet way, not much was said during the negotiations and not much more has been said since Citywest took over the operation. Unless they hurry up their business plan and offer the same kind of increased programming in the movie, sport and specialty channel areas that Star Choice or Express Vu offers, they may find that there won't be many folks left to make the cable takeover worthwhile, let alone profitable .

If that happens, then there may be a lot of questions asked about the wisdom of taking on established competition, when it appeared that you didn't really want to compete after all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Games of the XX Olympiad: A Record breaking day

Putting aside the obvious disappointment at watching Canada's hockey team exit the Olympics without a medal, Wednesday at Torino was still a pretty impressive day for Canadian Athletes at the XX Olympiad.

Starting with a surprise win by Chandra Crawford in the cross country, Wednesday was the day that Canada truly owned the podium. Crawford came from seemingly nowhere on the depth chart to worlds best at Torino. It began a day which was filled with promise and ended in sadness, but for those that succeeded it was a day to remember.

Following Crawfords amazing step up on the world stage, it was once again time for Cindy Klassen to take charge of her sport, Klassen became the most successful athlete in Canadian Olympic history picking up her fourth medal of the games. Klassen adds gold to her collection and will spend more than her fair share of time at customs making her declarations! Her team mate Kristina Groves was there to share the spotlight at the finish line, collecting a silver medal in that same 1500 metre long track event.

The winners parade continued in the short track speed skating competition as Canada claimed silver in the roller derby like competition. The Canadian womens short track team, battled through the race to edge into second place, just short of the Koreans to take the second a spot on the podium.

The medal haul increased our total to eighteen, and with the dwindling days of the Olympics coming up fast we are still within striking distance of a top three finish, maybe even a shot at the top dog position. For a hockey mad country it won't take the sting of defeat out of early hockey exit, but today's outstanding results will at least give us something to cheer about while we soothe our hockey egos.

And now, we bring you the post mortem.

As the commercials for the Royal Bank's Olympic sponsorship put it, Go Big, or Go Home. For Canada’s Olympic Hockey Club, it’s time to head for the airport. Team Canada, the defending Gold Medal Champions of the XIX Olympiad of Salt Lake, shall not repeat at the XXth of Torino.

It won’t be a fond farewell to the Torino Esposizione, the small bandbox of arena that was the scene of three consecutive Canadian losses. In that small convention hall turned hockey rink for two weeks, many bad memories were formed. Canada not only failed to win games, they failed to score. In the end it was the intimate setting of a do or die affair, and after sixty minutes an Olympic dream died.

In an entertaining, yet ultimately unrewarding game the Canadians took one bad penalty too many, giving up a key goal on a dangerous Russian power play. Canada once again found trouble putting the puck on the net, let alone in the net, and when they did get through Evgeni Nabokov was there to stop them.

Martin Brodeur** continued to build upon his legend, as he turned aside 31 of the 33 shots the Russians made on the Canadian net. And many of those shots came on a Russian power play that Canada seemed to enjoy defending upon, Canada took far too many penalties once again, and each successive Russian power play got closer and closer to success. The breaking point for Canada was an unnecessary interference call on Todd Bertuzzi to start off the third period, Bertuzzi ran a pick play in the Russian end of the rink, and the resulting goal by Alexander Ovechkin was all the Russians would need to advance to the semi finals.

Canada battled back as is the tradition, coming close a number of times to picking up the equalizing marker, Iginla tried on the short side on a two on one, Lecavalier swung and missed in the slot, Sakic took his shots and came up just short, Blake blasted from the point, all ultimately to no avail. By then end of the game they had close the gap on the shots clock with 26, but not with anything that would count on the scoreboard.

Speed and control went the way of the Russians for the most part, they had less difficulty getting out of their own end than Canada did, sharp passes, fast breaks and many shots kept a fair amount of the play in the Canadian end. It’s hard to score if you’re in your own end of the rink too much.

The first two periods were close on the scoreboard, but not quite so on the ice. When in control of the puck you got the sense that it may only be a matter of time before the Russians finally solved the riddle of Brodeur. They managed the ice better than Canada; the Canadian attack was at times solid, others haphazard. Far too often we seemed tentative trying to get into the Russian end of the rink, far too often our passes would bounce the wrong way, or be picked off in the neutral zone.

When they sit down and take the elements of this game and tournament apart, they will find that the goaltending did not lose them this tournament, the defence did not lose them this tournament, it was the front end where the problems began. Besides the obvious lack of scoring touch during the tournament, there was the problem of back checking, time and time again the Canadians did not get back in time to pick up a check, pinch the zone or clear the puck when it arrived on their sticks.

