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Strong indicators Alberta economy on rebound

Strong indicators Alberta economy on rebound

As Alberta’s economy rebounds from the downturn in the price of oil, new data shows employment insurance use is on the decline.

The province outpaced the rest of Canada with an 11.1 per cent year-over-year decline in EI beneficiaries, according to Statistics Canada.

Economic indicators tell a consistent story — the worst of the downturn has ended, Trevor Tombe, associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary, said Thursday.

Recent data show provincial unemployment down from a high of nine per cent in November 2016. In addition, there’s been a 9.3 per cent increase in the first quarter for job vacancies in the province. Alberta’s business confidence achieved six consecutive gains in Canadian Federation for Independent Business surveys, before holding steady in June.

“The corner has clearly been turned,” Tombe said.

Since October 2014, additional EI payments into Alberta have totalled $3 billion over and above the norm, he said. Typically, the province would receive roughly $50 million a month.

The 72,000 Albertans receiving regular EI benefits in May, according to StatsCan, represented a 7.2 per cent drop from the previous month, in addition to the year-over-year decline.

Alberta was one of eight provinces to see a decline from April. Nationally, the decline from the previous month was 2.4 per cent and the year-over-year drop was only 4.9 per cent.

The presence of other positive economic indicators bode well for economic recovery in Alberta, especially in comparison to the other provinces hit hardest by the oil downturn — Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The declines that you’ve seen in Alberta over the past two months — you haven’t seen similar sized declines in those other two provinces,” said Marton Lovei of Statistics Canada.

The May EI figures represent Alberta’s first year-over-year decrease since November 2014, when the downturn in oil prices began.

Tombe said the reduction in EI beneficiaries might be the result of a strengthening economy, but also said there were factors that contributed to Alberta’s outsized decline that were beyond the norm.

Statistics Canada attributed it in part to an increase in EI beneficiaries in northern Alberta in May 2016 associated with the Fort McMurray wildfires and evacuation. More than one-third — 34.6 per cent — of the decline in beneficiaries in Alberta in the 12 months to May occurred in the census agglomeration of Wood Buffalo, where Fort McMurray is located.

The federal government also made it easier to apply for EI in 15 regions of the country, including Alberta, offering up to an additional 20 weeks of regular benefits for areas hit hardest by declines in commodity prices.

John Rose, chief economist for the City of Edmonton, said the city’s economy came through the recession in relatively good shape.

Since January, Edmonton has seen a marked improvement in labour market conditions, including a turnaround in the city’s manufacturing sector, he said.

He noted about a quarter of jobs in Edmonton are in education, health care and public administration.

“While those areas don’t go down as quickly or as far as other sectors of the economy, particularly energy, they don’t bounce back quite as quickly,” Rose said.

Rose expects a return to GDP growth for Edmonton and for Alberta.

“I’m not aware of anyone who isn’t forecasting growth for the province of Alberta in the range somewhere from the low two per cent range … all the way up to 3.3 per cent,” he said.

Rose said his forecasts are on the modest end — 2.3 per cent growth for the province and 1.7 per cent for the city of Edmonton.

Stampeders get Charleston Hughes back for game with Roughriders

Stampeders get Charleston Hughes back for game with Roughriders

For the first time in a long time, Dave Dickenson smiled when he was asked about who the Calgary Stampeders might have available for their next game.

After weeks of watching player after player get yanked off the active roster due to injuries, the Stampeders coach actually got some good news this week.

Charleston Hughes, the CFL’s reigning sack king, looks likely to return against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN/News Talk 770) after missing two games with a leg injury.

Offensive lineman Shane Bergman should be back in the lineup, too, after missing a couple games due to a concussion.

Rookie Tunde Adeleke should be back, as well, after sitting out last weekend’s loss to the host Montreal Alouettes.

“The good thing is I can make some decisions with some healthy bodies,” Dickenson said after Thursday morning’s practice. “Whereas in the past, it was like ‘you’re healthy, you’re playing.’

“We’ve got a few guys who look like they’re ready to go.”

