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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Spain borrowing costs soar in first debt sale since conservative election win

MADRID – Spain’s borrowing costs soared Tuesday in an auction of short-term debt, suggesting investors remain cautious about the country’s financial future despite a convincing electoral win this week by conservatives bent on deficit-cutting austerity.

The Treasury sold €2.98 billion ($4 billion) in 3- and 6-month bills, which was roughly the agency’s target. But the average interest rate on the 3-month bills jumped to 5.1 per cent from 2.3 per cent in the last such auction in Octover, and to 5.2 per cent on the 6-month bills, compared with 3.3 per cent last time.

Demand was nevertheless good, with bids almost three times the amount offered for the 3-month bills, and nearly 5 for the 6-month bills.

Last week Spain had to offer an average interest rate of nearly 7 per cent on 10-year bonds at an auction, a euro-era record. An auction of 12- and 18-month bonds last week also went badly, with Spain also forced to offer significantly higher interest rates to investors.

The centre-right Popular Party has had no time to savour its electoral victory over the Socialists, having to immediately address grueling task of reassuring investors worried about Spain’s grim prospects for economic growth and getting nearly 5 million unemployed – 21.5 per cent of the work force – back to work.

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Doubts that Spain will be able to make it are behind the rise in its borrowing rates. On the secondary market, where bonds are bought and sold after they are issued, the yield on Spanish benchmark 10-year bonds stood at 6.5 per cent, roughly the same as the day after the election and not far from the 7 per cent level that is considered unsustainable over the longer term.

The future prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has said he will maintain the purchasing power of retirement pensions but other than that, any kind of government spending is liable for cuts. However, Rajoy has kept the country and the financial community largely in the dark over his specific plans. He will not be sworn in until mid-December.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said Monday it was maintaining its AA- rating with a negative outlook for Spain despite the conservative win.

Meanwhile, in a sign of the fragility of some of Spain’s lender, the central bank announced late Monday that it had seized a small bank, Banco de Valencia, because of problems with solvency and liquidity stemming from overexposure to the real estate bubble largely blamed for Spain’s economic collapse. It is the fourth such seizure of a banking entity since 2009.

The Bank of Spain said it was injecting €1 billion in capital into Banco de Valencia S.A. and opening up a €2 billion credit line for it.

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Ciaran Giles contributed to this report.

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Victims intimidated by inmates using social networking sites

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Lisa Gesik hesitates to log into her Facebook account nowadays because of unwanted “friend” requests, not from long-ago classmates but from the ex-husband now in prison for kidnapping her and her daughter.

Neither Gesik nor prison officials can prove her ex-husband is sending her the messages, which feature photos of him wearing his prison blues and dark sunglasses, arms crossed as he poses in front of a prison gate. It doesn’t matter if he’s sending them or someone else is – the Newport, Ore., woman is afraid and, as the days tick down to his January release, is considering going into hiding with her 12-year-old daughter.

“It’s just being victimized all over again,” she said.

Across the U.S. and beyond, inmates are using social networks and the growing numbers of smartphones smuggled into prisons and jails to harass their victims or accusers and intimidate witnesses. California corrections officials who monitor social networking sites said they have found many instances in which inmates taunted victims or made unwanted sexual advances.

Like Gesik’s case, it’s often difficult for authorities to determine for sure who’s sending the threatening material and the few people caught rarely face serious consequences.

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“The ability to have these kinds of contacts is increasing exponentially. In many ways, the law has not caught up with these changing technologies,” said Rob Bovett, an Oregon district attorney whose office prosecuted Gesik’s ex-husband, Michael Gladney.

Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said criminals’ use of social networks to reach witnesses has made his job harder.

“We deal every day with witnesses who are afraid of being identified,” he said. “If there are increased instances where folks who are incarcerated can reach outside the walls of the jail, that’s going to make it more difficult for us to get co-operation.”

In a rare victory, Heaphy’s office successfully prosecuted John Conner and Whitney Roberts after they set up a Facebook account that Conner used to intimidate witnesses preparing to testify against him on charges of burning two houses to punish a girlfriend and collect the insurance.

“How the hell can u b a gangsta when u snitchin and lien…,” said a post from the pair that publicly exposed one witness who co-operated with law enforcement, according to federal court records.

