Tag Archives: Battle

Patience, relentless pressure keys to Canada’s SheBelieves Cup battle with Brazil

Heading into its final game of the SheBelieves Cup, the Canadian women’s soccer team is focusing on being both patient and relentless.

It’s two characteristics may seem in contradiction of one another, but Canada will need equal parts of both to contend against Brazil Wednesday night (4 p.m. ET). 

At this point of the four-team tournament in Orlando, Fla, it’s been a mixed bag for coach Bev Preistman’s side. First, a hard-fought 1-0 loss to arch rivals from the United States in which the Canadians didn’t allow a goal until the 79th minute. Then a 1-0 stoppage-time victory over Argentina, though the match was frustrating with a staggered tempo. 

“We need to improve on our patience, building up out of the back … making sure we find our players, but then once we get forward in the attacking third, being more dangerous,” said midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who recently picked up her 201st cap for Canada. 

“I think that we’re a bit sloppy with our passes, we need to find people’s feet and then put shots on goal and score some more goals. 

“It’s an easy recipe but harder to execute.” 

Now on Wednesday, it’s a familiar opponent in Brazil, the team Canada beat 2-1 for the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

The last time these two squads met was 11 months ago, and this time the Canadian team will look a whole lot different. 

There is no Christine Sinclair or Diana Matheson (both missing the SheBelieves with injuries), nor Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema (who weren’t released from their clubs). 

WATCH | Canada drops opener to U.S.:

The United States defeats Canada 1-0 with Rose Lavelle’s goal in the 79th minute. 1:04

Roster challenges

The roster challenges haven’t stopped there. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan picked up an injury in the early minutes of the U.S. game. Quinn, who was very strong in midfield against the Americans, sustained an injury in training and will be re-evaluated ahead of the Brazil match. And one of the standout players for Canada in the opening game, centre back Vanessa Gilles, was sent back to her FC Girondins de Bordeaux, as part of a pre-tournament agreement. 

Those aforementioned roster challenges, as well as the back-to-back-to-back match format of the tournament, has forced Priestman’s hand to play newer and younger players, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, one of them, second-half substitute Sarah Stratigakis, scored the winning goal on Sunday against Argentina. 

Another positive saw four players — Evelyn Viens, Jordyn Listro, Jade Rose and Samantha Chang — all earning their first caps in the tournament. Only goalkeeper Rylee Foster has yet to earn her first appearance at the senior level. 

But for all the affirmations, creating quality chances and scoring goals is still a sore spot. 

In Canada’s last five games dating back to last March’s Tournoi de France, Canada has scored just three times. Two of them came in a 2-2 draw against Brazil on March 10, 2020. The other was the one against Argentina over the weekend. 

Priestman said while she would obviously like to see more balls in the back of the net, it’s more about trusting the process. The team is only back together after nearly a year, there are a plethora of new faces and partnerships are just starting to mesh. 

“It’s going to come and it does take time,” she said after the Argentina game. “[As a] group we’ve been doing extra work at the end of training for forwards to get more reps in and things like that. We’re doing everything we can. The group is aware of it.” 

WATCH | Canadian women rebound against Argentina:

Canada picked up its first win at the SheBelieves Cup and the 1st victory under Bev Priestman. 1:15

Killer instinct lacking without Sinclair

Without Sinclair and her 186 international goals, the question has been who will find that killer instinct in front of goal.   

What few quality chances Canada has created at the SheBelieves Cup, the final pass or final finish hasn’t been there. Janine Beckie, who has 31 goals for Canada, had two golden opportunities in the six-yard box against the U.S., Jessie Fleming had two quality scoring chances against Argentina and Nichelle Prince has been lively in both games but hasn’t scored.

However, like Priestman said, it feels like only a matter of time before everything clicks and they’ve been putting the emphasis on moving the ball quicker, taking less touches and finding that forward pass.  

“The group needs to keep believing and keep pushing, whatever it takes to win,” she said. “I think going into this Brazil game I’d like for them to see a mindset where we really take it to Brazil. I felt we did that early against the U.S.” 

Brazil more defensive

Like Canada, Brazil has a new coach on board, though a very experienced one at that. Pia Sundhage took the reins of the team in July 2019 after a disappointing exit in the Round of 16 at the World Cup. The former U.S. and Sweden coach has brought more defensive organization to the club, who’ve been known to have blistering offensive attacks with the likes of Marta and Debinha but are lacking in the defensive third. 

“Their shape is harder to break down,” said Priestman. “They’re dangerous on the counter attack so again we have to put an emphasis on competing and being hard to beat. I think they have some threats for sure. They’re a tough team to play against.” 

Added Schmidt: “We’ve faced them so many times, we know each other very well and I think it’s going to be a good match and a test of where we stand as a team in this year.

“They’re a great side, very tactically smart, amazing with their feet and I think it’s going to be a battle once again. 

“Looking forward to it.”

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CBC | Sports News

The battle for the soul of the Republican Party is now underway

A high-stakes battle for the soul of the Republican Party is now underway, holding far-reaching implications for the near future of American politics.

One front in this battle opens up this week with the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump as Republicans grapple with just how far to go in defending a former president whose effort to overturn an election result ended in deadly tragedy amid the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

So far, those rare Republican lawmakers who’ve dared to criticize Trump have been harshly rebuked by his loyalists.

A case in point is congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the few Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted last month to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” leading to this week’s trial, which begins Tuesday. She recently received a barrage of bad news from a party official back home in her district.

The first bit of bad news was that constituents who called the party offices were livid at Herrera Beutler.

Washington state lawmaker Jaime Herrera Beutler, shown in 2018, is among the five per cent of Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection.’ (Don Ryan/The Associated Press)

“[We’ve gotten] dozens and dozens of calls,” said Joel Mattila, the Republican Party chair in Washington state’s Clark County, which is in Herrera Beutler’s district.

“People [are] just off-their-rocker angry.”

So were there any positive calls? Maybe one for every 25 or 30 angry ones, Mattila told CBC News.

Polling suggests Trump faction holds advantage

Based on polling, public comments and actions by party officials, the Trump-all-the-way faction appears to hold an advantage at this stage.

In fact, Republican supporters seem angrier with the 10 lawmakers in the House of Representatives who defied Trump and voted on Jan. 13 to impeach him a second time than they are with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected congresswoman from Georgia who has repeatedly pushed racist, violent, deranged and anti-government conspiracy theories.

