Crosby has 2 goals, 2 assists in NHL return after long recovery from concussion

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins would have accepted an average Sidney Crosby in his first game in nearly 11 months – a routine performance, a regular night at the office.

Instead, they got the extraordinary.

Crosby scored the game’s first goal on his first shot since Jan. 5, scored again in the third period and added two assists during the NHL’s most-awaited comeback game since Mario Lemieux’s return in 2000 as the Pittsburgh Penguins roughed up the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Choose an adjective befitting the superlative, and it worked on this special night: Dazzling, exceptional, brilliant.

No one in the hockey world knew exactly what to expect as Crosby, hockey’s biggest star, played his first game in 321 days following his prolonged layoff with a concussion that caused him considerable discomfort for months. But few probably expected him to be this good, this fast, this dominant.

This much like the Sidney Crosby of old.

Even the score was the same as when Lemieux returned from a 44-month retirement to collect a goal and two assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 27, 2000, in the last NHL comeback to generated this much interest.

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The Penguins, already one of the NHL’s top teams, now have a superstar looking just like the player who was dominating the NHL scoring race at this time a year ago, when Crosby was on pace for the league’s highest scoring total in 15 years before he was hurt.

Crosby showed not a speck of rust from his extended absence and was the fastest player on the ice from the very start of a memorable night. He helped set up a Chris Kunitz shot off the crossbar on his very first shift – shades of Lemieux getting an assist only a half-minute into his comeback – and was a motivated and driven player from the start.

And who could have scripted this any better – Crosby grabbed a Pascal Dupuis pass in stride on his third shift, accelerated to the net and, while fending off defenceman Andrew MacDonald, lifted a hard backhander under the crossbar only 5:24 into the game. Islanders rookie Anders Nilsson, making his first NHL start, never had a chance.

It never got any better after that for the Islanders, who dropped their 12th game in their last 14 overall and their 13th in a row in Pittsburgh, a city that isn’t very hospitable to them even when Crosby isn’t playing.

Now Crosby is back and, based on Monday’s game, appears to have the same form that saw him to score 32 goals and pile up an NHL-leading 66 points in 41 games before he sustained a concussion in early January.

For Crosby, the first-place Penguins and the league that has long awaited the return of its signature star, it couldn’t have gone much better than this.

He also took a few hard hits – the kind that can’t be handed out in practice – with Travis Hamonic shoving him in the end boards during the first period. Crosby quickly jumped up, not shaken a bit.

The standing-room crowd of 18,571 in Consol Energy Center was predictably loud and supportive, holding up Welcome Back Sid: signs by the thousands while chanting “Crosby, Crosby” as a huge No. 87 was displayed on the scoreboard before the opening faceoff.

There were signs everywhere – one read “Merry Sidmas” – from a crowd that came prepared to welcome back Crosby no matter how well he played, and was rewarded with a performance that bordered on the otherworldly.

During the morning skate, Penguins forward Steve Sullivan warned it might take any player coming off an extended layoff a few games to regain his timing, his top speed and his game legs, even if he managed to play a game or two on adrenalin.

Crosby looked as if he hadn’t missed a shift, much less half of one season and one quarter of another. He showed his playmaking abilities as he set up the Penguins’ second goal following a four-minute break between shifts late in the first period. His backhander from the left wing boards found defenceman Brooks Orpik at the point for a one-timer that beat Nilsson to the stick side at 16:29.

The score was only 2-0 but, given the emotion and the energy generated by the Crosby comeback, it was all but over.

It was a difficult assignment from the star from Nilsson, whose only previous NHL playing time was a 40-minute stint during a 6-0 loss to Boston on Saturday night. Crosby’s comeback didn’t make it any easier.

Neither did the Penguins’ third goal, scored by Evgeni Malkin on a power play with Crosby assisting 3:17 into the second period. Crosby drove hard to the net after coming off the bench and was turned aside by Nilsson, but got the puck back and fed it to Kris Letang at the point, who in turn sailed a hard pass to Malkin near the left post for his 10th goal.

Crosby didn’t figure in Pittsburgh’s fourth goal, scored by Sullivan off Malkin’s set-up only 2 ½ minutes later. The big lead allowed coach Dan Bylsma to start trimming Crosby’s ice time a bit, given the Penguins play three more times in the next five days.

Not that Crosby was done.

He finished off the unforgettable night with his second goal, slamming a hard backhander off defenceman Steve Staios and by Nilsson after carrying the puck from behind to net to along the right-wing boards 2:06 into the third period.

