Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nose Hill Park (Calgary)

For much of yesterday, I was in Calgary enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  The high reached 10C, and there was barely any snow in the city.  I took the time in the afternoon to hike through Nose Hill Park, a large hill in the north section of the city.  It overlooks most of Calgary, including the downtown area.  I took the liberty of snapping some pictures for all of you to enjoy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Evander Kane rumors overblown

If you have any connections to Winnipeg, and love hockey, there is a good chance you have heard about the rumors surrounding Winnipeg Jets prodigy Evander Kane.  There have been unsubstantiated rumors and gossip that Kane has had a habit of walking out of local restaurants and bars, without paying his bills.   For anyone not familiar with Kane, he is a 2009 first round draft pick,  Jets lead goal scorer, and many say has the ability to one day become a 50 goal scorer.

(photo courtesy of the Toronto Sun)

Several blogs and articles have mentioned the allegations.  Winnipeg Free Press reporter Gary Lawless wrote an article in defense of Kane.  Less flattering articles have come from 'Puck Daddy' author Greg Wyshynski.  The worst article I have read thus far has come from ex-Free Press sports columnist Scott Taylor.   The Taylor article is full of inaccuracies, and invites readers to some morally reprehensible websites that have discussions on Kane, including thedirty.com.  

One commentator using the handle "Hildymac" had this interesting tidbit in regards to Kane's time in Atlanta, and advice for the young star:

"Here in ATL, no one cared what he did, both on and off the ice.  The coaches were terrible at accountability, the party scene was great and the guys were unknowns outside of the fan base.  Factor in no press coverage, and you have the perfect environment for a young guy to basically do whatever.  Regardless of if Kane's walked out on tabs or been a douche-nozzle in public or not, he needs to adjust to the spotlight if he wants to be successful in Winnipeg"

It seems to me that there is one player on just about every NHL team, who stands alone in acting as a lighting rod for off ice rumors and gossip about their supposed off-ice shenanigans.  I currently reside in Edmonton, and I have learned that nearly the exact same gossip is spread about Oilers star Taylor Hall.  When I resided in Calgary a few years ago, most gossip focused around ex-Flames player Dion Phaneuf.  Let's not forget about ex-Senators forward Dany Heatley.  I won't even contemplate what these players would have to endure if they played for the Montreal Canadiens, as the local media would likely tear them to shreds.

Keith Tkachuk

This is not a unique phenomenon either.  Imagine if social media had been around when the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets existed.  Keith Tkachuk was infamous for his supposed off ice antics.  Let's not forget about Calgary's Theo Fleury, Edmonton's Glenn Anderson, Ottawa's Alexei Yashin, and Vancouver's Pavel Bure.  Even two time MVP, and hall of fame member Mark Messier was not immune from  this.  Messier's time with the Canucks organization was marred by controversy, including reports that he demanded that he wear the #11, even though it had been unofficially retired in honor of the late Wayne Maki, despite the pleas of the Maki family.

I`ve heard of talk about Kane`s supposed antics when he was a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, and when he played junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants.  Some may be true, some may not.  However, at 20 years of age, Kane is still a young man who has a lot of maturing to do.  If Kane is a pompous arrogant asshole outside the rink, that does not really concern me.  If he is doing his job contributing to the Winnipeg Jets hockey club in a positive manner, that is all I am really concerned about.  He won`t be the first, or the last NHL player in Winnipeg to make a negative impression on locals.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gail Asper: Is she losing touch with reality?

Yesterday, I was reading the Winnipeg Free Press online version, when I came across "letters to the editor."  It seems Gail Asper, herself took the time to write about the situation involving the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,  and to take a shot at her numerous detractors:

"I'm sure my father, Israel Asper, would have found the continuing discussions for and against the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to be fascinating.
For my part, all I can say is, hey, at least it's given the detractors something to complain about beside our weather."


Now I never knew Izzy Asper personally, but I think it's a safe bet that he would not have found the discussions regarding the CMHR "fascinating."  In fact, if Izzy were alive, I am positive he would be describing the current state of the museum with many adjectives.  However, I am pretty sure "fascinating" would not be among them. 
Perhaps the current state of affairs, in regards to the Asper empire, and the museum in general was described most accurate by a Free Press forum member with the handle "Gack":

"Sorry Gail. Izzy would be too busy shaking his head over the demise of his empire at the hands of his children.
The Israel Asper I knew always undertook well planned and well organized ventures. Yes, he would take risks, but well calculated risks. He would build buildings and invest in Winnipeg, but all the financing would be in place before the venture was started and completed. This can be evidenced by the many places in Winnipeg where you can find the Asper name.

Unfortunately, the legacy that he left will not be the legacy his children leave.

HIs children will leave the legacy of a collapsed business, a poorly planned attempt and owning a football team and new stadium, and last but not least, a museum that never should have been built.

It is ugly, it is underfunded, and it never should have been started.

Please dismantle the monstrosity at the Forks while we can still save some green space."


As for Asper's comment directed at her "detractors", Free Press reader "harmony2" had this to say:

"There are clearly strong feelings about the Human Rights Museum. I feel sad, disappointed and concerned that Gail's response is light and sarcastic when emotions are so real. I'm afraid she is becoming more and more out of touch. Perhaps if they didn't send out thousands of dollars of glossy print material with pictures of her and everyone....or they didn't need to fly in marble and other things of an unreachable high end quality - we could have afforded the tribute that Izzy wanted. Sadly, his daughter got in the way."