Not only are those who voted to impeach being sanctioned by party members in South Carolina, Wyoming, Illinois and Michigan — they’re even being threatened. And in Washington state, the party is split over whether to simply condemn Herrera Beutler in a statement or formally censure her.

Another threat to these members comes from pro-Trump rivals hoping to unseat them in primary challenges before next year’s congressional midterm elections.

Joel Mattila, shown at the 2020 Republican convention on the White House lawn, is a party official in Washington’s Clark County who supports Trump and told his congresswoman, Herrera Beutler, her impeachment vote could end her career. (Joel Mattila)

That’s the other bad news Mattila delivered: that Herrera Beutler’s political career could be in jeopardy.

Asked how likely it is that Herrera Beutler will face a primary challenge, on a scale of 1 to 10, Mattila said it’s “like a 99.”

“I told her she’s in trouble,” he said.

“It’s the intensity level of the anger that I’m hearing from people that say, ‘I’ve always voted for her and I’m never gonna vote for her again. I hope you guys recruit a candidate, and we’re gonna support somebody else.'”

Here’s one final bit of troubling news for the congresswoman: Her county chair is against her, too.

Mattila said in his opinion, Trump never deserved to be impeached because he never explicitly called for an attack on the Capitol building at a rally on Jan. 6, the same day lawmakers were meeting inside to confirm that Joe Biden won November’s presidential election. And Mattila said he’s not ruling out running for Herrera Beutler’s seat himself.

The blowback for Cheney at home

A similar story is playing out in Wyoming.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the state’s highest-profile lawmaker, easily survived a vote among Republicans in Washington, D.C., to keep her leadership position after she voted in the House to impeach Trump.

A move to strip her of her role as conference chair was blocked by Republican lawmakers in a 145-61 vote. But that vote happened by secret ballot. And it was in Washington.

Things could get rougher back home in Wyoming.

Rep. Liz Cheney, shown in 2019, survived a challenge to her leadership position in Washington after she voted last month to impeach Trump. But she faces a challenge back home in Wyoming. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The Trump team has commissioned a poll suggesting that just 10 per cent of Republican primary voters in Cheney’s state planned to support her again.

She’s been censured by her own party in numerous counties. In one Wyoming county, the party vice-chair said people feel betrayed by Cheney and that he wished she’d lost her Washington leadership role.

He said he’s seeing 10 or 20 negative comments about Cheney for every positive one from local Republicans.

“I thought I knew her very well. But I’m sad to say, apparently, I didn’t,” said John Birbari, the party’s vice-chair in Wyoming’s Fremont County.

He predicted that Cheney’s next event in the county “would either be poorly attended or would be a little raucous.”

Birbari put the chances of a primary challenge against Cheney at “100 per cent,” with one bid already announced by a Wyoming state senator.

The church elder, former newspaper ad executive and radio host who was embroiled in a local controversy over anti-gay comments said he would personally support the primary challenger.

Defending Trump’s actions

But what about the serious allegations against Trump, which prompted all House Democrats and five per cent of Republicans to vote to impeach?

The charge: that Trump imperilled American democracy, spending weeks peddling unfounded conspiracy theories about his election loss, pressuring officials to overturn the result and finally — at a Jan. 6 rally, where his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called for ‘trial by combat‘ — encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol.

Rioters outside the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, the same day lawmakers were meeting inside to confirm that Joe Biden won November’s presidential election. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Birbari brushed it off, saying it’s unconstitutional for Trump’s impeachment trial to occur after he’s already left office — which is a matter of legal debate.

He also insisted that Trump was right about the election being rigged — despite the fact that dozens of judges and officials in a half-dozen swing states disagree.

What about Marjorie Taylor Greene: Do these same Republican officials have anything similarly negative to say about her? Birbari said he hasn’t followed the Taylor Greene story much, and Mattila also said he’s unfamiliar with the details.

Eleven House Republicans did vote with Democrats to expel the conspiracy-peddling congresswoman from her committee positions; by comparison, 45 voted to punish Cheney.

‘Strange, unknown, bad territory’ for U.S. politics

A scholar at the Washington-based Niskanen Center think-tank who has studied and written extensively about the history of the Republican Party said this is a strange moment without a clear precedent.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, the centre’s director of political studies, called it the end of an ideological conservative era and the start of an unpredictable and worrisome new one.

“It feels like we’re in strange, unknown, bad territory,” said Kabaservice, who is also the author of a book that examines the Republican Party’s evolution from a non-ideological coalition into a staunchly conservative party starting in the 1960s.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected Georgia Republican, has repeatedly pushed racist, violent and anti-government conspiracy theories but has recently disavowed some of her past comments. She’s also taken a combative approach to politics. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

His book, Rule and Ruin, begins at the 1960 presidential convention, when the party had four main groups: progressives, the remaining heirs to trust-busters like Teddy Roosevelt; moderates; so-called stalwarts, who are slightly more nationalist and hawkish on issues such as trade; and conservatives.

Kabaservice said ideological conservatism grew to dominate the party but that Republicans are transforming again, and he described the emerging divide as: Who’s most willing to defend anything in pursuit of partisan gain?

He pointed to a metric used by political scientists to analyze American lawmakers’ ideology, the DW-Nominate system, as evidence that the most pro-Trump members of Congress aren’t necessarily the most conservative.

“[It’s becoming] reality versus craziness. Or normies versus freaks. It’s just strange and really hard to deal with — for the public, for members of the Republican Party in Congress,” he said. 

Despite losing last November’s election, Trump — shown at a campaign rally in Dalton, Ga., on Jan. 4, the day before Senate run-off elections — still maintains a hold on the Republican Party, and his critics acknowledge they face an uphill battle at his impeachment trial. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Kabaservice said one difference between today’s Republican grassroots and the Barry Goldwater conservatives of the 1960s is that the latter believed their movement was ascendant and were generally optimistic about their chances. 

He said today, many on the right voice the opposite view, echoing Trump that the game is rigged by some un-American enemy, and if that enemy cheats to win, the party needs to toughen up.

That leads to an approach to politics in which any means are justified, Kabaservice said.

The party chair in Washington’s Clark County, however, doesn’t sound pessimistic at all. Mattila notes that Republicans came close to winning both houses of Congress and predicts a dominant showing in next year’s midterm elections.