With so much attention on Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury quietly went about putting together his 21st career shutout and second of the season, stopping 29 shots as the Penguins won their sixth in a row at home and improved to 12-6-4.

Now, for Crosby, it’s one game down, two goals scored and the rest of the season to go.

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Occupy Calgary protesters cool to city deal, ask for electric hookups

CALGARY – Talks between Occupy Calgary and city officials went cold Saturday as protesters wavered on a deal that would see them vacate Olympic Plaza.

Despite facing temperatures below minus 20 degrees, the campers vowed to continue their occupation. Protester Aaron Doncaster read the city’s proposal out loud during a general assembly on Saturday.

“Personally, if I had my own choice, I would light this on fire,” Doncaster said, holding a copy of the city’s offer.

Last Thursday, city officials presented protesters with an informal proposal that would allow them to host several public forums and establish an information booth somewhere near the plaza in exchange for the group leaving the park.

But protesters balked at the offer, citing several concerns including the proposal’s informal nature. Doncaster invited Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other city officials down to the camp for further discussions.

“They won’t even come down to our (general assemblies) and recognize us,” he said. “That is an open line of communication that needs to be acknowledged.”

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Saturday marked the fifth week the group has occupied Olympic Plaza. The city previously ticketed and threatened to evict the protesters, but has since taken a more neutral stance, citing constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

The movement seems to be waning in several Canadian cities. Protesters in Vancouver have been given until Monday to pack up and camps in Regina and Victoria have already been dismantled.

 

“Calgary’s said from the get-go we’re looking for a peaceful resolution,” said Bill Bruce, director of animal and bylaw services.

Several protesters called for access to electrical services before they’d continue talks with the city. Bruce said there is no plan to offer power to the camp.

“That’s not on the table from the city’s side,” he said. “Realistically, we’ve cautioned them about the weather.”

The idea of continuing without power didn’t sit well with all the occupiers. Anthony Hall, a University of Lethbridge professor who recently joined the movement, said they have the right to use electrical devices, such as laptops.

Hall would like to see city hall engage the group in a respectful discussion on the matter.

“We’re human beings,” he said. “He (Bruce) deals with bylaws and animals, and he’s dealing with us like we’re animals. We’re humans. It’s winter in Canada.”

Protesters say they hope to make a formal counter-offer to the city by next Saturday.

“The city is missing the point in that they don’t seem to understand that the way this group operates isn’t through demands or proposals,” said protester Arran Fisher.

However, Fisher didn’t have a solution as to how the two parties could reach a deal.

“I can’t think of an appropriate response apart from just letting it happen.”

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Mayor says his 5% tax plan is doable

CALGARY – Mayor Naheed Nenshi has released a roadmap to stick with a five-per-cent tax increase for 2012 by the end of this week’s budget debates, but he likely lacks the support to get there.

He is confident the police chief can handle 45 fewer officers at community and district desks and in other support services, feels transit won’t suffer with fewer service hours, and thinks less money for parks maintenance will prompt more efficient delivery of the service.

“On the face of it and on the facts, there is no reason we can’t do it,” Nenshi said of his tax plan.

He’s going to have a tough job convincing others on council.

At least one councillor who reluctantly joined Nenshi’s push to keep property tax hikes to the rate of population and civic cost growth now wants to go higher – six per cent, perhaps – to prevent service reductions for police, transit or snow clearing.

“We’re going to have to add. I just don’t see places where we can cut,” Jim Stevenson said Sunday, the day before council begins a likely marathon stretch of hearings and debates on the 2012-2014 city fiscal plan.

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When council gave city managers pre-budget direction on taxes in June, Stevenson was one of nine members who initially backed finance committee chairman Councillor Gord Lowe’s plan for an eight-per-cent increase in 2012, and six points in the next two years.

He was then one of the three councillors who switched their stances after Nenshi pitched hikes of 5.0, 5.1 and 5.5 per cent in successive years.

Lowe plans to bring back his eight-point tax proposal, and colleagues have eyed many department budgets to shore up.

A plan to add no new transit routes outside the west LRT corridor and cut $1 million in transit service in 2013 has won few fans other than the mayor, who argues the new LRT line will offset the need for more bus service.

The police commission has many members in their corner – including Stevenson – calling to reverse the planned elimination of 45 officers this year, and hire additional police.

“I’m so happy with what (Chief) Rick Hanson has done over the years. I just don’t agree we should hamstring them,” the Ward 3 member said.

Nenshi supports the idea for new officers as the population grows but will ask council to await word on possible aid from the Redford government.