To be clear, the Stampeders are still a banged-up bunch. The team’s six-game injured list is still 14 players deep and features big names such as Cordarro Law, Deron Mayo, Junior Turner and Brandon Smith.

There could be more good news next week, though, as players like Mayo and Smith who began the season on the six-game list will be eligible to return to practice.

For now, though, getting guys like Hughes and Bergman back should provide a measure of relief.

“Offensive line, we’re going to clean that up a little bit and make sure we get the right guys out there,” Dickenson said. “Looks like Charleston will be back, which is good.

“We’ve got to take ownership — we’re gonna go up against a great group. It’s always great to get your leaders out there and some of your vets who have produced over the years.”

GROUP EFFORT

The Stampeders know that if they’re going to stop the Roughriders from moving the ball upfield, they’re going to need to limit the damage from running back Cameron Marshall.

That’s easier said than done, with Marshall running for 70-plus yards in two of the Riders’ three games this season and getting increased looks in their Week 3 win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Considering how the Stamps defence struggled to stop the Alouettes’ Tyrell Sutton late in last-weekend’s game, limiting Marshall will need to be a focus this weekend.

“He’s a good back,” said Stamps defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks. “He catches the ball, runs hard and rarely goes down on first contact, so we’ve got to make sure we’re running to the ball. He’s got a pretty good overall game, I would say.”

While Sutton was able to cause the Stamps trouble last week, it’s worth noting that the Calgary crew has been pretty strong against the run so far this season, and they limited the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to only 48 yards on the ground in Week 3.

“We’ve played (against Marshall) in the past — there’s some good running backs,” Dickenson said. “I’m not going to say he’s better than the guy we just played, though. Just stay as a group, (go out and) gang tackle and hopefully make some plays on him.”

Tough to hand Stampeders a second-straight loss

Tough to hand Stampeders a second-straight loss

There might not be a worse time to play the Calgary Stampeders than when they’re coming off a loss.

While the Stamps have won more regular-season games than any other team in the CFL over the last half-decade, they’ve seemed downright unbeatable in games where they were defeated the previous week.

In fact, the Stampeders haven’t lost back-to-back games since they were defeated by the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes in consecutive games in Week 2 and Week 3 of the 2012 season.

That’s a stretch of 91 games — the longest a CFL team has ever gone without losing consecutive regular-season matches. The second-longest streak, for what it’s worth, is owned by the Toronto Argonauts, who went 54 games without dropping back-to-back matches between the start of the 1936 season and the end of ’46 – there was no play from ’42-44 due to the Second World War.

So what’s the secret?

The Stamps don’t make it sound all that complicated.

“I didn’t even pay attention — we’ve got to live in a real-tight one-game window,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson. “If you focus on that one game — I know it’s cliché — but make sure you get it done. Give me your best, give me your best and take care of that one game. Usually, that’s the most success you’ll have.”

It’s entirely possible that the Stampeders’ unprecedented run of never dropping back-to-back games is simply a result of how good the team has been over the past couple years.

At the same time, though, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said the team reacts in a very specific way to their losses.

“I think it’s more the culture of the team,” Mitchell said. “Losing always refocuses and humbles a team. A lot of the time when we lose, it’s not a lack of talent or effort. It’s attention to details or being overconfident in some things.

“(Losing) humbles the guys. We lock back in. We pay attention to details, and that’s why there’s never two in a row. That’s been the way it’s been so far, and hopefully, we keep it going.”

That could be bad news for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who visit McMahon Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m., TSN) only eight days after the Stampeders lost their first game of the season, dropping a 30-23 decision to the host Montreal Alouettes in Week 4.

When the Stamps picked up their first loss last year in Week 1 against the B.C. Lions, they stormed out of the dressing room a week later and smashed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 36-22.

“It’s the culture — we might be a little ornery,” said Stamps defensive back Josh Bell. “We take a loss — we take it personally. We do a good job of correcting our mistakes from the week before, really. We make mistakes, we lose games, and we come back and correct those mistakes and win again.”

Ask around the Stampeders dressing room, and they all gave similar answers.