So Canada heads for home and the traditional gnashing of teeth shall begin over the state of Canadian hockey. Save your molars, there’s not really much wrong with the way we play our game, it’s just in this tournament we didn’t get around to playing it!

There are questions as to the personnel selected for this squad, perhaps the speed of a Crosby or the crushing hit of a Phaneuf would have made a difference, but that’s a debate that shall go on for the next four years.

We sent what we believe were our best, they no doubt tried their best as they always do. The only problem was at this time and in this tournament, they simply weren’t the best!

**Brodeur was originally identified as Richard, not Martin. My error was pointed out in the comments below and has been corrected!

The above posting first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Pictures of Podunk: Fairview

The Fairview area of Prince Rupert, the J. S. McMillan fish plant in the foreground, B. C. and Alaska Ferries to the right.

Russian rendez vous!

The last time Canada met Russia in the Olympics was back in 1992 in France, the Russians knocked Canada off 3-1 in the gold Medal game, crushing the dreams of Canadian hockey fans from Coast to Coast to Coast. Wednesday’s match up won’t be for a medal yet, but it does carry the extra gravitas that the loser goes home!

One of the great rivalries in sport renews itself on the ice in Italy, as a struggling Team Canada meets up with a Russian squad that is running a pretty impressive run and gun offence. Russia made it to the crossover match up with Canada after a victory over the USA, and if Canada is to look for some good news it is that the Americans were able to battle back in a game that initially looked like it was going to go entirely the Russians way.

Of course Canada will have to play a much more disciplined game, but yet one with offence as well. After an impressive first period against the Czech Republic, Canada returned to its confusing ways at times in the second and third periods, surviving the Czechs purely on the strength of Martin Brodeur.

The Russians have a fast moving team, one which travels from their end to the opposing end in short order, breezing through the neutral zone with sharp passes. It’s a facet of their game that Canada had best be prepared for. The Americans found success on Tuesday by taking the body nicely and taking advantage of their chances when they came about.

That being said, the Russians still looked quite in control for most of the game, even when the Americans would tie or come close. The American cause was aided by the Russians removing Evgeni Nabokov after the first period, replacing him with third stringer Maxim Sakolov. One suspects Canada won't benefit from the same strategy.

Russia has accumulated 20 goals in the last four games, giving up only six and winning all four games, after suffering an initial loss in game one to Slovakia. They have increased their tempo each game and benefited from excellent goaltending from Nabokov.

The Canadians head into the winner moves on quarter final having lost two of their five preliminary games and suffering an offensive shortage that is hard to believe considering the depth of their line up. The “fragile” word has been used to describe the Canadians, not something you want to hear heading into a pivotal game.

Canada traditionally rises to the challenge of the game at hand, the meaningless games of the preliminary round now behind them, they can focus on the games that matter. And not many games can matter as much to Canadians as a game against Russia.

From the early days of the Canadian “amateurs” taking on the Russian ”amateurs” in days gone by, through the summit series of 72 and every other match up since, Canada and Russia is the matchmakers dream match up.

Canadians won’t have long to see whether their favourite sons will carry forth in the Olympic tournament, game time is 2:30 PM EST, 11:30 AM PST. The Russians will be looking to knock off the defending Gold Medal champs, Canada hoping to get back on their game and accomplish the mission they set out for when they left Canada last week.

Canada/Russia, winner moves on, loser goes home. It doesn’t get better than that.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Ralph Klein's rainy Day fund.

The way things are going in Alberta these days, one assumes that rainy days are far, far away but with the oil money rolling in as fast as Ralph can count it, the time has come to put some of it to use for Albertans.

The Alberta Premier took to his province's airwaves on Tuesday, outlining his plans for a 1 billion dollar "topping up" of the Alberta Heritage Fund. The fund a hallmark of the Peter Lougheed years, has for the most part been like a long forgotten bank account, no new monies had been added to it since 1992.

Prior to that, the province had actually been taking monies out as the Alberta economy suffered a relapse, fueled in part by Federal government intervention in the oil industry there. The fund prior to Klein's 1 billion dollar deposit sat at 12 billion dollars, and with oil revenues turing Alberta into a petro power it seems that the fund will now begin to accrue more revenues itself.

The premier also suggested that Alberta will move to the forefront of cancer research with an endowment of 500 million dollars for research into the disease.

Of interest to Podunkians is Klein's desire to increase the extraction of Albertan coal, claiming that Alberta's coal is going to prove to be a major source of energy in the future, the concept of "clean coal" espoused by Klein was taken to task by environmentalists and opposition members who suggested that the Premier is out of touch. Regardless of the debate in Alberta on that issue, any increase in production there will only have benefits to the Port of Prince Rupert, which is quickly becoming Alberta's port of choice for international shipping.