Many also oppose a $5.7-million clawback to parks maintenance over three years, and there’s apparent unanimity against a $3.5-million cut to the roads budget that would end the newly upgraded plowing strategy for side streets.

To staunch that problem, Nenshi will propose taking $7 million from the rainy day reserve to start a snowy-day fund so the city can draw from it in tough winters, and add to it in lighter winters.

Civic Camp, a group of urban activists which Nenshi helped form, will appeal today for the higher tax hike that Lowe endorses and the mayor is against.

There’s streamlining to be done, but even the city’s own pre-budget consultations showed Calgarians favour enhanced services, Civic Camp organizer Peter Rishaug said.

“They are willing to pay more for certain services, if they are reliable and improve quality of life,” he said.

There will also be public speakers coming out for operational dollars to further the cycling strategy, which got short shrift in a budget that cuts back in most areas.

“It will result in savings that exceed its costs many times. The benefits include improved health, long term transportation cost savings, more vibrant street life and increased tourism,” said Bike Calgary’s letter to Nenshi and council last week.

For support on a more modest tax hike, Nenshi can likely count on Councillors Dale Hodges and Andre Chabot, as well as Peter Demong, who wants a four-per-cent hike. But they’re aware of the long odds.

“I don’t think council will have the intestinal fortitude to get it below six per cent,” Chabot said.

On top of tax rates and service levels, council will also tackle user fees. Many members will try to alter the draft plan to hike the senior’s annual transit pass to $55 next year and $96 by 2014, from the present deeply discounted $35 (low-income seniors would still pay $15 a year).

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California teen pleads guilty to murder in killing of gay classmate, faces 21-year term

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A Southern California teenager pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder for killing a gay student during a computer lab class three years ago that will send him to prison for 21 years and avoid a retrial, authorities said.

Brandon McInerney, 17, pleaded guilty to the murder charge, as well as one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm, said Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley. McInerney is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19.

The case drew wide attention because of its shocking premise: McInerney, in a fit of homophobic rage, killed 15-year-old Larry King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard because he was offended by King’s dress and how the victim interacted with him. Comic Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian, weighed in on her talk show shortly after the shooting and said gays shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.

McInerney was only 14 at the time of the February 2008 shooting. Several jurors said after the teen’s trial earlier this year that he should never have been tried as an adult.

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A mistrial was declared in September when jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt. The panel took a series of votes, the last one with seven jurors in favour of voluntary manslaughter and five supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder. The trial had been moved from Ventura County to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.

Frawley said prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because of uncertainty about what might result from a second trial.

“We took that into account and looked at what it would take to protect the community,” Frawley said. “The total time in custody for 25 years will do that.”

By pleading guilty to murder, McInerney is ineligible for time served or good behaviour, Frawley said. As part of the plea deal, McInerney will be given the harshest sentence under California law for voluntary manslaughter – 11 years – and use of a firearm – 10 years.

After serving nearly four years since King’s slaying, McInerney will be released just shy of his 39th birthday. Prosecutors had previously offered a plea deal that would have sent McInerney to prison for 25 years to life, but his attorneys passed

A phone message left with defence attorney Robyn Bramson was not immediately returned.

King was shot twice in the back of the head in front of stunned classmates. Authorities maintained the shooting was premeditated and deserving of a murder conviction. During the trial, prosecutors noted at least six people heard McInerney make threats against King in the days before the shooting.

Prosecutors also contended McInerney embraced a white supremacist philosophy that sees homosexuality as an abomination. Police found Nazi-inspired drawings and artifacts at his house, and a white supremacist expert testified at trial the hate-filled ideology was the reason for the killing.

Prosecutors, however, dropped a hate crime count against McInerney in preparing for a second trial.

Defence attorneys acknowledged McInerney was the shooter but explained he had reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances. They also argued their client came from a violent upbringing and juvenile court would have been the best venue to try him.

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Defeated Edmonton Eskimos vow to ‘keep heads up’ after turnaround season

EDMONTON – The Edmonton Eskimos dressing room was ankle-deep in garbage bags and disappointment Monday after the teams decisive loss in Sunday’s West Final.

However, many of the team’s players and coaches said just getting that deep into the CFL playoffs was a victory in itself.

“You’ve been going hard for six months and you wake up one day and there’s no meetings, no practice, no game to play the next week,” said quarterback Ricky Ray as coaches and players packed their bags for the off-season. “It definitely stings, especially being so close to the Grey Cup and not being able to make it.