After the loss to the Als in Montreal, Mitchell and defensive star Micah Johnson both explained that the Stampeders wouldn’t be hanging their heads just because they dropped a game.

Instead, they insisted that it was simply time to get back in the film-room and begin fixing some mistakes that may have been papered-over during their undefeated three-game start to the season.

Against the Alouettes, there were a couple costly errors that the Stampeders believe they can avoid if they just keep things a little more simple.

“I think a lot of guys here hate losing,” said Stamps receiver Marquay McDaniel. “When you lose, you want to get back on that field as soon as possible. I think that’s the thing around here — we always reload.

“It’s a good thing we’re back at home — we’ve got a West (Division) matchup this week. We’re ready to go. I know me, personally, I haven’t been playing as good as I want to. I felt like I left some plays out there last week, so me personally, I’m ready to get back out there.”

Stamps notes: Glenn a mentor to Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell

Stamps notes: Glenn a mentor to Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell

The Calgary Stampeders might be having a little fun with their rivalry with former teammates now with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

But Bo Levi Mitchell got dead serious when he was asked about what he learned from backing up quarterback Kevin Glenn.

Glenn, now serving as starting QB for the Riders, was with the Stampeders in 2012 and ’13, right as Mitchell was finding his feet in the Canadian game.

“Early on, Kev was a huge part of my career as far as a learning tool for me to pick his brain and use my eyes to watch him and watch how he played the game,” Mitchell said Friday. “At that point in time, I was still locked in to the American game, so (I was trying) to understand this is a guy’s who’s done it for a long time and done it well, so how has he been successful?”

The respect between the QBs is mutual, and Glenn — who is 116 yards short of 50,000 passing yards in his career — said he remembered being impressed when he first saw Mitchell enter the league.

And if his younger teammate wanted help, Glenn was happy to provide it however he could.

“That was one thing — when me and Bo were here when I first saw him, he kind of reminded me a lot of myself at the time,” Glenn said. “He was so inquisitive. He was very coachable. When you told him something, he took it from the classroom onto the field, and I was very similar, and I think that’s why I was able to have the career I did, because I listened.”

While Glenn is definitely closer to the end of his career than the beginning at this point, he’s started strongly for the Riders after a couple seasons spent bouncing around the league.

Through three games, he’s already thrown for more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, and the Stampeders are taking the threat that he presents seriously.

“When he was here, he was a good pro,” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said about Glenn. “We won a lot of games with Kevin, and I was very confident whenever he played that we’d win. I kind of think he’s been (underestimated) his whole career — not a lot of respect. But I think he’s obviously just been winning everywhere he goes — putting up numbers.”

COTE CONCUSSION

Rob Cote was moved to the one-game injured list Monday, and while rumours had been circulating that he was dealing with a bug of some sort, it turns out that he is currently undergoing the CFL’s concussion protocol.

“We’ll hopefully get him back next week,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson.

Also removed from the lineup was Canadian receiver Juwan Brescacin, and it appears that he’ll be out for a while.

Brescacin was placed on the six-game injured list with an undisclosed injury after Dickenson acknowledged that the 24-year-old might be out for a while when he missed practice earlier in the week.

Stepping in for Brescacin will be veteran receiver Rory Kohlert.

“When (Kohlert) played against (the) Winnipeg (Blue Bombers), I thought he did some things on special teams, as well,” Dickenson said. “He’s a good, consistent veteran that we have confidence in. When we signed him, we figured he’d be a nice complementary role, so he’ll get his chance this week.”

ON PRACTICE ROSTER

After being placed on the one-game injured list prior to last weekend’s loss to the host Montreal Alouettes, Randy Colling was moved to the Stampeders practice roster on Friday.

Colling, the Stamps first-round selection in the 2017 draft, still hasn’t appeared in a game this season, although he was included on the reserve list for Game 3 against the Blue Bombers.

The 27-year-old missed the beginning of training camp due to an injury and was shifted from defensive line to offensive line earlier in the season.

Flames fans shouldn’t fret about Johnny Gaudreau’s remark that it would be ‘sweet’ to skate for Flyers

Flames fans shouldn’t fret about Johnny Gaudreau’s remark that it would be ‘sweet’ to skate for Flyers

Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau probably should have selected his words more carefully.