“There’s a red wave coming,” he said.

WATCH | Article of impeachment against Trump goes to U.S. Senate:

A second impeachment trial against former U.S. president Donald Trump is set to begin in two weeks and a growing number of Republican senators now oppose convicting Trump. 7:32

The question now for Republicans is what they want their party to look like — and should it emulate a former president who spent weeks using increasingly abnormal tactics to try overturning an election result?

This struggle has begun playing out on a variety of fronts, with moderates winning on Cheney’s leadership vote but losing badly in a vote to punish Taylor Greene. Next year’s primaries will be an epic showdown. But first, there’s the Senate impeachment trial and vote.

Trump’s critics acknowledge they face an uphill battle.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, said he lost good friends after voting to impeach Trump — his father’s cousins even sent him a certified letter saying they disowned him because he had joined the “devil’s army.”

Illinois Republican lawmaker Adam Kinzinger, who says relatives have disowned him over his vote to impeach Trump, believes the U.S. needs two healthy political parties. (Kevin Dietsch/The Associated Press)

But he said he’ll keep trying, for as long as he can, to prevent angry, conspiracy-peddling Trump worshippers from completely overtaking the party of Abraham Lincoln.

“It’s not going great at the moment,” Kinzinger told CNN. “But this is the beginning of it.”

‘Conservatism’ or ‘madness’

Kinzinger said all Americans, including Democrats, should be pulling for people like him even if they don’t agree with his conservative principles, because, he said, the country needs two healthy political parties.

One Republican defiantly stared down his own local activists.

In the face of a censure vote from Nebraska party officials over his criticism of Trump, Sen. Ben Sasse released a video essentially shrugging his shoulders at them.

In the video, Sasse characterized his accusers as enraged hyper-partisans out of sync with most Americans.

He also accused them of selling out their ideals.

“Something has definitely changed over the last four years. But it’s not me,” Sasse said.

“Personality cults aren’t conservative. Conspiracy theories aren’t conservative. Lying that an election has been stolen is not conservative. Acting like politics is a religion isn’t conservative,” he said.

A Trump supporter shares his views on President Joe Biden as he waits for the former president to arrive in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20, Trump’s last day in office. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

“You are welcome to censure me again. But let’s be clear about why this is happening: It’s because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude. The party could purge Trump skeptics. But I’d like to convince you that not only is that civic cancer for the nation — it’s just terrible for our party.”

Sasse told Republicans that they have a choice to make: “Between conservatism and madness.”

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CBC | World News

To battle pandemic, NHL players know they must hold each other accountable

Back in September, after the Tampa Bay Lightning were awarded the Stanley Cup, the NHL announced over 33,000 tests were administered during 65-playoff days in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles with zero positive results for COVID-19.

That was then. Things are different now.

Since the NHL resumed play earlier this month with teams playing in a division format, players have tested positive for the coronavirus, practices have been cancelled and games postponed.

The positive tests are to be expected, said Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control, and an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network in Toronto — even with the protocols and safety measures implemented by the NHL and its teams.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising at all,” said Hota, who also is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto. “The bubble is a very controlled environment but it’s also artificial. It’s not going to be reflective of what happens if you open things up and people are going in and out into the communities.

“It’s a mixing of populations. It’s going to be much more difficult to manage things out of a bubble, even with the same measure of testing.”

WATCH | Week 1 roundup of the NHL’s North Division:

In our new weekly segment, Rob Pizzo catches you up on the week that was in the all-Canadian division in the NHL. 4:25

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Jordie Benn and forward J.T. Miller both missed games due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.

Benn said he had “no idea” how he contracted the virus.

“I didn’t have any symptoms,” he said. “I felt good for the 10 days I was in isolation. You see people that are in hospital and taking it a bit harder. It’s a weird virus.”

The NHL has prepared a list of “preventative measures” for players and team officials to avoid COVID-19. Included is staying at home, not engaging “in unnecessary interactions with non-family members”, wearing face coverings and avoiding going to “restaurants, bars and clubs.”

Players understand importance

Earlier this month the Winnipeg Jets were forced to cancel a practice due to COVID-19 concerns. Centre Mark Scheifele said the players understand the importance of being careful.

“It’s kind of what we have been doing for the last 10 months, since this all started,” he said. “Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your social distance from people. That’s all you can really do, worry about yourself, control your own environment.

“That comes to every single guy on this team, every single guy in the league. You all have to hold each other accountable for their actions and abide by all those protocols that have been set forth by the professionals that we are relying on.”

“All have to hold each other accountable and abide by the protocols that have been set forth by professionals,” says Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Vancouver forward Tanner Pearson said concerns about the virus have changed players activities both at home and on the road.

“On the road, you can pretty much go for a walk and that’s it,” he said. “There are no dinners with teammates on the road, no dinner with friends. 

“When I’m at home, I want to be with [my son] and the family as much as possible.”

Unknown exposure

Hota said the risk of exposure doesn’t end with the players. Many have families. Their children attend schools, wives shop at the supermarket.

“You look at the experience we’ve had within the hospitals and healthcare workers who are being very vigilant and are aware of what the transmission risks are,” she said. “We continue to have people being exposed from their family members who test positive or from other unknown community-type exposures.”

Heading into last weekend there were 21 names on the NHL’s list of players who were unavailable to play or practise in accordance with the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

That included Alex Ovechkin and three other members of the Washington Capitals. The Capitals were fined $ 100,000 US because the players gathered in a hotel room during their season-opening road trip.

“That speaks to the fatigue issue,” said Hota. “Everyone’s a little bit tired of this.

“We’re all social creatures as human beings. You crave that kind of contact with other people.”

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin was among four Capitals to be placed on the COVID-19 list earlier this month. (Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

Reason for concern

While the overall numbers may be small there still is reason for concern, said Hota.

“It can set off something that will then go rampant,” she said. “And if the players aren’t affected, it doesn’t mean that others aren’t.”

The emergence of a coronavirus variant in Canada also raises red flags.

“What’s happening is areas where variants have taken over, they’re up to 70 per cent more transmittable than what we’ve been seeing so far,” said Hota. “How that’s actually happening and why is it they’re more transmittable is not entirely clear.”

The NHL has restricted travel so teams only play within their divisions but that doesn’t eliminate the risk of spreading the virus.