“We’ve got to say ‘That was a good season, but we’ve got to come back a little bit more hungry for next time.”‘

The West Final ended up in a 40-23 loss to the Grey Cup-bound B.C. Lions, but the overall season featured a reversal of fortune of the most welcome kind. A team that went 7-11 in the 2010 season racked up a record of 11-7 this year.

And perhaps most importantly, the Eskimos say they’ve recovered some of the team’s spirit from the days when championships, not just playoff games, were the expectation.

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“It seems like over the last few years, it’s just been guys coming and going and we really didn’t have that sense of unity,” said Ray.

“(Coach) Kavis (Reed) did a great job of bringing us all together. Hopefully, we can use this as fuel for the off-season to come back stronger next year.

“He’s just done a tremendous job. I think guys bought into his system and we really came together and became a pretty tight-knit team and that always makes playing football a lot more fun.”

Defensive end Greg Peach thinks the season provided a lesson in learning how to win.

“We need to start doing this every year – not just expecting playoffs, but expecting the Grey Cup,” he said. “This was a good start.

“Everyone doubted us. We came out and we showed that we could compete and become one of the better teams in this leauge. Next year is the year for us to finish the job.”

Slotback Fred Stamps said Monday’s final team meeting was positive.

“The guys, they’re hungry. Nobody’s hanging their head, and that’s a good sign. Everybody’s keeping their head up and looking forward to next year.”

Key players, such as wide receiver Adarius Bowman now up for contract talks, said they want to return.

“I would love to see that (locker) again,” he said.

Reed himself shrugged off the compliments from the dressing room.

“When you’re blessed in a leadership position is that you’re a steward, to make sure that you take care of what you’ve been given,” he said.

“I think that my job has been to make certain that the locker-room is taken care of, make certain that we have a stable environment and that we can keep distractions to a minimum.

“We’re on the right path. We have the right character.”

Reed said planning for next year is already underway – “making the smart decisions to get bigger and faster.”

But better times for the green and gold are within sight, said Ray.

“You’ve got to love playing for the Eskimos and you’ve got to hate all the other teams,” he said. “That’s what it was like when I first came into the league. We had a lot veteran guys who just loved playing for this city and this organization and hated all the other cities.

“(This year), you could see guys really buying in to what it means to be an Eskimo here. It’s a great thing to see.”

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Convicted priest charged with sex offences more than 35 years ago in Edmonton

EDMONTON – A Catholic priest awaiting trial on sex-related offences in the Arctic is being transferred to Edmonton to face more charges.

Edmonton police allege Father Eric Dejaeger, now 64, abused a youth in the city between 1975 and 1978. He is charged with indecent assault and gross indecency.

Police Det. Barb Clover would not give details on the offence, but said Dejaeger was in a position of trust over the young person. The person, now an adult, contacted police in April.

Clover said Dejaeger faces charges in relation to about 30 people in Nunavut, so it’s a possibility there are more complainants in Edmonton.

“We do urge them to come forward if that’s what they’d like to do,” she said.

Dejaeger was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1978 after he finished studying at Edmonton’s Newman Theological College. He then went north.

In 1990, while in the community of Baker Lake, Nunavut, he pleaded guilty to nine sex offences relating to boys and girls aged nine to 18. He served part of a five-year sentence, then went home to Belgium.

Mounties charged him in 1995 him with more sex offences relating to previous time he spent as a priest in Igloolik. But it took years to arrest him.

The RCMP and Interpol issued various warrants, but Dejaeger continued living quietly in an Oblate community in Belgium. Years later, a Belgian newspaper published a story that he was a wanted man. He was expelled from the country on immigration violations and returned to Canada last January.

He has been held at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Nunavut and awaits a preliminary hearing there next February on the dozens of outstanding sex offences that allegedly occurred in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982.

The Catholic church earlier confirmed that it reached out-of-court settlements with at least 30 of the alleged victims in Igloolik. The settlements involve allegations not tested in court.

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Alberta tables health inquiry act; opponents say it won’t get to root of ills

EDMONTON – The Alberta government has tabled new rules for an independent inquiry into allegations of doctor intimidation – but opponents say it doesn’t have the power to investigate at the highest levels.

Bill 24 was among a number of bills presented by Premier Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives as the legislature’s fall sitting resumed Monday.

The bill, introduced by Health Minister Fred Horne, will beef up the arm’s-length Health Quality Council. It will give the council more power to act independently, produce evidence and compel hostile witnesses to testify.

“The powers given to the power are considerable (and) they must be applied fairly,” said Horne.

Redford promised legislation to deal with allegations that doctors have for years been systematically intimidated or punished for speaking out on substandard patient care.