But there was a lot more to Gaudreau’s interview Friday with a Philadelphia sports radio show than what you likely read on the headlines — his comment that “it would be sweet” to someday skate for the Flyers, not far across the Delaware River from his hometown of Carneys Point, N.J.

It’s no secret that Gaudreau was raised a Flyers fan, but the Lady Byng Trophy-winning left-winger isn’t going to be leaving Cowtown anytime soon.

He’s signed for five more seasons with the Flames, tied for tops on the team salary charts at US$6.75 million per campaign.

And both before and after his response to a question Friday about eventually taking his talents back home, the 23-year-old puck-whiz raved about the fan support in Calgary.

The sound-byte that everybody is talking about comes when one of the radio hosts tells Gaudreau, “We would like you to play here at some point, Johnny. When are you a free agent?”

A few moments later, after both Gaudreau and the other radio voices respond that he’s inked to a long-term contract, he asks, “Wouldn’t you love someday to come home?”

“Yeah, it would be sweet,” Gaudreau replied. “I’ve got a ton of family here and all my friends … Actually, I have a wedding here this weekend in South Jersey and all my friends come back here. All my good friends and kids who I’ve played with all my life are from South Jersey.

“So it would be sweet to play here someday. You know, you never know in sports, but a lot of support back here in South Jersey and the Philly area. They follow me pretty well.”

Gaudreau has quite a following in Calgary, too, where he was the Flames’ leading point-producer in each of the past two seasons and where his No. 13 jersey is now the most common fashion choice for the Saddledome faithful.

 

Friday’s clip likely caused some nail-biting in Marda Loop and McKenzie Towne, Silver Springs and Saddle Ridge, but you’ll be less nervous if you listen to the entire interview.

“It’s a little different — every morning, you wake up, you look out your window and you see the mountains. Looking out in New Jersey, you don’t see the mountains,” Gaudreau said on the same radio appearance. “It was a cool transition. I go to Starbucks every morning and before I leave the Starbucks, I’m ending up taking three, four, five pictures and have little kids running up to me. It’s really cool. They’re really passionate about their hockey over there and it makes it a lot of fun playing over there, too.”

Immediately after his comment that it would be “sweet” to star in the City of Brotherly Love, Gaudreau again praised Calgary’s puck-crazed supporters.

“It’s been awesome. They’re so passionate about their hockey over there, and it makes it fun to come into the rink every day and practise,” Gaudreau said. “You’re in the middle of practice on a Tuesday and there is 50, 60, 70 people in the stands … It’s crazy, just the way they love their hockey.

“I think two seasons ago, we were third-to-last or fourth-to-last and still sold out every night, cheering us on. That’s the type of fans they are. They’re great to us, and I’m really fortunate.”

VALIMAKI SIGNS DEAL

Flames general manager Brad Treliving crossed another item off his summer to-do list Friday, finalizing a three-year entry-level contract for defenceman Juuso Valimaki. The 18-year-old Valimaki was the Calgary club’s first-round selection — No. 16 overall — in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Valimaki, a native of Nokia, Finland, spent the last two seasons on the blue-line for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Last season, he netted 19 goals to go along with 42 assists for 61 points and 34 penalty minutes in 60 regular-season games which placed him seventh among WHL defencemen in points scored.

Getting to the core of injuries: Fitness Table delivers a workout that enhances strength and agility

Getting to the core of injuries: Fitness Table delivers a workout that enhances strength and agility

Congregating around a table is one of life’s great pleasures, surrounded by good friends or family, but gathering around the apparatus a table of another kind I recently got to found out about was an entirely new experience, and not without its painful moments.

One of Calgary’s foremost instructors in this little known therapy called a Fitness Table is Patricia Maybury, a former principal dancer for the Alberta Ballet and Les Grands Ballet Canadian.

Maybury and her small team of highly trained and eagle-eyed instructors try to keep things light as they put their clientele through their paces.