I highly doubt I am alone when I think it would be in Gail Asper's best interests to admit that she is in way over her head, and step down from her position on the Board of Trustees, and walk away from the project all together.  Perhaps there is still time to salvage the building, and turn it into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (my personal dream).  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anthony Henday Drive vs The Perimeter Highway

My job often takes me all over Central Alberta.  This week I have the pleasure of working near Fort Saskatchewan, a city approximately 20 minutes Northeast of Edmonton, with a large industrial base that many companies like Agrium, Dow Chemical, and Shell Canada have massive plants at.  Since I live in the southern part of the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area, I commute by driving along Edmonton's Ring Road, or what locals refer to as "The Anthony Henday."

The Alberta Government had set aside land to build a Ring Road encircling the city of Edmonton in the 1970's.  For years, only the Eastern section of the Ring Road that ran between Edmonton and the suburb of Sherwood Park was complete.  In the 1990's, the Western leg of the highway was completed.  However, not anticipating the oil boom of the last decade, the Western leg of the Ring Road was built mainly with at grade intersections, similar to Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway.

As the economy began to catch fire, and thousands of people all over Canada were settling in Edmonton, the need to complete the Anthony Henday became a priority with the Government.  In 2006, the Southwest leg of the route, from Whitemud Drive to the QE2 was competed.  A year later, the Southeast leg of the route was completed, linking the West and East sections of the highway.

At this point, the only portion of the road left to be completed was the area north of the Yellowhead Highway.  On November 1, 2011, the Northwest leg of the Anthony Henday Drive was opened to traffic.  You can now by-pass nearly all of Edmonton if you are commuting from the South.  The Ring Road is nearly 90% complete, and looks remarkably similar to old maps of the Perimeter highway of Winnipeg before 1996 when it had yet to encircle Transcona.

Which leads us to an examination of Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway.  The Perimeter was build roughly 50 years ago, as a highways that cars and trucks could travel on to by-pass the city as they traveled east to west  on the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately, the perimeter was not designed as a limited access highway, with nearly 70 points along the highway that are intersected with at-grade roads and rail crossings.  according to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), it would cost approximately $440 million to bring the Perimeter Highway up to freeway standards.

By far, the most interesting document in favor of turning the Perimeter Highway into a limited access highway can be found in this document I came across from the FCPP.  The report outlines the advantages of improving the points along the Perimeter to construct it into a modern day freeway.  The main advantages of turning the Perimeter into a limited access highway are as follows:

  • freeways reduce air pollution due to the free flow of traffic, and the limited number of stops along the highway
  • freeways reduce highway injuries and fatalities by 70%, according to the Infrastructure Council of Manitoba
  • freeways prevent the most destructive accidents from occurring due to the design of most North American freeways
  • freeways reduce the commuting time of residents that rely on the highway, making it easier for resident to get from home to work, and vice-versa
  • freeways reduce the stress and congestion on arterial roads that are not able to handle the amount of traffic of a modern day freeway
  • freeways pay for themselves in the long run, in terms of reduced fatalities, congestion, injuries, commuting time, and the alleviation of stress on roads and highways that parallel the route of the freeway

Just imagine if the city could go back in time, and shelf the ill-fated White Elephant Museum Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in favor of much needed infrastructure projects, such as making our Perimeter highway a fully functional limited access highway.

Rail crossing on the Perimeter Highway

Fatal crash (Waverley and Perimeter interchange 2011)

Prototypical "Diamond' interchange

"Cloverleaf" interchange

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eric Fehr: Missing in Action

photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Sun

On July 8, 2011, Manitoba born Eric Fehr was acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals in exchange for prospect Danick Paquette and a fourth round draft pick in 2012.  The move caused much anticipation at the time, as Fehr was a former Brandon Wheat Kings star, even being named the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy winner as the Western Hockey Leagues MVP. and Washington's first round draft pick in 2003.  

He had made a mark for himself in the Capitals organization, which he excelled from 2007-11.  While never known for his speed, he was an imposing player at 6'4/215, and was a sniper that netted some key goals for the Caps during his tenure with the team.  His best year coming in 2009-10, when he netted 21 goals and 39 points for Washington.

However, Fehr was known to be injury prone, having had lower back problems, and later on suffered a substantial injury to his shoulder last season.  Despite this the Jets singed Fehr, with his $2.2 million contract.  It was a gamble for the Jets, as Fehr was not 100% at the time of the deal.  Two factors that may have influenced the signing on Fehr was his age (25), and the fact he was born and raised in the province.

Saying Fehr has been less than spectacular would be an understatement.  Having only played in 14 of the team's first 38 games, Fehr has no goals, one assist, and is a disappointing -4.  His play has been mediocre at best, and he does not seem to bring out his "A" game when the team really needs him.

Today, Jets coach Claude Noel called out Fehr for his inconsistent play, and even though he acknowledged Fehr's injury problem, stated that Fehr needs to play better to maintain a spot on the Jets roster.

“My expectations for Eric is I’m waiting for him to play a little better,” Noel said. “If he plays better then he’ll get more minutes, but he’s still dealing with the injury. It still bothers him. It bothers him somewhat mentally. He has to deal with that. That’s something he’s gotta overcome. He wants to play more. I have no problem with that. Play better, you play more. It’s that simple. I've spoken to him about that.
“He’s still cautious a bit. I see it everywhere. Well, you need to figure that out somewhere. He gives me no reason to move him out of that slot. So he’s playing five minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes.”
I followed Eric Fehr since his days in junior hockey as a Brandon Wheat King.  There is nothing more that I want to see than for Fehr to get better and show off his skills for the Jets in their quest to make it into the playoffs.  However, I admit that I am not very optimistic.  Fehr is running out of time, and I can definitely see the Jets unloading him in a package deal at the NHL trade deadline.