The Canadian Medical Association has called for a public inquiry, saying the problem is Canada-wide but most acute in Alberta.

Critics say the government should have used the existing Public Inquiries Act rather than draft an entirely new bill, but Horne said the legislation was needed to ensure the independence of the inquiry.

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Under the Public Inquiries Act, cabinet picks the inquiry panel. Under Bill 24, it will be handled by the Health Quality Council.

“We felt as a caucus it was important in this circumstance that Albertans would not want to see cabinet directly appointing the members of the inquiry panel,” said Horne.

Horne also said there are explicit provisions to ensure patient information is kept private.

The Health Quality Council is already examining allegations of doctor intimidation, but doesn’t have the power to get some of the answers it needs.

Opposition Liberal critic David Swann says under Bill 24, the council may never get to determine if the culture of intimidation came from the highest levels of government.

The act allows cabinet to withhold all of its documents and any documents it considers crucial to public interest. Those provisions exist in the Public Inquiries Act and were transported over to Bill 24.

“The minister has the ability to override any evidence and protect it from public scrutiny,” said Swann.

“It raises questions about how just how much we’re going to get at the ministerial involvement in some of the decisions,” he said.

Opposition NDP leader Brian Mason said the council needs freedom to operate, given that some of the allegations surround Horne himself.

Last year, Sherman alleged Horne called the head of the Alberta Medical Association to express concern about the mental health of Raj Sherman, then a Tory member and emergency room doctor kicked out of caucus for publicly criticizing government health policy.

Sherman labelled Horne’s phone call a smear campaign. Horne said it was a call of general concern for Sherman and didn’t touch on his mental health.

Sherman is now the leader of the Liberals.

“It (the Horne affair) really puts a bit of odour around the whole thing,” said Mason.

Also Monday, the government introduced legislation to create stiffer penalties for drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders.

Under Bill 26, drivers who with blood alcohol content over. 08 would have their licence suspended until the criminal case is dealt with in court.

There will be more administrative sanctions for drivers in the legal grey area of .05 to .08 blood alcohol content.

Justice Minister Verlyn Olson also introduced an act mandating general elections be held very four years during a three-month window between March 1 and May 31 starting in 2012.

Critics say Redford broke a promise on an exact fixed election date. Olson said the window makes more sense to avoid an election conflicting with a floating religious holiday, such as Easter.

A new act will give landowners more options and recourse if their land is expropriated by the government for a major project, like a highway or water reservoir.

Another bill will expand the power of the Child and Youth Advocate by having the office report directly to the legislature rather than the minister.

The numbers also changed in the legislature Monday.

Longtime Lethbridge Liberal Bridget Pastoor crossed the floor to join the Tories.

Pastoor said Redford’s leadership was key to her decision.

The Tories now have 68 members in the 83-seat legislature. The Liberals have eight, the Wildrose four, the NDs two and the Alberta Party one.

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B.C. Lions enter Grey Cup with a chance to win rare home championship

VANCOUVER – The B.C. Lions will attempt to pull off a rare feat in the Grey Cup.

They are looking to become just the third CFL team in the last 34 years to capture a championship on home turf when they face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday.

“It’s just exciting to be a part of it,” defensive lineman Brent Johnson said Monday. “A big regret for me, just personally, was never being able to play in 2005 when we had it here. It was one of the biggest regrets in my career and, obviously, I get to put a band-aid on that now.”

B.C. was beaten in the opening round of the playoffs when Vancouver hosted the championship game in 2005. The 1994 Lions and 1977 Montreal Alouettes are the last teams to win the trophy at home.

The Lions qualified for this title game after starting the season 0-5 before going on an 11-1 run and thumping the Edmonton Eskimos 40-23 in the West Final.

The Blue Bombers are trying to write a worst-to-first story of their own. They earned a Grey Cup berth after going 4-14 in 2010.

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Like Johnson, Lions centre Angus Reid is especially appreciative of the second chance to win the Grey Cup at home. He was born and raised in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C., and will have many friends and family members on hand – if he can get enough tickets – for what might be the final game of his 11-year career.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Reid. “I had an opportunity here in ’05 to do this and we didn’t get it done. I’ve watched the Lions since I was a little kid and, obviously, I’ve grown up in this city. So to put those two things together, to be able to play for your hometown team in the biggest game that there is to offer in your hometown city, is something that most (players) never get the opportunity to do, and it’s a blessing to be able to do it.”

Reid said the opportunity is even more special considering his club’s slow start to the season. The 35-year-old snapper always believed that the Lions could turn their season around.