This isn’t to say that a session at Fitness Table, a difficult-to-describe series of core-targeting movements, is not without enjoyable moments. But as anyone who excels at a sport like dancing or speed skating know you won’t get strong, more flexible and agile with gritting your teeth and digging into minimal-impact maximal-effect movements.

Just ask 27-year-old Sarah Gregg, a member of the Canadian Long Track Speed Skating team, who has competed in two Junior World Champions and many World Cup events. After herniating a disc in her lumbar spine during off-ice training, she tried several therapies, including physio, massage and chiropractic for almost a year with no significant improvements.

“I was becoming desperate to find something that could help heal my back and allow me to skate pain free again,” Gregg says.

She’d heard about the Fitness table from a friend who said it was the only therapy that helped with a debilitating back injury.

“I was very skeptical at first … however, it was the best decision I ever made when it came to my rehabilitation and my physical well-being in general.” she says.

After a few classes she started to understand the principles behind Fitness Table which helped her tap into her core and postural muscles in a way that she had never learned in her seven years of competing at an international level.

“Within a couple months I was starting to skate pain free.”

The result of Gregg’s work with Maybury were so impressive that Speed Skating Canada coaches, Bart Schouten and Mike Crowe, took notice and decided the Fitness Table could benefit other members of the national team.

Maybury developed a specific program for the athletes and the team, including Cindy Klassen (Olympic gold medalist) and David Greg (Sarah’s brother and Canada World Cup silver medalist), added the Fitness Table method to their training regiment for months leading up to their showing at the Sochi Olympics. The athletes were able to improve their alignment and core strength, increasing their power and speed on the ice and off in their other athletic pursuits.

So what exactly does a session on the Fitness Table entail? The use of the Penchenat Table, an apparatus developed in the 1920s by French physiotherapist Ferdinand Penchenat, was originally designed for rehabilitation. The table is unique because of its shape and ability to tilt.

“The shape and the tilt allow users to partially anchor themselves to the table and displace their centre of gravity in a manner that facilitates intensive work on the deep musculature,” Maybury says.

She’s not kidding. A session on the fitness table revealed layers of abdominal muscles I never even knew were there.

Each class involves a warm up, followed by various stretching and toning exercises both on and around the table. The programming is thoughtfully designed to accommodate each person’s needs. A comprehensive postural evaluation is conducted prior to your first class so Maybury can asses what you need. Amazingly, she remembers every detail of each participant’s’ movement patterns and challenges and guides them to alternative exercises and modifications as needed.

Seeing isn’t exactly believing when it comes to the Fitness Table, though. To the naked eye, the movements don’t look like much. Honestly, if done without proper form, they probably wouldn’t be. Under Maybury’s watchful eye, however, a student is unable to compensate for the movement of the target muscle with another. Cheating your way through this slow and steady burn of a workout just isn’t really possible.

Currently in its 20th year of business, the studio and method have developed a cult following among hundreds of Calgarians. Given its remarkable results in training and rehabilitation, devotees include elite athletes and recreational enthusiasts in recent years. You get the feeling that this approach to fitness and wellness is about to experience a bit of a popularity boom.

“Focusing mainly on the postural apparatus, an area almost completely ignored in the traditional fitness approach, the technique provides results for those who participate in sports like running and want to remain injury-free, people recovering from injuries and those who want to maintain their overall fitness and flexibility,” Maybury says.

By gaining proper alignment and postural awareness, it’s easy to see how working out on the Fitness Table would increase the odds of enhancing performance in most sports and recreation activities safely and effectively.

“There aren’t any bad exercises out there, it’s all about how they are done,” says Maybury.

Hit the road: Three scenic driving routes that don’t involve the Rockies

Hit the road: Three scenic driving routes that don’t involve the Rockies

Road trips are a quintessential summer travel experience, but the jam packed Rockies are driving everyone crazy. Fret not road warrior! We put you back in the driver’s seat with three scenic routes within a two hour commute from Calgary.