“It’s an added layer for sure,” said Hota. “I get more concern about importing risk from one area that’s more of a hotspot to an area where there’s less transmission and public health measures may be less strict.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a video conference earlier this month the league may have to be “flexible and agile” in dealing with COVID circumstances as the 56-game season progresses.

Hota said the league must be adaptable because “nobody’s exempt from this pandemic.”

“The more contingency plans you have and the more prepared you are to change the way you approach something, the better off you’ll be,” she said. 

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CBC | Sports News

Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba receives more military support for COVID-19 battle

More help from the Canadian Armed Forces has arrived in Shamattawa following a desperate plea from the First Nation’s chief.

The northern Manitoba fly-in community has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases, with about 25 per cent of people living on reserve testing positive for COVID-19, according to Chief Eric Redhead.

Just after noon on Saturday, Redhead posted on Facebook that roughly 25 members of the military had arrived in the community, with more set to arrive later in the day, including medics, nurses and other personnel.

“It was emotional. I have to be honest there. I felt that it was a relief not only for me but for members in the community. It was an emotional feeling for sure. I held back tears because I knew our people needed health and it finally arrived,” he said in an interview with CBC News Saturday evening.

He said the team will set up isolation units at the community’s school and help with tasks like door-to-door grocery delivery, wellness checks and contact tracing. The military will work alongside members of the Bear Clan Patrol, the Canadian Red Cross and Shamattawa’s chief and council, Redhead said.

A Hercules military aircraft arrived in Shamattawa First Nation earlier this week. On Friday, Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said a small military assessment team that was sent to the community wasn’t enough support. (Eric Redhead/Facebook)

Redhead, who first called for military support on Nov. 30, said he is expecting an additional 30 military members to arrive Sunday. He said medics, nurses and regular military members are part of the deployment. He said they are bringing personal protective equipment, medical supplies and hopefully snowmobiles.

The chief said as of Friday, there were 323 positive cases identified but he suspects the number is higher because of difficulties getting people tested.

“I’m afraid that the entire community is a contact,” he said.

Nearly 60 military personnel expected by Sunday

A spokesperson for the military said by Sunday, the contingent deployed to Shamattawa will include nearly 60 people.

Seventeen of them — including nurses, medical technicians and one general duty member — will make up a multi-purpose medical assistance team that will establish and staff an alternative isolation area in the community, the spokesperson said. Those members are from the 1 Canadian Forces Health Services Group in Edmonton.

Roughly 40 others sent to Shamattawa will help establish that isolation area and will be redeployed once that’s done, the spokesperson said. That team is from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from Shilo, Man.

Those members of the military will be in addition to six Canadian Rangers and one Canadian Ranger instructor from Winnipeg who were sent to Shamattawa earlier to support the community, the spokesperson said.

Military deployed to the northern community will also help local authorities support those in isolation, provide general duty support where it’s needed and integrate personnel into the local emergency operations centre command post, the spokesperson said.

‘Hardest-hit community’

In Manitoba, “the hardest-hit community right now is Shamattawa,” Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said Friday.

Roussin announced 447 new cases of COVID-19 province-wide Friday, more than 100 of which were from Shamattawa. 

“They’re certainly dealing with a significant outbreak,” he said.

The chief, who said the test positivity rate on his reserve is hovering between 70 to 80 per cent, blamed overcrowding in his community for the rapid spread of the illness.

An elder who contracted COVID-19 had to be airlifted to Winnipeg, where she is in intensive care, Redhead said. He said all 15 members of the elder’s crowded home tested positive.

“When you have so many people living in a confined space, it’s prime breeding ground for this virus,” he said.

Redhead said a small military assessment team that was previously sent to the community wasn’t enough support. He repeated a call for an additional 60 to 70 members to help in the COVID-19 response in the community, about 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

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CBC | Health News

Provinces should adopt surveillance testing to battle COVID-19, long-term care home review says

One of the largest operators of Canadian seniors’ residences and long-term care homes is calling for provinces to adopt widespread surveillance testing as part of an internal review set to be released on Monday.

The review for Revera was chaired by Dr. Bob Bell, former deputy health minister in Ontario and a former hospital CEO.

Bell was not paid to serve as chair of the review, which was carried out by international and national public health experts who volunteered their time.

Surveillance testing in Ontario involves testing symptomatic and asymptomatic staff, the frequency of which depends on where each community stands within Ontario’s provincial framework. Ontario also actively screens residents and staff.

“The most important factor depends on how much virus is in the community,” he said during an interview that aired on Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday.

“These folks unknowingly, in the best interest of their patients, come to work, and if they are not tested, [the risk] of them unknowingly bringing disease into the home during a time when they’re infected but asymptomatic is high.”

Bell said Ontario has adopted surveillance testing and has since been able to protect long-term care residents more effectively.

It has yet to be adopted elsewhere in Canada, where thousands of COVID-19 deaths have been reported at care homes.

“The government has not mandated mandatory testing,” Bell said. “Revera itself is actually contracting with private testing companies to actually do tests for their staff, and this is one of the most important things, our report says, to protect residents.”

WATCH | Dr. Bob Bell discusses some findings with Rosemary Barton prior to the report’s release on Monday:

A report looking into Revera’s response to the first wave of COVID-19 in long-term care homes will be made available to the public. Dr. Bob Bell, the chair of the review, says that the lessons from the first wave were being applied in the second. 2:03

Revera operates more than 70 long-term care homes in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, and more than 500 properties across North America and the United Kingdom. It also operates nearly 100 retirement residences in the same provinces, as well as in Saskatchewan.

From the start of the pandemic in Canada until Aug. 31, there were outbreaks at 87 Revera sites — meaning each of the affected properties, which included 55 long-term care homes and 32 retirement residences, reported at least one case of COVID-19.

The impact of the virus at Revera’s long-term care facilities was significant. There were 874 cases of COVID-19 and 266 deaths, which is a fatality rate of 30 per cent. In Revera’s retirement residences, 104 people were infected and 20 died.

An analysis released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in June found that the proportion of COVID-19 deaths in Canada in long-term care facilities was around double the average of other developed countries.

Pushing for increased testing

Bell said there’s no question that as the second wave continues and as vaccines arrive, Canadians will continue to examine what has occurred in long-term care homes.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to be testing. In areas of high community spread, we should be testing every day,” he said.