“A lot of the people outside of these walls had throw in the towel on us,” said Reid, standing in the team’s locker-room at their Surrey, B.C., practice facility. “But we bound together. We fought back.”

Reid said the newly-renovated B.C. Place and its partisan crowd will be a huge advantage for the hosts as they deal with the pressure of trying to win it all. The Lions also won at B.C. Place in 1994.

To win bring the Cup home again, the Lions will have to conquer a friendly foe in Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce, who has enjoyed a career renaissance since being released by the Lions prior to the 2010 campaign after sustaining a plethora of injuries. A relatively healthy Pierce guided Winnipeg to first place in the East during the regular season and then spearheaded a decisive 19-3 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in the East Final.

“Buck’s a mentally tough guy,” said Reid. “He’s a fighter. The guy’s a warrior. He’s the kind of player that’ll do anything in his power to win a football game – pretty, ugly, gritty, graceful, whatever it takes in a given play – and he’s the kind of guy you can never count out. Really, he’s not on my team, but you like playing for him.”

Johnson said the Lions will have to beware of Pierce’s intelligence. Although he is considered a conventional pocket passer, he can also run the ball effectively.

“Buck can run really well,” said Johnson. “For us, it’s not giving anything easy up as a defence. We can give him those easy breaks, because Buck’s going to capitalize on them. He’s a smart guy, he can run, and he’s going to react well to everything we give him. We’ve got to give him our best shot.”

Pierce threw a for a career-high 3,348 yards this season while tossing 14 touchdown passes and rushing for 324 yards, the highest total since he entered the CFL with the Lions in 2005. Johnson credits Pierce’s strong play to his maturation as a quarterback.

Defensive back Ryan Phillips, also happy to see Pierce making a career comeback, said the Winnipeg pivot has used his release from the Lions as motivation to improve his play. Pierce helped the Bombers post a 2-0 record against B.C., in the regular season.

B.C. general manager and coach Wally Buono said the Lions realized after their second loss to Winnipeg, a 30-17 setback at home in early August, that they had reached rock-bottom at that point and had to do something to save their season.

“It started the turnaround,” said Buono. “It’s been a tremendous run so far and, as I told the players, we have one more step to go.”

Buono is seeking his fifth Grey Cup title as a coach, but this will mark the first time one of his teams will play at home in his 22 seasons in charge. He does have a home-field Grey Cup win as a player, though. In a memorable 1977 title game, he and the Alouettes put staples in the soles of their shoes to gain better traction on a slippery field and thrash Edmonton 41-6.

Coaching in his ninth Grey Cup, Buono said this will be a “tough week” as he prepares to face Winnipeg and also deal with added promotional duties that come during Grey Cup time.

“But when you’re on the sidelines and they’re introducing your team, and you’re getting ready to play, it’s all worth it,” he said.

Notes: Lions players, coaches and front-office staff attended a memorial service Sunday for Dylan Reichelt, the son of longtime trainer Bill Reichelt. The younger Reichelt, who assisted the Lions on game days, died in a recent car accident at the age of 18.

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Bautista disappointed in AL MVP voting; doesn’t think pitchers should qualify

TORONTO – Jose Bautista doesn’t think starting pitchers should qualify for MVP awards.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger spoke out after Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander took the American League MVP award on Monday ahead of Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Bautista.

“There’s nothing in the criteria that says a pitcher cannot receive the award,” said Bautista on a conference call. “But at the same time, there’s a couple of items that should eliminate a pitcher from receiving the award from the get go.”

In particular, Bautista was critical of the amount of time starting pitchers play compared to fielders who are in the lineup on a daily basis.

“When one of the first items in the criteria for the MVP award states that the player should be on the field for the most amount of games for their own particular team and knowing that us position players have to be out there 150 plus times over … I don’t know, 30, 32, 33 times that a pitcher has to go out there, in my eyes that’s pretty much an elimination right there,” said Bautista.

Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes and 280 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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Ellsbury came second with four firsts and 242 points, followed by Bautista with five firsts and 231 points.

“It doesn’t make a difference to me if Verlander of Ellsbury wins,” said Bautista. “The bottom line is that I wasn’t chosen but, at the same time, I know that he (Verlander) had a great season and I feel excited for him, that he was able to get the award. Congratulations to him.

Added Bautista: “I’m not knocking on Verlander or the year that he had.”

Verlander is the first starting pitcher to win an MVP in 27 years. He was given the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher on Nov. 15 after winning 24 games in 34 starts with a 2.40 earned-run average and 250 strikeouts.