The issue has emerged as cellphones have proliferated behind bars. In California, home to the nation’s largest inmate population, the corrections department confiscated 12,625 phones in just 10 months this year. Six years ago, they found just 261. The number of phones confiscated by the federal Bureau of Prisons has doubled since 2008, to 3,684 last year.

Noting the increase, California legislators approved a law bringing up to six months in jail for corrections employees or visitors who smuggle mobile devices into state prisons, while inmates caught with the phones can now lose up to 180 days of early-release credit. But no additional time is added to their sentence, minimizing the deterrence factor.

In the old days, those behind bars would have to enlist a relative or friend to harass or intimidate to get around no-contact orders. Social networks now cut out the middle man.

In Gesik’s case, Gladney used to harass her the old-fashioned way, sending letters and making phone calls through third parties. The Facebook harassment began in June.

Gesik, 44, got prison officials to contact Facebook to remove that account, only to have another message appearing to be from him in September. This time, there was a different spelling of his last name.

“I figure, if he’s done all this from in prison, what’s he’s going to do when he gets out?” Gesik said.

A gap in state law meant that “no contact” orders like the one Gesik obtained against Gladney were deemed not to apply to anyone in custody, said Bovett, the prosecutor. “So they could do these very creative ways of reaching victims through third parties,” he said.

Last June, Oregon legislators approved a law prohibiting inmates from contacting their domestic violence victims from behind bars.

In California, prison officials are working with Facebook to identify inmate accounts and take them down. But that only generally happens only after the damage is done.

Karen Carrisosa, who lives in a Sacramento suburb, was aghast when officials found Facebook postings from Corcoran State Prison inmate Fredrick Garner. Garner is serving a 22-year, involuntary manslaughter sentence for killing her husband, 50-year-old Larry Carrisosa, outside a church 11 years ago.

“My kids, they go on Facebook, I go on Facebook, and what if they decide to look us up?” Carrisosa said.

She was alerted by a Sacramento television station that Garner was posting messages to his mother and others. Garner was punished with a 30-day reduction in his early release credits for possessing a forbidden cellphone and has since been transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison.

Hector Garcia Jr. used a smuggled smart phone hidden in his cell at Kern Valley State Prison to rally support on Facebook for an inmate hunger strike this summer that sought improved living conditions for gang leaders housed in special secure cellblocks.

“Starving for my better future,” he posted, according a July 1 screen grab from the corrections department. “Let’s do this … statewide…”

The discovery rattled Isabel Gutierrez. Garcia murdered one of her sons and wounded another in January 2005. Now Gutierrez fears her own social-networking left her vulnerable.

“I panicked,” she said. “My photos are up of my family and my grandkids. I felt like they can see into my world.”

Guards found Garcia’s phone, punishing him with a 30-day cut in early-release credits and 30 days’ loss of yard, TV and radio privileges.

Attorneys who represented Garcia and Gladney in their previous criminal trials did not return phone calls seeking comment on behalf of their former clients.

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Calgary entrepreneurs to serve up breakfast on the go

CALGARY – Two young entrepreneurs are hoping their Mighty Skillet truck will warm the hearts of Calgary’s brunch crowd.

Food trucks took the city by storm this summer; gourmet cuisine is served up on the street to hungry fans.

However, the chilly temperatures will be yet another test for the trucks; co-owners Billy MacDonald and John Scott hope hungry Calgarians will bundle up for their morning grub.

“There is a kind of anxiety there that I don’t really know what people are going to think of it,” says Billy.

The duo say it’s been a hectic journey creating Calgary’s first breakfast truck. Hoping to cash in on the food truck feeding frenzy, Bill and John bought ‘Street Burger’ just as Mayor Naheed Nenshi announced phase two of the pilot project.

“It’s a great example of combining entrepreneur’s great ideas and a market that wants the product,” said Nenshi. “Phase two is going to be about seeing how this works over the winter.”

A local freestyle artist has given the truck a new look, featuring mighty Thor in the kitchen with a skillet.

“Billy and I are both into comic books and it kind of came out of nowhere,” says John.