Those tests should not involve deep nasopharyngeal swabs that are uncomfortable for staff, Bell said, but use saliva and other forms of testing.

A spokesperson with Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care said proactive surveillance testing — including testing of all symptomatic and asymptomatic staff — continues to be done in all long-term care homes.

According to the spokesperson, testing in long-term care facilities in Ontario involves:

  • Testing residents at least twice daily for symptoms of COVID-19, and isolating and testing any residents with symptoms.
  • Screening all staff at least twice daily with symptom screening and temperature checks.
  • Adjusting how many times staff are tested based on the status of each individual community.

Frequency of staff testing aligns with the status of the community within Ontario’s provincial framework.

Ontario has also deployed COVID-19 rapid tests to screen staff in long-term care homes. 

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the province was working on strategies to implement more routine testing at long-term care homes.

“We certainly don’t have enough rapid tests to do that regularly, but we are looking at an approach to do a pilot in these areas,” Roussin said during a press conference on Thursday.

In Winnipeg, 49 people linked to the Revera-owned Maples Long Term Care Home have died from COVID-19 as of Nov. 30. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Last week, Alberta announced it would soon begin piloting rapid testing at select sites across the province, including at various continuing care facilities.

British Columbia health officials said the province’s recommendation at present was to test asymptomatic individuals only in public health investigations of cases, clusters or outbreaks.

“This recommendation may differ from that of other provinces or countries, and other national or international health professional societies,” reads a statement from the province’s Health Ministry.

Bell said in his view, one of the most important starts of mandatory requirements across the country would be for all provinces to be testing staff.

“If the risk is as high as it currently is, for example, in Alberta or in communities like Toronto or Peel, to be testing every day,” he said. 

“Because staff don’t want to be carrying disease in. They are unknowing that they’re infected. They should be given an easy way to test themselves.”

‘Absolutely horrifying’ experience at Calgary facility

Nanaimo, B.C., resident Renee Laboucane’s two parents were living at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary when the Revera facility experienced a significant COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.

Laboucane’s mother died as a result of COVID-19, and her father still resides at the facility. She called the experience “absolutely horrifying.” 

Twenty people died at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, a facility operated by Revera, during the first wave of COVID-19. More than 100 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19 at the centre. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“We had zero communication, zero knowledge of what was going on…. We know there wasn’t the resources in the initial few weeks needed to care for the residents at McKenzie Towne,” she said.

As of Sunday, 20 people have died of COVID-19 at McKenzie Towne, and more than 100 residents and staff tested positive for the virus. Laboucane said the experience has been heart-wrenching for family members and friends.

“We’re all dealing with the effects of COVID and how it’s dealing with our lives,” she said.

WATCH | Renee Laboucane discusses outbreak at Calgary long-term care home:

Nanaimo resident Renee Laboucane’s said her two parents were living at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary when it experienced a significant COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. 0:32

As those like Laboucane are mourning and searching for answers, other Canadian families are concerned about their loved ones living in facilities currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

In Winnipeg, the Revera-owned Maples Long Term Care Home has had 52 people linked to the home die from COVID-19, as of Dec. 4.

Alvin Cadonic, whose aunt and uncle live in the facility, said he wanted accountability and transparency from Revera, as well as additional government oversight.

“I mean, we’re lucky we haven’t lost them. I don’t want to lose them,” he said. “I dread getting a phone call.”

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Sports groups defrauded by their own members face uphill battle in rebuilding community trust

Whenever an organization is the victim of theft, the impact can be deep and long lasting. When money is stolen by an employee or volunteer, it can take years to rebuild trust with the community.

That’s certainly the case for youth sports organizations, which every year provide countless programs and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Canadian families.

An investigation by CBC Sports reveals that in the past decade nearly $ 8 million has been stolen from dozens of sports leagues and associations across Canada, almost all of it by someone inside the organization, leaving it and the families who participate devastated.

“In every article that I read, the parents are shocked. And I look at that and I’m like, well, why are you shocked?” said Erik Carrozza, a Philadelphia-area accountant who has documented dozens of similar stories across the United States. “Think about it for a minute. You have a person with all of these financial resources available to them with no governance, no oversight, no accountability.”

Darren Harvieux says rebuilding trust in his small Newfoundland community was one of the key reasons he volunteered to take over as treasurer of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association after it was discovered last year his organization had been defrauded of about $ 80,000.

With a financial background and two young children who play in the league, he was concerned about how theft had tarnished the way minor hockey was now viewed in the community.

WATCH | Why community sports organizations are vulnerable to fraud:

CBC Sports reporter Jamie Strashin speaks with Jacqueline Doorey about his latest investigation into fraud in youth sports organizations across Canada. 4:23

“The stigma around the hockey association and the community is something that I didn’t like to see kids grow up in,” he said. “I still tell stories about back when I used to play hockey with all my buddies, and I wanted to make sure that the children in this association had that same chance. 

“So to be able to come back, build the trust and keep the hockey going was definitely top priority for me.”

Harvieux said the theft left the league in “an extremely difficult financial situation.” But through intensive extra fundraising, cost-cutting and countless hours of volunteer efforts, all the outstanding money has been replaced, he said. 

None of it has been easy. Beyond restoring the organization’s finances, efforts have been focused on rebuilding trust and convincing people that governance changes have been implemented.

“We were almost fighting an uphill battle, trying to gain back the trust of 400 children’s parents and guardians who bring them to the rink every day,” Harvieux said.

Harvieux says the new group of volunteers “basically started from ground zero” in rebuilding the league’s finances. They were transparent with parents and creditors, keeping everyone informed about what they were doing through monthly reports and open meetings.

Corner Brook, N.L.’s Darren Harvieux says the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association has completely changed the way it handles its finances to avoid leaving responsibility in the hands of a single person. (CBC)

Harvieux said the entire way the league conducts its business has changed.

“There’s no one single person involved in whether it be the banking, the cash handling, paying employees, it’s always a team approach,” he said. 

“We want to make sure that there’s always people watching. We want to make sure that if somebody had a question, we could answer the question on the spot.”

Carrozza, who founded the Center for Fraud Prevention to help youth sports organizations implement prevention strategies to reduce the risk of theft, says transparency in an organization is critical for regaining trust.

OMHA short on details

But the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, which was defrauded of $ 2.4 million dollars in 2018, has communicated little to the thousands of families it represents about exactly how it lost so much money. 