He also threw a no-hitter in Toronto on May 7.

Bautista wasn’t alone in his criticism of a pitcher winning the MVP.

Jim Ingraham of The Herald-News in Ohio did not have Verlander on his ballot. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted Verlander eighth.

Ingraham thinks pitchers should not be eligible for MVP awards.

“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year,” said Ingraham, who was one of Bautista’s first-place votes. “He hasn’t appeared in 79 per cent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 per cent of his team’s games in a year.”

Ingraham compared baseball’s MVP to other sports to underscore his point.

“Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 per cent? So that’s part of it,” Ingraham said to The Associated Press. “Another part of it is I think they’re apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there’s a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn’t, I don’t think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games.”

Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe (1956), Los Angeles’ Sandy Koufax (1963), St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968), Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971) , Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers (1981) and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez (1984).

Bautista won the AL’s Hank Aaron Award as the league’s best offensive player and a Silver Slugger as the best hitter at his position. He finished 2011 with a .302 batting average, 43 home runs and 103 RBIs.

The 31-year-old Jays slugger was the only player who earned a vote that was not on a team in the playoff picture in October.

“I don’t see how only guys that are on playoff-bound teams should be considered for the award,” said Bautista. “The name of the award is ‘MVP’ not ‘MVP for playoff’ teams, but, that’s just the way I look at it.”

Despite his obvious disappointment, Bautista tried to keep the MVP snub in perspective.

“I play the game to win on a daily basis and hopefully accumulate enough Ws at the end of the year to get into the playoffs and win the World Series,” said Bautista. “I don’t put on a uniform that says ‘Blue Jays’ on the front on a daily basis to garner personal accolades, that’s not what I’m about.

“Even though they’re nice – it’s nice to be recognized by the league and by the writers – it’s not what I go out on the field every day for.”

___

With files from The Associated Press.

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Prairie Bible college has nothing to hide, will co-operate with RCMP: president

THREE HILLS, Alta. – The president of a Bible college northeast of Calgary says notifying the RCMP about allegations of sex abuse was the right thing to do.

Mark Maxwell, the president of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alta., and the grandson of its founder, said rumblings about sex abuse dating back 30 to 50 years started in August. He said he saw the allegations on a Facebook page and went to police earlier this month.

“I took it over on a thumb drive to the RCMP to say there seems to be a lot of noise around this possibility that we’ve had criminal activity on our campus and if you would like to look into it, then you’ll find us most co-operative,” Maxwell said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

He said he discussed the situation with students on a number of occasions in chapel to let them know what was going on.

The RCMP confirmed over the weekend that investigators are looking into complaints of past abuse at the school.

Sgt. Patrick Webb said it can be difficult to come up with evidence of “historic” sexual assaults.

“There is no physical evidence,” he said. “It just comes down to finding witnesses.”

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Prairie Bible Institute boasts 16,000 alumni in 114 countries. It was founded in 1922 when L.E. Maxwell taught the Bible to eight local farm children. It later grew to include a ministry for mission preparation, a technical college and an aviation school.

Linda Fossen, an alumni member who attended the school during the 1960s and 1970s, has started an online petition demanding the case be examined by the Virginia-based Christian counselling group Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.

The organization helps churches work through allegations of sexual abuse.

Fossen has said she has encouraged several alumni to contact police about their allegations of sexual abuse. Fossen, who now lives near Orlando, Fla., met many of the people through a Facebook page for alumni.

But Maxwell said he opposes the idea of getting GRACE involved because the group is U.S.-based and there is some suggestion that members of the Facebook group have an affiliation with it.

“The highest bar, without any doubt, in terms of an independent third party would be the police. To be sure we can’t bribe them and the probability of a victim taking them in would not be high either,” he said.

“They are an excellent, independent third party.”

Three Hills, a community of just over 3,000, is about 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary.

– By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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Hospitality industry slams proposed changes to impaired driving legislation

EDMONTON – Alberta is cracking down on impaired drivers with legislation that calls for more mandatory vehicle seizures and licence suspensions, but the proposed changes aren’t sitting well with some in the hospitality industry.

“I think it’s being rushed through too quick without research and insight into how they should go about these legislations,” said David Wilk, general manager of On the Rocks, a bar in downtown Edmonton.

“It would affect people who go out for a casual drink after work … they want to have a glass of wine or a pint of beer, it’s going to make them think twice about going out and doing that now.”

Wilk isn’t the only one with concerns – he and about 30 other members of Edmonton’s service industry met to discuss the legislation on Monday afternoon. The consensus is that the proposed legislation would punish social drinkers as well as drunk drivers.