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However, that turned out to be the easy part. The team had to undergo a health and fire inspection as well as set themselves up with insurance before they could obtain a business licence and a mobile vendor’s licence.

Then there was experimenting with the menu.

“We spend lots of late nights trying to come up with the perfect consistency of the shredded potato,” says Billy.

The owners want to take breakfast to the LRT lines but are nervous about the winter weather but felt the opportunity was just too good to pass on.

“Even with the Calgary cold weather, there will be customers. We just have to find them and make sure we are out there when they want us,” says Billy.

To find out where the Calgary food trucks will be this week visit 杭州夜生活yycfoodtrucks杭州夜网 or follow @yycfoodtrucks on Twitter.  

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Seasonal parking, what you need to know

The record snowfall from the weekend has led to the second implementation of the seasonal parking ban bylaw.

Global News spoke to Bob Dunford of the city’s transportation department about the newly created bylaw.

SEASONAL PARKING:

In the last few months, city crews have installed “No Parking, Seasonal” signs on arterial bus routes throughout the city.

City council approved the plan earlier this fall, which would allow a seasonal parking ban to be declared after a major snowfall.

By declaring the ban, the city hopes that plows and sanders would have an easier time of clearing arterial routes.

With 8 hours notice, drivers must move their vehicles from routes with seasonal parking signs, or face tagging and towing.

“The seasonal parking ban is to allow us to plow more effectively,” Dunford says, “It’s something you want to have in place very quickly.”

The first seasonal parking ban of the winter went into effect at 7:00 am on Friday, November 18th, and lasted until 7:00 pm on Sunday, November 20th.

During that time, 1,278 tickets were issued, 45 vehicle tows requested, and seven vehicles being towed to the impound lot.

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The second ban went into effect Monday, February 27 at 7 am.  In the first four hours of the ban the city issued 250 tickets and towed 50 vehicles.

If a seasonal parking ban is not in effect, drivers are free to park on streets with the signs, however Dunford advises that motorists consider changing their habits.

“I would encourage anyone during snow season to park off street, not just when the parking ban is declared.”

Residents can sign up to be receive an email alert when a seasonal parking ban is declared.

 

 

With files from Fletcher Kent. 

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Chrysler names Timothy Kuniskis new US chief of Fiat after former head leaves company

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Chrysler named a new head of its Fiat brand for the United States on Monday, nearly a year after the small Italian cars made their return to the United States.

Chrysler Group LLC said that Laura Soave, who was named as the Fiat brand’s U.S. head last year before the North American launch of the Fiat 500, has left the company. It did not give a reason for her departure.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler Group, which is now run by Italy’s Fiat SpA, named Timothy Kuniskis as her replacement.

Kuniskis previously served as the product marketing director for both the Chrysler and Fiat brands. He joined Chrysler Group LLC in 1992 and has since held a variety of jobs in its business and marketing operations.

“Tim brings broad expertise and leadership in dealer operations and marketing where he has been already working with the team to shape the direction of the Fiat Brand,” Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Soave joined Chrysler in March 2010 after serving as a marketing executive for Volkswagen AG’s U.S. operations. Before that, she held various marketing related positions at Ford Motor Co.

Chrysler had hoped that the Fiat 500 would help boost its sales of small cars, an area where its offerings had lagged behind those of other automakers.

But despite an aggressive advertising campaign featuring singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, sales of the 500 have fallen far short of Chrysler’s expectations.

Just before the cute mini-car arrived in the U.S. late last year, the company said it hoped to sell 50,000 of them in the U.S. and Canada in 2011. But as of Oct. 31, it had sold just under 21,000 in the two markets.

Last week, Chrysler and Marchionne blamed the shortfall on a lag time in opening dealerships in metropolitan areas.

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Crosby’s comeback a study in post-concussion performance

OTTAWA – When Canadian hockey great Sidney Crosby hits the ice Monday night, many will be scrutinizing his every move for any sign of the concussion that took him out of the game for nearly a year.

The 24-year-old star of the Pittsburgh Penguins was sidelined on Jan. 5 when he sustained a concussion after being nailed by two hard hits in back-to-back games.

The Penguins thought he would be back before the end of last season, but Crosby was out for the entire summer, with concussion related symptoms including a sensitivity to bright light and loud noises, dizziness and fatigue.