The organization also has not publicly outlined what organizational changes it has implemented to protect against future thefts.

The OMHA briefly acknowledged the theft in a letter to members and during its annual general meetings but offered no details to members around accountability and took no questions.

The OMHA declined requests for an interview, telling CBC in a statement that despite a guilty plea already being in place, any comment “could affect the sentencing hearing.”

That lack of communication prompted Murray Taylor, former president of the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association, which falls under the OMHA’s umbrella, to write the organization’s leadership calling for executive director Ian Taylor to be fired or resign.

“No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month,” Murray Taylor wrote. “That is a managerial level of incompetence that simply cannot stand.” 

No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.– Murray Taylor in a letter to the OMHA

He says he never received any response.

Murray Taylor said that while most youth sports organizations are run by volunteers, the OMHA is run by a paid executive, tasked with administering hockey for much of the province. 

“My issue is with that professional arm, because I think that professional piece of it needs to be held accountable for what is going on,” he told CBC Sports. “My concern is, what have they changed, what processes have been put in place to protect themselves from it happening again?”

‘Parents are hesitant to come forward’

Murray Taylor is one of many OMHA members who CBC spoke to about the organization’s handling of this case, but one of the few willing to discuss their concerns publicly.

“It comes back to the concern around how coming forward might impact my child if you start asking questions,” he said. “Parents are hesitant to come forward because they’re worried about how it might impact their child. I think that has driven hesitancy in a lot of people’s minds about coming forward.” 

In audited statements, the OMHA says all but $ 120,000 of the stolen money was offset by insurance, but Murray Taylor says that shouldn’t absolve the OMHA from reform and accountability.

“There’s got to be a faith that when I hand over the money I’m going to get what I’m expecting to get from it. This could have really impacted a lot of hockey programs negatively,” he said.

“We were fortunate in that it didn’t hurt. But again, that doesn’t negate the fact that this happened. And how is it being addressed? That would be my question.”

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Calgary’s emergency management chief says Alberta needs a 28-day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to battle COVID-19

The chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency says the province has hit a turning point in the COVID-19 battle.

From outside of his home on Sunday, Tom Sampson told CBC he feels defeated — the daily virus numbers are filling up hospitals, hurting mental health and the economy. Sampson says the time to act is now and there is no time for half measures.

The CEMA chief called for a 28-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season. 

A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.

WATCH | CEMA Chief Tom Sampson talks about the need for a circuit breaker lockdown

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson spoke to CBC on Nov. 15, 2020, about the need for a circuit breaker lockdown. 0:52

While it’s not ideal for the economy now, nor is it ideal to pull kids from school, Sampson said waiting could take a worse toll.

“A circuit breaker, in my opinion, is required — a hard one,” Sampson said. “I think people can do anything that you ask them to do if they know there’s a defined period to it, also. And in that sense, I don’t think we should delude ourselves. 14 days is one cycle. You know, you need two cycles to really break COVID, in my opinion.”

Sampson said he realizes a complete lock down is controversial, and added it’s the last thing he wanted to have to say.

“We can’t get people to hear us — simply not having people over and keeping your distance, washing your hands, wearing a mask and those sorts of things — it’s just not cool to violate those,” Sampson said. “You put others in danger and we can’t seem to get it right now. Maybe our government-mandated shutdown is the way to go.”

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Sampson described the rising infections as an incoming tsunami. 

“I implore you to listen to our learned physicians who are sounding the alarm,” he wrote. 

Alberta reported 991 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, after reporting a record of more than 1,000 cases Saturday. The province has continued to break records for active cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks.

There are 9,618 people who currently have COVID-19 in the province, 262 of whom are in hospital. As of Friday, more than 3,500 of those cases were in Calgary. 

On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney introduced some new restrictions for cities in the province including a two-week ban on indoor sports and fitness classes and earlier closing times for restaurants and bars. 

The premier has continued to urge citizens exercise “personal responsibility” ahead of mandatory constraints. The new restrictions will not be monitored by law enforcement, Kenney said. 

A spokesperson for the premier said Sunday that the government has been clear that its “priority is protecting both lives and livelihoods,” and pointed to the series of new measures announced by Kenney on Thursday. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the city has “essentially zero” power to enforce restrictions when citizens disregard the rules, and has asked the province to reinstate public health enforcement powers and boost contact tracing. 

Sampson said the province’s latest round of measures don’t go far enough, but the City of Calgary can’t fight the pandemic with its State of Local Emergency alone.

“States of local emergency are very, very powerful,” Sampson said. “You can do almost anything you want. You can even conscript people. But they don’t deal with saying: I’m going to shut down this business or that piece of our infrastructure for a period of time, it doesn’t deal with it. And so that’s a provincial call.”

Economy depends on controlling the spread

Trevor Tombe, an associate professor of economics and research fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said countries that have experienced the greatest economic contraction are the ones with the highest case counts. 

“For the benefit not just of our own health and our lives, but for our livelihood as well, the focus needs to be on controlling the spread, bringing case counts down,” Tombe said. 

Despite the freedom Albertans have to go to restaurants, bars and shopping centres, some are choosing not to participate in the economy for their own health and safety. 

“Independent of what the government chooses to do, there’s going to be an increasing number of people who choose to stay home and not engage or not go and frequent different businesses,” Tombe said. “Our own behaviour imposes costs on others when we transmit the virus. This is what economists refer to as an externality. So even folks behaving in a way that just minimizes their own risk may not be going far enough.” 

Many businesses won’t have the reserves to pull through another lockdown, he said. The federal government may need to step in and renew supports.

Amir Atteran, a professor of law and public health at the University of Ottawa, said provinces that are seeing surges in COVID-19 cases are failing in their response — and it’s time for federal action.

“We can’t have individual provinces deciding not to act, selfishly, and I do apply that word to Jason Kenney, such that the rest of us have to bail them out. We’re in this together,” he said. 

Atteran said the federal government could set minimum standards, like a mask mandate, that provinces can implement.

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Canadian judo stars Klimkait, Deguchi face high expectations in battle for 1 Olympic spot

Following a seven-month pandemic layoff, Jessica Klimkait needed just 81 seconds to get the validation she needed.

The Canadian judoka’s quick and decisive win over Helene Receveaux of France at Grand Slam Budapest in late October propelled her to the top spot in the world rankings for the 57-kilogram category.