“Our members are very, very concerned that this is going to cost them business and it’s going to confuse their customers as far as what they can do as far as having a social drink and driving,” said Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

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Under the proposal, a person caught driving over the legal limit of 0.08 for the first time would lose there vehicle for three days, and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

They would then have to install an alcohol screening device for one year at their own cost that prevents a vehicle from starting.

Drivers caught repeatedly with blood alcohol levels just under the legal limit would lose their vehicle for up to seven days and their licence for up to 30 days. These drivers would not be charged under the Criminal Code.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the plan to impound the vehicles of suspected impaired drivers for 72 hours will get results. He says similar legislation in B.C. that targets drivers with alcohol levels just below the legal limit has resulted in a big drop in impaired driving deaths.

Alberta Transportation says 96 people died and 1,384 were injured in the province last year because of impaired driving.

“We’re in favour of getting drunk drivers off the road,” Schellwitz said. “But the statistics clearly show that two-thirds of all alcohol-related fatalities are by drivers that are over double legal impaired limit, not under .08.”

Schellwitz says hundreds of his association’s members have written their MLAs urging that the legislation be reconsidered. He plans to meet with representatives from Calgary’s hospitality industry on Tuesday.

“We’re hoping that at the very least that we can convince the government to focus their legislation on those that are over .08,” Shellwitz said.

“Going after the real impaired drivers – we’ll support that, but please leave the social drinker that’s not impaired alone.” 

With files from the Canadian Press.

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Alberta introduces legislation to crack down on repeat and new impaired drivers

EDMONTON – Alberta is cracking down on impaired drivers with legislation that calls for more mandatory vehicle seizures and licence suspensions.

Under the proposal, a person caught driving over the legal limit of 0.08 for the first time would lose their vehicle for three days, and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

They would then have to install an alcohol screening device for one year at their own cost that prevents a vehicle from starting.

Drivers caught repeatedly with blood alcohol levels just under the legal limit would lose their vehicle for up to seven days and their licence for up to 30 days.

These drivers would not be charged under the Criminal Code.

Alberta Transportation says 96 people died and 1,384 were injured in the province last year because of impaired driving.

The proposed crackdown is being praised by anti-drunk driving groups but people in the hospitality industry are concerned it will discourage customers from ordering a drink at restaurants, bars or hotels.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the plan to impound the vehicles of suspected impaired drivers for 72 hours will get results.

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He says similar legislation in B.C. that targets drivers with alcohol levels just below the legal limit has resulted in a big drop in impaired driving deaths.

Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association says its 4,000 members in Alberta will lose business.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says Alberta should consult with restaurant and pub owners before passing the legislation.

If the Alberta government implements stricter impaired driving laws, will you have second thoughts about having even one alcoholic drink before driving?
 

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Victim’s mother “helpless” after charges stayed against son’s alleged attackers

A Saskatchewan mother says she feels “helpless and hopeless” after the second degree murder charges against her son’s alleged attackers were stayed. 

The woman, who cannot be named because the victim and accused are minors, was disappointed after the decision by the prosecution.  

“I lost him and I’m down, and now it’s like I’m being kicked when I’m down,” she told Global News in an exclusive interview. “I’m losing him all over again.” 

The two teenagers were 15 and 16 at the time of the December 2010 incident on the 1100 block of Montague Street in Regina, when police responded to the report of a 16-year-old boy suffering serious injuries. 

“The Crown, on review of all the evidence, came to the conclusion there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction, and for that reason the Crown was required to stay the charges,” Crown Prosecutor Dana Brule told reporters outside the court house.  

Brule would not provide further details of the decision, but the victim’s mother says she was told the charges were stayed because the accused acted in self defence.  

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“It’s hard to say self defence when somebody is lying on the ground and you see it with your own eyes,” she said.  

The mother was preparing for a preliminary hearing this week for the teens.  

“I was so sure some justice would come out of this,” she said.  

With the one year anniversary of her son’s death only weeks away, she was hoping for some closure, but now she says that is not possible.  

“When a life is taken, there’s nothing left to replace,” she explained. “Just emptiness.” 

The teens were released on bail after a hearing in January, one where the mother spoke out against the fact they were back on the street. One of the teens was returned to custody soon after due to a series of breaches of his release. The Crown says it will be reviewed now that charges have been stayed, but it provides little comfort for the victim’s mother.  

“These kids, their parents will have them, and I’ll never have my son again,” she said. “Where’s the justice in that?” 

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