Even when the symptoms started to fade in September, Crosby stayed off the ice opting for a patient approach that would see him return in top form.

His return will be a landmark case study in how long athletes need to recover from concussions and whether they return at the same level of play.

“There will be some pretty trained eyes watching, and probably, they won’t be able to notice a big difference,” says Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “But the research suggests that people have been injured in the way Sidney Crosby has been never quite return to the same level they were before.”

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Cusimano says, like the Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiux before him, Crosby’s advantage lies in his brain, not his skates or his stick-handling.

“All these superstar guys, what distinguishes them is how smart they are, and that’s the word for how quickly their brains work in the sport,” he says. “These guys are fast thinkers. They are multitaskers. They are able to anticipate. Brain injury effects that very severely.”

Even if Crosby’s mental reaction time slows slightly, Cusimano says he won’t have the same edge as before.

In announcing Crosby’s return, his coach Dan Bylsma said it may take a few games to get Crosby fully warmed up, but his progress is promising.

“In practice he is one of the best players on the ice, he is the best player on the ice,” Bylsma said.

Crosby took a time-out with an MVP title, a Stanley Cup win and an Olympic gold medal already under his belt.

Dustin Fink, a certified athletic trainer, specializing in concussions, said as long as Crosby’s brain has truly healed, there’s no reason he can’t continue to rack up the achievements.

“You shouldn’t go back on the field or the court unless you are playing at 100 per cent because you’ll be at risk of injury again,” he said. “Crosby himself will be playing at the best of his ability at this point.”

Fink, who curates theconcussionblog杭州夜网, said that in his experience athletes who return to play without fully healing their brains can’t compete at the same level as before the injury, but those who give it time have no problem returning.

“When you receive a concussion, you do sustain some sort of damage on the brain,” he said. “When the brain recovers, the brain figures out a correct way to do the same processes as they knew before.”

Former NHL player Jesse Wallin knows just how tough it can be to recover from a concussion. The coach of the Red Deer Rebels hockey team had to cut his career as a player short after he couldn’t shake concussion-related symptoms.

But he says not all concussions are equal. Wallin said he suffered several concussions, most of which he was able to shake after a day or two.

“You recover, get back to health and you are right back at it,” he said, referring to most concussions.

The last concussion was different though, Wallin said. The symptoms never really went away and he had to walk away from playing the game he loved.

Wallin said that as a player, you always want to get back out there and fast, but that it seems Crosby has handled his injuries with care.

“If he is returning there is no question he can return to form,” he said.

Hockey fans won’t know what form Crosby will be in until Monday at 7 PM ET, but regardless the NHL community has been buzzing with excitement about his return.

Fink said he expects Crosby’s return to show athletes that it is possible to come back from a head injury.

“You can still play sports, but the road to recovery isn’t going to be four or five weeks,” he said. “(Sidney) let the symptoms be the guide. That’s the most important thing.”
 

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Launch of Nova Scotia budget website a ‘diversion,’ Opposition Liberals say

HALIFAX – The government of Nova Scotia launched a website Monday encouraging people to offer feedback as it tries to trim its deficit – a move the Opposition said was a “diversion” from the grim economic realities the province faces.

Finance Minister Graham Steele declined to elaborate on what measures the government is considering as it tries to steer its finances back into the black from a projected deficit this year of $319 million.

Instead, Steele announced the launch of a website that allows people to create their own provincial budget. The site encourages users to adjust revenues and expenditures to show what impact their choices would have on the province’s bottom line.

He said the website and upcoming public consultations are a chance for people to come up with new ideas that could be examined as the government prepares next year’s budget, likely to be presented in early April.

He said whichever path it chooses, the government intends to remain on track to balance the budget as promised in 2013.

“The plan is that for every dollar in new revenue there will be between three and four dollars of savings in expenditures,” Steele said. “But that can be efficiencies, it can be reductions in appropriate spots.”

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Steele said the government has rejected implementing “across-the-board” cuts, but added that it would seek savings in areas it deemed appropriate.

“We are still on that plan, but this pre-budget consultation tour is a chance for Nova Scotians to tell us whether that is still what they want us to do with their money or whether they have other ideas,” Steele said.