In the process, Klimkait, 23, leap-frogged fellow Canadian and reigning world champion Christa Deguchi in the standings as judo made its return to competition. 

“To probably do one of the best tournaments that I’ve done in a very long time was a lot of validation to what I was thinking and the kinds of things that I was doing throughout the last four or five months,” Klimkait told CBC Sports, putting aside any concerns over being prepared to fight athletes from other countries who didn’t face the same level of training restrictions during the pandemic.

WATCH | Klimkait reaches top of podium in Budapest:

23-year-old Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont,, defeated Helene Receveaux of France to capture gold in the 57-kilogram category at the judo Grand Slam competition in Budapest. 8:44

A silver lining had already materialized for Klimkait when the sports world hit the pause button in March.

The Whitby, Ont., native and Deguchi, 25, who lives and trains in Japan, were just months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot in their category when Klimkait suffered a knee injury.

“It honestly was [good timing] because I needed those two or three months to fully recover and if the year continued as normal, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to train as normal,” Klimkait said. “I wouldn’t have been able to compete and I had a fight-off with [Deguchi] that I don’t think I would have been able to prepare for.”

Due to the Olympics being postponed until 2021, Klimkait, now fully recovered, and Deguchi are back on the same collision course to have that fight-off no later than early July — a winner-take-all scenario that will see one of them qualify for the Tokyo Games and the other left behind.

A matter of depth

Judo Canada high-performance CEO Nicolas Gill — himself a two-time Olympic medallist — acknowledges this is a good problem to have, but at the same time, his expectation is for one of them to be standing on the podium.

“[Those are] great stories both ways. At the end for us — and what I keep repeating — whoever goes needs to medal,” Gill said. “If not, we would have sent the wrong one. Whoever goes, still has to be our best chance of medalling.”

Gill dismissed the suggestion of having one of either Klimkait or Deguchi change weight classes so that both might compete in Tokyo. He said he would never put the organization ahead of the athlete.

“We would do that only if it helps the state of making weight,” Gill said. “That’s the only time we would force somebody to move up — if we feel there is danger for the athlete, but not for strategic positioning.”

Fight-off will determine Olympic fate

Other than meeting on the world stage in numerous important matches (5-0 in favour of Deguchi), the compatriots might as well be strangers — occasionally training together throughout the year, but mainly seeing each other at competitions.

Klimkait says this makes Deguchi as dangerous as any other top opponent.

“It’s a bit of a mental battle every time I do step on the mat [with Deguchi] because I know what it means to win against her and I know what it means to lose against her,” Klimkait said. “In the end, only one of us is going, so that’s always been in the back of my mind when I’m competing against her.”

Given that countries can only send one athlete per category, Judo Canada has no choice but to sit back and watch who wins.

“The idea to have a head-to-head matchup is to really pick who’s better in the month leading into the Olympics,” Gill said. “Putting our best athlete at that time in the Olympic field to increase the chance of performance.”

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AMD’s New Radeon RX 6000 Series Is Optimized to Battle Ampere

Ever since AMD bought ATI, gamers have asked if there was an intrinsic benefit to running an AMD GPU alongside an AMD CPU. Apart from some of the HSA features baked into previous-generation AMD APUs and a brief period of dual graphics support, the answer was always “No.” From 2011-2017, AMD simply wasn’t competitive enough in gaming for the company to invest in that kind of luxury concept.

AMD’s RX 6000 GPUs will be the first cards that can specifically take advantage of platform-level features inside the 500-series chipset. We’re going to talk more about that specific feature and several others later on, but it’s one of the most interesting things AMD discussed today, and I wanted to get it on the board.

Before we go deeper on new features, let’s talk about the new cards. Click on images to enlarge them; all images below are from AMD’s launch event.

Meet the RX 6000 Series

AMD is launching three new GPUs: Radeon RX 6800, Radeon RX 6800 XT, and Radeon RX 6900 XT. Here are the relevant specs on each:

The Radeon 6800 is a 3,840-core GPU with an 1815MHz base clock and a 2.105GHz boost clock. It features 128MB of Infinity Cache (more on that shortly), 16GB of GDDR6, and 250W of total board power. Like the other two GPUs today, it uses a 256-bit memory bus (more on that shortly). Total board power is 250W, including VRAM.

AMD has positioned the 6800 well above the RTX 3070’s $ 499 launch price, so the GPU will need to demonstrate this kind of lead in our own testing to carry the price point. Features like 16GB of VRAM may help with that, though we’ll have to see if the extra RAM is useful at any practical detail levels the GPUs can reach. (It may be useful for AI GPU upscaling, where VRAM is worth its weight in gold.)

Note that this RX 6800 was tested using Smart Access Memory. This is AMD’s new technology that leverages the 500-series motherboard platform to give the CPU full access to GPU RAM, rather than limiting the window to 256MB. This supposedly improves performance somewhat, even on unoptimized titles. AMD is leveraging it to compete as well as it is against the RTX 2080 Ti. Just something to keep in mind.

Next up, the Radeon RX 6800 XT:

The RX 6800 XT offers 72 compute units (4,608 cores), a 2015MHz game clock, 2250MHz boost clock, 128MB Infinity Cache, 16GB of GDDR6, and 300W of total board power consumption. Performance-wise, it’s expected to compete against the RTX 3080. When you check these numbers, note that AMD is not using Smart Access Memory to show these results:

As for 4K, you can see those figures below:

Eyeballing the graph, the ratios are mostly the same, but Nvidia gains ground on AMD in Doom Eternal, Resident Evil 3, and Wolfenstein: Young Blood for sure. I’m less certain of the others, due to the off-angle comparison, but it’s something we’ll check on when we get cards. AMD also took some pains to point out that this GPU draws just 300W to Nvidia’s 320W. Price? $ 649.

Finally, there’s the Radeon 6900 XT:

As rumored, the 6900 XT is 80 CUs (5,120 cores), with the same 2015MHz base clock, 2.25GHz boost clock as the 6800 XT. It also packs the same 16GB of VRAM, the same 26.3B transistors (all three chips are obviously using the same chip design), and a price tag of $ 999. AMD is claiming an absolute uplift in performance per watt of 1.65x, over and above the 1.5x target it set for RDNA2. This implies AMD is binning the cards aggressively, as it did with Radeon Nano.