Tagged by one observer as a feel good beer like TV commercial, the Premier didn't really address any issues in his address, preferring to stress Alberta's booming economy and it's vibrant future. The broadcast was heavy on the feel good and rather light on the concerns or worries that your average Alberta resident might have at this time.

One contentious issue that wasn't mentioned in the televised speech was the health care situation in Alberta, it's expected that the province will begin to look for ways to privatize portions it's health care delivery system, with an announcement expected next week.

With money gushing out of the ground and the Premier topping up his Rainy Day fund, those health care decisions may give us an idea just what Alberta has planned for it's bounty of cash from it's bountiful resource sector. It may very well open up a serious debate there as well , on what is important to Albertans and their increasing wealth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A win, is a win, but.......

Thank your lucky Brodeurs Canada, if it wasn’t for the outstanding play of Marty, Canada would be looking at a 2-3 record in the preliminary tournament.

Team Canada had a strong first period and then surrendered the play to the Czech Republic for the following two, it was only save after save by Brodeur that denied the Czechs a victory on Tuesday.

Canada benefited from two soft goals on a tired looking Tomas Vokoun, and appeared to be on their way to a convincing win in their final tune up. But as the second period got underway it appeared that the Czechs were not going to roll over and give up the night. Replacing Vokoun with Milan Hnlicka, the Czechs went to the attack and came in wave after wave. Canada got away from it’s mindset of hitting in the offensive zone and knocking the Czechs off their game.

Brad Richards, Simon Gagne and Kris Draper were the workhorses in this one, pushing the play in the Czech zone tying up their players and denying them the break out plays that seemed to occur more frequently as the game progressed. Canada was outshot horribly in the final two frames as the Czechs ended up with a wide margin of 33-16 on the shot clock by games end.

Missing in action on the ice Tuesday were Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla who have had problems getting untracked in this tournament, huge players on their club teams they have yet to show the potential we expected of them on their way to Torino.

Defensively they played a little better, though the third period once again provided some cause for concern as we neglected to pick up our Czechs and clear the slot area, Canada allowed the Czechs to take the play in the Canadian zone. We tended to scramble in our end of the rink, allowing the Czechs to get too many shots directed at Brodeur.

Canadian goal scorers included Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Chris Pronger, the St. Louis and Richards’s goals ones that a sharper Vokoun would have stopped. Pronger’s blast from the slot was bona fide scoring play, nicely set up and one that should have made the Czechs take notice. The goals were the first Canadian markers in over 120 minutes of hockey and lifted a large weight off of the shoulders of Team Canada’s players.

Canada now waits to see how the rest of the tournament shakes out to see who our next opponent will be; one thing is certain it won’t be the USA which will be a relief to Canadians. A Canada/USA elimination match would surely motivate the Americans like no other match. Instead, most likely Canada will play the Russians to start off the medal round, no walk in the park but something that should get the Canadian blood pumping.

In the end, you never criticize a win, but Canada will need to take a look at their final two periods. The mistakes made there cannot be repeated in the medal round; Canada needs to play all three periods like they played the first today.

The first period of today’s game provided all the elements towards successful Canadian hockey, hard hitting, fast paced action in the offensive zone, good defence, stellar goaltending and a lucky bounce or two. The second and third provided all the elements of a near disaster in the making, we need much more of the first and a lot less of the final two.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Games of the XX Olympiad: The Gold Standard of Women's Hockey

It was a repeat in Torino for Canada's Women's Hockey Team, as they collected Gold on day 10 of the Olympic Games.

The Canadians once again dominated the play, as they defeated a surprising Swedish squad by a score of 4-1.

For the length of the women's hockey tournament it was the Canadians who set the pace and provided the standard for other nations to aim for, and to no one's surprise they were the ones to collect their medals of gold at the end of the game.

Their arch nemisis the USA were winners of the bronze with a defeat of the Finns in the early game on the final day of the Olympic Tournament. For the Swedes this was a moment of great achievement as their women's program gained a sense of parity with the bigger hockey powers of Canada and the USA.

The Canadian victory came on a day of many near misses for medals on the slopes and upped the Canadian medal count to fourteen. Three gold, six silver and five bronze.

Somebody has hit the snooze button

If Saturday’s loss to the Swiss was the alarm on the clock, one is not sure what to make of Sunday’s follow up loss to the Finns.

Team Canada has now gone over 120 minutes without a goal, has brought a rather anemic power play to the tournament and for some reason refuses to make a body check on anyone crossing their blue line. That in a nutshell is how they have come to have a 2-2 record in the preliminary round of Torino 2006.