Highway 22 North: Water Valley

Hit the road towards Cochrane then journey north on Highway 22. Breeze past neatly parcelled farmland punctuated with striking yellow patches of canola until you reach Cremona. Open Friday to Sunday, Market Junction is an antique and artisan marketplace that also sports a cafe. After treasure hunting though the packed aisles, continue east on Highway 580 for another shopping experience (or a meal) at Pasu Farms. Circle back to Highway 22 south and turn west on Highway 579 to visit Water Valley. Its General Store looks like an authentic western outpost, and has a small ice cream counter. Just down the street lies the Water Valley Saloon, an atmospheric pub, where children are welcome until 8 p.m. and folks line up for Wing Wednesdays.

Less than 10 minutes past town is William J. Bagnall Wilderness Park. Stop here for a picnic, playground and short hiking trails. Duffers have two options nearby with Water Valley Golf & Country Club and Tooth of the Dog Pound Creek Golf Course. Worth a visit on weekends is Fallen Timber Meadery, situated 15 minutes northwest of town. This family run business ferments its own honey, concocting inventive alcoholic beverages such as Meadjito, a refreshing take on a mojito. Visit on weekends for tours and tastings.

Extend your stay with a peaceful reprieve at Back to Nature Retreat, a five-acre property laced with walking trails strewn with over 45 different specifies of wildflowers. This B&B log lodge was built by HGTV’s Timber Kings, and is well suited to couples looking for a quiet getaway.

Through Newell County onto the Dino Trail

There are several points of interest to stop at as you make your way from Calgary to the fossil riddled region of southeastern Alberta. Your first stop as you head out of town on the Trans Canada Highway East is Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. Situated on Highway 842, this centre tells the story of the Blackfoot people through interactive exhibits, dance performances and interpretive programs that showcase craft and survival skills. Catch a demo in Tipi Village or opt to stay overnight in one.

 

Get back on the TransCanada and make for Bassano, a small town with an outdoor pool and glow in the dark bowling alley. Stop for a coffee inside the Imperial Hunter Hotel, and judge for yourself if the property’s haunted. From Bassano, peel off the Trans Canada and head east on Highway 550 for the town of Duchess. Foodies will want to brake for Prairie Cottage Bakeshop, a Mennonite bakery that serves up fantastic glazed donuts on Wednesday and Fridays (closed Saturday to Monday). Sneak in nine holes at the Duchess Golf Course, or meander through the gallery at Red Roof Studio.

Next, veer east on Highway 544 to grill your own hunk of beef at the Patrica Hotel’s steak pit. It’s a short drive from Patricia into Dinosaur Provincial Park to roam the grounds on self guided tours or fossil safaris that depart from the Visitor’s Centre. Camping can be hard to come by, so consider bedding down at Red Roof Studio Bed and Breakfast. Or, on Lake Newell, outside Brooks, Lakeshore B&B offers spa treatments.

Highway 22 South: The Cowboy Trail

To experience a different side of the Rockies, mosey down Highway 22x in the direction of Spruce Meadows, where you can swing by for a Wednesday night outdoor movie. Hang a left on Highway 22 South, to join the crowds every Saturday until early October at the Millarville Farmer’s Market.

Continue on to Turner Valley for a grain to glass experience at Eau Claire Distillery. Alberta’s first craft distillery offers daily tours and tastings, plus a G & ‘Tea’ experience Monday and Tuesday afternoons all summer long. Line your stomach beforehand with a burger from the Chuckwagon Cafe, or spice things up with a pit stop at Motoburrito, a fun Mexican food trailer set on two grassy acres.

Make your way to Black Diamond to suss out indy shops such as Branch Market and Bohemia. And Sunday’s Makers and Growers Farmer’s Market is chock full of local artisans. Culture vultures will want to suss out Black Diamond Gallery and Firebrand Glass Studio. Westwood and Soft Rock Bistro are two restaurants to try in town, but for nostalgia, you can’t beat the house-made ice cream from Marv’s Classic Soda Shop.

Keep going south to Longview to purchase their world famous jerky direct from the source. Longview Steakhouse continues to receive favourable reviews, while Twin Cities Hotel and Saloon is where you want to be for live music on weekends. Further south, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site has several western experiences on tap from roping to horse grooming.

