Normally in the wee hours of Christmas morning, your blogger would have been trudging home from midnight mass, his mild annual winter rebellion against a Protestant upbringing.
So let’s talk about agriculture and hockey!
After all, both are important to our supposedly unique culture out here in Wild Rose Country, and it turns out they may have even more in common that we thought. Plus, sensibly enough, public gatherings are not on this year as we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
It’s almost reassuring, in a depressing sort of way, to discover that the instinct remains strong among Albertans to shoot, shovel and shut up.
That memorable turn of phrase was Progressive Conservative Premier Ralph Klein’s response in the spring of 2003 when the medical condition in question was merely veterinary, even if potentially human.
To wit, Mad Cow Disease, properly known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, had been discovered in an eight-year-old cow on an Alberta farm.
The farm was quarantined, its 150-head herd was eventually destroyed, and borders slammed shut to Canadian beef products.
In addition to battering the Alberta cattle industry, BSE was thought to have the potential, at least, to put humans in a nursing home — which, fast forward to Canada in 2020, turns out to be a very dangerous place to be.
Good Conservative that he was, a testy premier Klein’s advice to the farm community was the suggestion the problem might never have emerged if only farmers with a medical problem on the hoof would just shoot the creature in question, bury the evidence, and keep their lips zipped.
This relates to hockey, of course, because we have just learned the coach of a Junior A hockey team in Canmore, just outside the border of Banff National Park, has been suspended and fined $1,000 by the league for talking to the media about how more than a dozen team players tested positive for COVID-19 in November.
Canmore Eagles coach Andrew Milne told media at the time that “our group feels terrible for affecting the billets and putting people out of work for a couple of weeks, and the fear that it comes with.”
“It’s definitely something we’re going to need to address,” he told CTV News in Calgary.
Whoops. According to the league, Mr. Milne’s obviously on the mark commentary put the league’s “partnership” with Alberta Health Services at risk. That’s an interesting interpretation of the circumstances worthy of future questions.
In the meantime, according to CTV’s story, Alberta Junior Hockey League commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk said in a statement that Mr. Milne’s comments “resulted in the public misconceptions that strong protocols were not in place and put the AJHL’s partnership with AHS in jeopardy, both of which have now negatively impacted a return to play plan.”
“Consequences of his actions led to inconsistent statements regarding the circumstances and damaged the extensive work undertaken by the league office and its members to operate,” Mr. Bartoshyk said.
According to the commissioner, it’s OK for hockey coaches to talk to the media … about hockey. COVID-19, however, is apparently off limits. “They are required to direct any questions regarding COVID-19 and the league’s Return to Play Plan to the AJHL office.”
Needless to say, this kind of thing is unlikely to foster the attitude that Albertans should be encouraged to be up front and frank about coronavirus infections, the better to inhibit the spread of the highly contagious and dangerous disease.
Don’t just take my word for it, that is the general consensus among public health experts. It’s “critical that people are able to share their experiences,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw told CTV.
Nice to know the AJHL, though, makes its priorities clear about what brings “discredit to the league” and what its coaches can be trusted to say.
Unfortunately, the league’s message is doubtless clear to all. And not helpful in the circumstances we all find ourselves in.
You’d almost think it would be helpful if a political leader would publicly rap the league’s knuckles for this.
Despite his supposed admiration for the late premier Klein – which wasn’t mutual, by the way – I very much doubt Premier Jason Kenney will have much to say about this situation. After all, that would almost be un-Albertan.