Sunday’s game featured a first period that saw the Finnish team outplay, outshoot, outscore and most disturbing of all out hit the Canadians. For the most part they left Roberto Luongo to keep them in the game and then when opportunity provided a chance to get back into it they didn’t take advantage of it. On two consecutive power plays the Canadian squad managed only one shot on net at Finland’s goaltender Antero Nittymaki .

The Finns who took the 2-0 lead early in the game, played a defensive shell game for the bulk of the third period, lining up in the neutral zone and stopping any Canadian attack before it could even get formulated. Canada’s defensive pairings had a horrendous time of keeping the puck inside the Finn blue line, giving up that line time and time again. They were equally troubled in their own end, as they lost battles for the puck and left players wide open in the slot. The most famous image of this game that of Saku Koivu banging Chris Pronger off the puck and setting up a wide open Teemu Selanne for a goal. That pretty well gives you the flow of the play in Canada’s end of the ice.

Down Finland way, Canada was kept to mainly perimeter shots, many wide, the few opportunities for a clear shot at netted went untaken or were quickly negated by a fast moving Finnish squad that found their checks and then made sure their chances were limited.

Once again the Canadian squad slipped into individual play as opposed to forcing a team approach on the Finns. Joe Sakic or Dany Heatley would try and carry the puck as deep into the Finn end as possible only to find the play broken up at the blue line or a pass intercepted and redirected up ice.

These games for the most part don’t carry a lot of weight going into the medal round and thankfully Canada won their first two matches so the circumstances are not dire yet. But if they continue this sloppy and disjointed form of play into the medal round they won’t be finding their way to a podium. Both the Swiss and the Finns have done what many never thought could happen, they played a better Canadian style of hockey than the Canadians did. By playing the body, shutting down the attack and taking advantage of the opportunities when they arose the last 120 minutes of hockey has gone the way of Canada’s competitors.

They have one more preliminary game to get it back together before the medal round, a game Tuesday against the Czech Republic. They’ve been issued two wake up calls in Tornio; they may wish to punch in to work early from here on in. Otherwise the medal round is going to be a very short affair.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog for more items about hockey check it out!

Pictures of Podunk: Fish Plant near Cow Bay

Located close to Cow Bay and the cruise ship terminal this working Seafood Products fish plant gives the tourists a sample of one of the main industries of Podunk. It's also the secret weapon of the tourism industry, unloading a hold full of fish just before a cruise ship arrival should guarantee a visit by dozens of eagles to dazzle the visitors.

Frank and Gordon rule the airwaves

One of the byproducts of hour upon hour of Olympic television viewing is a sudden ability to recite television commercials ad naseum. For every screaming yogurt commercial to rattle around my head, there are the soon to be classic commercials offered up by Bell that never seem to grow old.

The two beaver spokes er animals, Frank and Gordon are getting the gold in getting the message out. The commercials featuring the two furry mascots for Bell remain funny even after the tenth viewing in one sitting. They are well crafted, entertaining and make you remember the product, pretty well all you can ask for in a thirty second attention grabber.

Their march to pop culture icon status continues on through the games. They even have their own website now, so we can follow them along long after that final gold medal has been handed out. Check it out and see their audition tapes, play some air hockey, sign the petition for a National Beaver Day and seek other Bell features on the site. It's a pretty smart way for Bell to get all their products out there to a buying public.

Most importantly perhaps it finally answers an all important question for Canadian pop culture, whatever happened to Mike Bullard? The former Canadian talk show host (such as it was) used to be a telephone lineman for Bell, maybe his old employer has given him a second chance.

I'm not sure, but he seems to bear a similar resemblance to either Frank or Gordon (you try and figure out which is which). Perhaps after a few years in the media wilderness Bullard bounced back into a Beaver dam! Then again maybe not, the Beavers after all are quite funny, the same couldn't always be said for Bullard, but I dunno there are some similarities in the physique!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Games of the XX Olympiad: Double silvers

Sunday at the Torino Olympics turned out to be a silver celebration! Canada picked up silver medals in two sports as Cindy Klassen shone once again picking up her third medal of the Torino Olymics in the 1000 metre long skate. Her medal count makes her the first Canadian female to win three medals at an Olympic games and there may be more to her count before the games are done!

Over at the bobsleigh track, Lascelles Brown and Pierre Lueders found the podium as they powered their way to a silver medal in the two man bobs. Brown becomes the first Jamaican born athlete to win a medal at a winter games, but he claims it as a Canadian citizen having been granted his citizenship only in January some six short weeks before the games began! He and Lueders have been training in Calgary in anticipation of this chance and when the opportunity came they took their best shot at it coming up with silver.

The two medal wins brings Canada's total medal count to thirteen, with more on the way one hopes in the days to come!