Note that in this set of comparison figures, AMD is explicitly activating both Smart Memory Access and a one-touch overclocking feature called Rage Mode. With Rage Mode enabled and on its preferred platform, the RX 6900 XT can pace the RTX 3090, even outperforming it in spots. If we didn’t have these features in place, the performance gaps would presumably be larger. The flip side to that, of course, is that the RTX 3090 has an MSRP of $ 1,500, where the Radeon 6900 XT has an MSRP of $ 1,000.

AMD’s Special Features

If you’re familiar with high-end GPU design, you’re probably wondering why AMD is building its highest-end chips with just 256-bit memory buses. The answer is a new feature AMD built into RDNA2 dubbed Infinity Cache. We don’t have much detail yet on how the large cache structure is allocated, but the company did show some information on how it compares with using a wider memory bus:

Evidently, it’s more efficient to deploy a large cache backed by a smaller VRAM bus than to simply deploy more GDDR6.

The company credits techniques like Infinity Cache, along with fine-grain clock gating, pipeline rebalancing, and redesigned data paths for boosting the overall performance of RDNA and delivering a total 1.54x uplift in performance-per-watt. Sustained clocks have supposedly improved ~1.3x over and above standard RDNA.

Smart Access Memory is a feature that only works with 500-series chipsets, but allows the Ryzen CPU to access all 16GB of GPU VRAM, rather than being limited to the standard 256MB aperture size. This reportedly allows for more efficient data allocation in VRAM and improves overall performance.

Rage Mode, referenced above, is a one-click overclocking option that will need to be a great deal better than any previous one-click overclocking option I’ve ever tested in order to pay dividends. Between Rage Mode and Smart Access Memory, AMD believes it can boost the baseline performance of the 6800 XT by a fair bit.

Game speed improvements range from 2 percent to 13 percent, with an average performance uplift of around 6.4 percent.

AMD is also continuing to expand its library of FidelityFX features:

Those are the major announcements from the event. Obviously, AMD has thrown down something of a gauntlet here. The RX 6900 XT and RX 6800 XT are both priced below their Nvidia counterparts, while the RX 6800 comes in somewhat above the RTX 3070. AMD clearly believes it’s got a strong position with this part.

The stage is set for two major showdowns in the next few weeks in both the CPU and GPU markets. This is going to be downright interesting. As always, take all manufacturer benchmarks with a grain of salt, though AMD’s performance claims do broadly line up with where we expected the company to fall versus Ampere. The big question, of course, is whether these cards will actually ship to consumers in significant numbers, or if they’ll all end up on eBay.

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Women’s hockey players hope to bring attention to pro game on Battle of the Blades

With the future of professional women’s hockey in flux, a trio of Canadians are set to strap on their skates to compete in CBC’s Battle of the Blades.

Meghan Agosta, Jennifer Botterill and Jessica Campbell will make their figure skating debuts next Thursday when the sixth season of the show premieres.

While toe picks and twirls have proven challenging in training, the women’s hockey troika hopes swapping hockey skates for figures skates brings attention to their primary sport.

“We want to get to that [point] where we are playing the game that we love, which is hockey, and we’re getting paid financially to support ourselves and our families,” Agosta, 33, said in an interview with CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo.

Agosta played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League before it discontinued operations in May 2019. The National Women’s Hockey League now stands as the lone pro organization.

WATCH | Agosta, Botterill, Campbell aim to highlight women’s game on BOTDB:

Jennifer Botterill, Jessica Campbell, and Meghan Agosta speak to the future of professional women’s hockey, and what a platform like Battle of The Blades can do for the sport. 6:49

After the CWHL folded, over 200 players formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association with a goal of creating a financially sustainable league that provides regular ice time, health insurance and other supports.

As such, those players opted out of the NWHL, instead playing in an exhibition showcase series they titled The Dream Gap Tour.

Agosta, of Windsor, Ont., participated at the 2020 NHL all-star game and skills competition, where she said Gary Bettman indicated he wanted one sustainable women’s league.

“It is only a matter of time and deep down I know truly that when they do give us that opportunity it’s going to be a successful thing and we’re going to showcase what women’s hockey is all about,” Agosta said.

For Botterill, sponsors, marketing and media are all part of the puzzle.

“I think they see this happening. It just may not happen with the snap of a finger,” Botterill, 41, said.

Ottawa’s Botterill was part of the creation of the CWHL in 2007. With the league now defunct, the NWHL added its first Canadian team with an expansion in Toronto.

“I see both sides of the story. I see the NWHL coming in to set the Toronto team and expanding to Canada which, we have people with a good vision and wanting to grow, but you also have the player’s association with most of the players believing there might need to be some adjustments for this long-term plan.”

WATCH | Kendall Coyne Schofield makes history at 2019 NHL skills competition:

Less than a month after setting the world on fire with her speed at the NHL Skills Competition, Coyne Schofield was back at it again as she took home the NWHL’s fastest skater crown with a time of 13.90 seconds. 1:16

Campbell, 28, played for the Calgary Inferno of the CWHL and made her national team debut in 2014.

The Moosomin, Sask., native said anyone who’s seen women’s hockey at the highest level knows it deserves to be treated as a legitimate pro sport.

“I think from the player’s perspective, they need to continue to show up and they need to pioneer and break down those barriers and be patient. And I know that it’s really hard but I know that they’re doing the right thing,” Campbell said.

‘You want to be them’

For Campbell, just putting women on the Battle of the Blades platform is a step in the right direction.

“It’s the Natalie Spooners, it’s the Tessa Bonhommes. You remember their face because you make that connection with them. You see their personality. You want to be them. You want to live their story and walk their path,” Campbell said. 

“I know for a fact that, to Jennifer and Meghan and I, we’re all on the same page and we’re doing this for our charities and our love for skating in such a fun way, but we’re trying to connect with our viewers and with the youth that are aspiring to walk our paths.”

Campbell is paired with ice dancer Asher Hill for the show, where she’ll be skating on behalf of Do It For Daron, which supports education, awareness and research initiatives that encourage young people to talk openly about mental illness.

Botterill will skate with two-time world champion pairs skater Eric Radford. Both are competing to win money for The Canadian Cancer Society.

Finally, Agosta will team up with three-time Canadian ice dance champion Andrew Poje and compete on behalf of the BC Children’s Hospital.

The sixth season of Battle of the Blades premieres next Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CBC and CBC Gem.

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