Rest your head at Windflower Bed and Breakfast, an affordably priced retreat in Turner Valley. The family and pet-friendly property is known for their two course breakfast, close proximity to nature and chillaxed vibe.

John Gilchrist: Kensington Legion gets new digs with 1918 Tap and Table

John Gilchrist: Kensington Legion gets new digs with 1918 Tap and Table

1918 is a significant number for the Royal Canadian Legion. It signifies the end of the First World War and the beginnings of the Legion. Following the end of the war, numerous groups sprang up to support veterans. Efforts were fragmented so a few years later a unified Dominion Veterans Alliance was formed. That soon transformed into The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League. Incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1926, The Royal Canadian Legion — it was granted “Royal” status by the Queen in 1960 — has been providing services to veterans for almost a century.

1918 now has an additional meaning. It’s the new address of the North Calgary Branch No. 264, known as The Kensington Legion (1918 Kensington Rd. N.W.). And it’s the name of its new public restaurant — 1918 Tap & Table (403-209-1918).

The new Kensington Legion comes courtesy of Truman Homes, who did a swap with the organization and then built a sparkling new building for them next door to the old location. It’s a four-storey structure with offices and an 80-seat membership lounge upstairs and a bright new restaurant on the ground floor.

1918 Tap & Table is a sunwashed, 140-seat space facing onto Kensington Road. Done predominantly in browns, it features a sweeping, eight-metre high ceiling, windows east, south and west and a large bar along the north side. Two tall communal tables split the room into a low-table dining room and a lounge that’s filled with higher tables. A patio spills onto the road and around the west side of the building.

In all, there are more than 300 seats at the new legion and a 40-seat deck, all of which are handled from the main floor kitchen by executive chef Chris Murphy and his crew of 16. Murphy has come over to 1918 from the Bow Valley Club where he was executive chef. A Certified Chef de Cuisine, Murphy has also cooked at Delta Calgary South, Fort Calgary and the Petroleum Club.

Murphy’s casual, contemporary menu features a roast turkey sandwich with soup, salad or fries ($15), pork schnitzel with herb spatzle with arugula and shaved fennel in a lemon vinaigrette ($16) and pea-and-toasted barley risotto with walnuts and grana padano cheese ($14). The focus is on local producers with as much made in-house as possible. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. 1918 also features local craft beers and Fratello coffee.

While 1918 is open to anyone, membership here has its privileges, including a 10 per cent discount on all food and beverage and entrance into the private members lounge. Membership rates are  very reasonable and are open to almost everyone. Check out legion.ca for all the details.

New Hillhurst Market has Ethiopian flare

A few blocks away from 1918, the Hillhurst Market is now open at 221 19th St. N.W. (403-452-3938). Not to be confused with the Farmers’ Market a few blocks away, this market is a permanent fixture in the neighbourhood. At first glance it looks like a typical small, narrow deli but a few things quickly pop out. First is the bright red-and-green paint job. Then the scent of richly seasoned cooking hits your nose, the aroma emanating from a couple of soup pots on the counter.

The colour and the aroma are courtesy of owners Michael and Mimi Bogale, who also own Marathon Ethiopian at 130 10th St. N.W. The red and green are the colours of the Ethiopian flag while the soups (coconut chicken and mushroom recently)  are made at Marathon and are laced with Ethiopian spices. Soon more Ethiopian dishes will be available.

The Bogales are ably assisted by sons Endale and Nahon and have stocked their market with much more than Ethiopian fare. Hewing to the desires of the neighbourhood, they are outfitted with kombucha, organic products, gluten-free foods, soft-serve ice cream and a quick flatbread maker. This is the new generation of a family-run, neighbourhood market.

Hillhurst Market is open weekdays 8:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Calgary loses popular Italian restaurateur

The restaurant industry lost a real hospitality professional recently with the passing of Michael Rea of Rea’s Italian Cucina. Rea’s family has run Rea’s for over two decades, building it into one of the most popular — and best —Italian restaurants in the city. His high level of service, his good humour and his warm personality will be greatly missed.