Liberal finance critic Diana Whalen said she has no problem with the government gathering public input for the budget, but she called the new website a “diversion.”

“There are some urgent questions that need to be asked today about jobs and the economy,” Whalen said. “I think that’s the comments we are going to see at the end of the whole exercise.”

Steele said the website has cost $32,250 to develop and maintain.

The government has already announced a three per cent cut in health spending last month, and the Transportation Department is reviewing snow-clearing operations with the aim of saving about $2 million.

The recent closure of the NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill in Cape Breton dealt a blow to the province’s economy, and the pending layoffs at the Bowater Mersey paper mill on the South Shore will do the same. But Steele wouldn’t comment on the specific economic impact those would have on Nova Scotia’s finances.

He said his department was still gathering data that would form the basis of a budget update, expected in mid-December.

The consultations will also involve a series of public meetings that will be held across the province during January and February.

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Theatre community mourns death of veteran actor and stage director John Neville

TORONTO – John Neville, a veteran Canadian actor and stage director who appeared in a multitude of productions, including the hit TV series “The X-Files,” died Saturday at the age of 86.

Neville, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, died in Toronto surrounded by family, said a statement from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where Neville worked as an artistic director in the 1980s.

Neville appeared in dozens of movies, television shows and theatre productions during a career that spanned six decades.

His career experienced a big lift when he was cast in the title role in the 1988 film “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Although the film was a financial failure, Neville’s performance was well-received and it led to a plethora of film and television roles.

Perhaps the one that gave him the most prominence came in the ’90s when he landed the recurring role of the “The Well-Manicured Man” in the “The X-Files.”

He also did stints as artistic director for Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre in the 1970s and of Halifax’s Neptune Theatre from 1978 to 1983.

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“John Neville was a superb actor, an outstanding director and a terrific artistic leader of our Festival,” Des McAnuff, the current artistic director of the Stratford festival, said in a statement.

“His charisma and charm were matched by the generosity of his spirit.”

Neville was born in England, emigrating to Canada in 1972 and later he became a citizen.

He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2006 for his work in Canadian theatre and drama. He became an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1965.

Neville received one Gemini nomination in 1999 in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role category for his performance in the 1998 TV series “Emily of New Moon”

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Caroline, six children and six grandchildren.

A private funeral is to be held immediately and plans for a memorial are to be announced in the new year, the statement said.

In the interview below, Neville shares his thoughts on his career, politics, his challenges and fears, and why he loved living in Canada. 

 

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Seniors tax credit and 30% tuition cut to be key features of throne speech

TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberals will address only their own agenda in the throne speech Tuesday that opens the first session of the legislature since the Oct. 6 election, despite being reduced to a minority government.

The speech, to be read by Lt.-Gov. David Onley, will outline plans to provide a home renovation tax credit for seniors and a 30 per cent reduction in college and university tuitions, but won’t mention ideas from the opposition parties.

“Overall it’s a more focused agenda than you’d normally see in a throne speech,” said a senior Liberal source.

“It’s not a laundry list of every commitment we made in the platform because, quite frankly, in the current fiscal situation and minority government, that’s not always going to be possible.”

The speech will focus on items that are “core to the Liberal agenda,” and won’t talk about the Progressive Conservatives’ demand for a public sector wage freeze or the New Democrats’ call to eliminate corporate tax cuts.

“I’d say there’s a tip of the hat that we need to find ways to work together in this (minority) house and look forward to getting good ideas from anybody,” said the source.

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“There’s no ‘we picked this up from your agenda and we picked up that from your agenda.’ There’s none of that.”

Tory Leader Tim Hudak met with McGuinty last Friday to discuss the minority legislature, but emerged “frustrated” after the premier “shot down” his ideas such as legislating a public sector wage freeze.

“It sounds like, so far, that Dalton McGuinty didn’t get the message sent in the last election campaign that we need change,” said Hudak.

“We need to get our province back to living within its means.”

The opposition parties each campaigned on eliminating the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST from home heating bills, an idea that won’t be in the throne speech but will be debated later this week when the NDP introduces it as a private member’s bill.

“It’s a small step to make life more affordable for families and protect them from an unfair tax, one that never should have been applied to a daily essential like home heating” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Private members’ bills rarely become law in Ontario, but the Tories and NDP combined now have one more seat than the governing Liberals, so reducing the HST on home heating bills could be the first real test of the minority government.

The tone of the speech from the throne will be one of fiscal restraint, and follows a warning by McGuinty the government will have to limit spending increases to an average of one per cent a year until the $16-billion deficit is eliminated in 2017-18.

That’s going to mean cuts in virtually all areas except health care and education, which together eat up more than 70 cents of every dollar the province spends. But the throne speech will not detail what services may be reduced or eliminated.

“These are serious times and we need a serious plan,” McGuinty told the Economic Club of Canada last week in his first major speech since voting day.

“It’s going to require discipline and some tough decisions on the part of government.”

McGuinty still talks about governing with what he calls a “major minority,” and the opposition complains they aren’t seeing any signs the Liberals are willing to genuinely co-operate with them to make the minority parliament work.

“I didn’t see much different between Dalton McGuinty in November 2011 and Dalton McGuinty in November 2010,” said Hudak.

The PC leader sent an email to supporters after his meeting with McGuinty telling them to be “ready to go into an election next year,” but the New Democrats say that’s the last thing people want.

“I don’t want to spend the next few years with an unstable government, making threats that we’ll bring the government down,” said Horwath.

“The people of this province don’t want to see the same squabbling status quo.”

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will deliver the fall economic update Wednesday, which will detail the impact lower growth forecasts are having on the provincial books, and pave the way for some serious belt-tightening measures in next year’s budget.

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Tembec exiting flooring business with $13 million sale; Huntsville closing

MONTREAL – Forest products company Tembec is exiting the hardwood flooring business as it shutters a 108-year operation in Huntsville, Ont., and sells another facility in Toronto to a private company for $13 million.

The Montreal-based company said 63 workers, including 52 unionized employees, will be affected when the Huntsville business, which opened in 1903, ceases operations in January.

The Toronto plant, along with its Muskoka and Vintage flooring brands, will be sold within the next few weeks. It employs 79 workers, including 58 unionized employees.

Opened in 1989, Vintage Flooring relocated its manufacturing via an acquisition to its current 6,300-square-metre facility in western Toronto.

Tembec (TSX:TMB) said it will record a one-time charge of $2 million in its December quarterly results.

“The sale of the hardwood flooring division is consistent with our strategy to focus on the company’s core businesses,” stated president and CEO James Lopez.

The two facilities generated $48 million of sales, $1.9 million of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and $1.6 million of operating earnings.

Tembec’s hardwood sawmill operations in Huntsville are unaffected by the transaction.

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The company wouldn’t disclose the identity of the buyer, at its request. It also wouldn’t indicate how much of the flooring sales are generated in each facility.

Paul Quinn of RBC Capital Markets said he’s not surprised by Tembec’s sale of the flooring operations, which has been in the works for a few months.

“They’ve heard from investors that one of the reasons why their multiple is so low is that they’ve got a hand in every bucket so they’re trying to simplify their business and get back to the core,” he said from Vancouver.

The pulp business may be losing some money now, but Tembec’s management believes it can once again deliver decent profits, he added.

While there may also be other assets that are non-core, they are more difficult to separate from existing operations and sell, Quinn added, pointing to the coated paperboard plant in Temiscaming, Que.

Tembec’s printing plant in Kapuskasing, Ont., is holding its own with Ontario energy credits. The company believes its lumber business could recover once the U.S. housing market does.

“I think (the strategy is) more focused on what they know, which is lumber, pulp and a few ancillary businesses,” Quinn added.

Tembec is an integrated forest products company, with operations in North America and France. It has some 4,300 employees, and operates more than 30 market pulp, paper and wood product manufacturing units. It also produces silvichemicals from by-products of its pulping process and specialty chemicals.

Tembec markets its products worldwide and has sales offices in Canada, the United States, China, Korea and Japan.

It was created in 1973 after a closed paper mill in Temiscaming, Que., was purchased from a large multinational company.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Tembec’s shares fell 10 cents, or 3.8 per cent, at $2.57 in afternoon trading.

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