With the Stanley Cup playoffs in the rear-view mirror, excitement is mounting on which players could be selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL's first expansion draft since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined the circuit in 2000.
The biggest difference with this expansion draft is that it, by far, has the best rules governing the protected lists of other teams than any expansion draft in history.
Teams had the option of protecting seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie, or any eight skaters and one goalie. Players with no-trade or no-movement clauses (NMC), who refuse to waive them, must be protected or bought out before the expansion draft.
Both Colorado (Francois Beauchemin) and the New York Rangers (Dan Girardi) paid the price to buyout veteran players with a NMC so they could protect another player.
Nonetheless, it would be folly for Vegas to not take advantage of a more level playing field and actually ice a competitive team their first year in the league.
And, there are just enough teams with roster dilemmas, and just enough random situations in play, to make the Knights competitive in year one and still have the beginnings of a development plan in place.
The Knights get instant credibility in the crease by drafting M.A. Fleury from the Stanley Cup champion Pens.
The addition of another veteran with a couple of years left in the tank as a serviceable backup (think Cam Ward) would then give Vegas the ability to jump on two younger goalies in need of just a little seasoning.
And there is talent, such as Antti Raanta in New York and Malcolm Subban in Boston, on those unprotected lists.
Five teams with definite roster problems - taking for granted none pulled off a trade the morning after I wrote this - are the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Black Hawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild. The Knights should quickly select Sami Vatanen, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Josh Anderson, Colin Wilson (or do the Predators leave a still only 29-year-old James Neal exposed?) and Jason Zucker or Jonas Brodin, and make their deals elsewhere.
There are also a few boom-or-bust picks the Knights simply can't afford to pass on, and those include Ryan Strome from the New York Islanders and Mikkel Boedker in San Jose.
Lest we forget, the Knights also have to reach the salary-cap floor and there are, probably, some intriguing options being mulled over by the Vegas brass. David Perron really should be a no-brainer from the St. Louis Blues and, with only one year left on his contract, Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens fits the bill nicely.
However, there are some "name" players out there whose production does not measure up to their salary. Their teams may be inclined to dangle them out there and see if Vegas bites.
Would the Knights pass on Bobby Ryan in Ottawa or Jordin Eberle in Edmonton? We'll know by tonight.
From what's being reported, the Knights already have four deals worked out. There's no doubt they've been offered enough incentives to pick this player, or ignore that player, that their management team will need a small wheel barrel to lug the draft picks safely back to Vegas.
Still, when all is said and done, Knights GM George McPhee is holding a lot more cards than any expansion GM before him. It's going to be a ton of fun to see how he plays them!
Satellite farm a tough row to hoe
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, June 19, 2017
The community of Inuvik has seen better times. The town was created between November 1954 and 1962 to act as a federal government hub in the Beaufort Delta region.
It was thriving until the Canadian Forces base closed and the oil and gas industry dried up. It's especially frustrating for the latter to have happened as Inuvik sits near three massive fields containing reportedly trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
But any moves to finally start accessing that underground wealth will be made more complicated by a five-year federal moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. The ban could make the onshore natural gas less attractive to develop if oil and gas companies can't access offshore oil as well.
So News/North has to wonder what form of bureaucratic penance the feds are forcing Inuvik to pay as a relatively new satellite industry there - so perfectly eco-friendly, compared to oil and gas - is being forced to wade through a licensing process wrapped in red tape.
The good news is Inuvik is a perfect place to install satellite dishes due to the greater line of sight at the Earth's poles when the dishes are pointed toward space. Six satellite dishes - two operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services of Norway, and four by Planet, of the U.S. - have been completed and ready to go since October 2016.
Alas, this may not matter if the federal government doesn't pick up the pace and prevent the industry from fleeing to more business-friendly circumpolar jurisdictions, such Alaska and Iceland. All six recently constructed satellite dishes in Inuvik still await federal approval.
Tom Zubko, president of New North Networks, the company that installed the satellite dishes, says what ought to be a good news story has become a frustrating example of how bureaucratic inertia can cause free enterprise to whither and die.
"All these millions of dollars sitting here just looking pretty," said Zubko. "None of them are working."
The company hopes to build another 12 dome-type dishes over the next two years but worries the investment could dry up if the pile of paperwork grows any taller.
Zubko says the problem is Canada's 12-year-old legislation, which has failed to catch up with this rapidly evolving industry. He says the legislation reflects the type of satellites being built at the time, mainly large-scale government installations that aren't dependent on a quick timeline.
Meanwhile, as the GNWT gathered June 11 to mark the completion of the much-delayed Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link.
The $80-million public-private partnership project was set to be completed by Aug. 31, 2016.
The 1,154-kilometre fibre line through extremely challenging terrain connects High Level, Alta., to Inuvik, and it will extend to Tuktoyaktuk once the all-season road is finished.
"This is an exciting day," the finance told the assembled VIPs and media.
"This is going to put Inuvik on the map in the satellite world."
He would especially like to see young people get jobs in the satellite industry here.
This seems like the perfect pitch the GNWT should use to pressure the feds to get the licences approved.
We must wonder what NWT MP Michael McLeod is doing to help move this file along. And we would hope McLeod and his Liberal government will modernize the apparently outdated regulations governing satellite operations.
Summer of youth
Nunavut/News North - Monday, June 19, 2017
It's heartening to see summer approach, and our pages filled with news of young people preparing for summer jobs, a new law program, and making a difference in the communities.
Nunavummiut can also take pride in the territory's mine rescue teams competing to success across the North.
The Department of Environment's Corenna Nuyalia showed us the benefits of working as a summer student for the government, which can bring decent pay to those who can find such work. That job, working as an administrative assistant after her first year at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, launched a government career, and Nuyalia is a great example of a young Inuk rising up.
And now, at long last, Nunavummiut will have another opportunity to get a law degree in Nunavut. Of the territory's first and only attempt more than a decade ago with 15 law students, 11 graduated in 2005, and nine passed the bar. It's a success rate on par with southern law schools, so the return of such a program has been a long time coming. Whether these people end up working in courtrooms, in government policy shops, or as active citizens, the territory needs more educated Nunavummiut who can take Nunavut forward.
And Nunavummiut must take heart that our miners, supporting so many back home in the smaller communities, are also among the best at taking care of their colleagues. Nunavut's mine rescue teams are to be praised for their success at the recent mine rescue competition, and for working hard to keep the mines safe.
This bright side is too easily overshadowed by the challenges faced by Nunavut's youth. A graduation rate, as of 2015, of 33.7 per cent (by the government's count).
A shortage of opportunities outside of the major centres. Challenges at home - housing shortages, food insecurity, a suicide epidemic - that create roadblocks for young people. The long tail of colonialism. Schools that have been left in ruins by fire.
And then there is the small issue of the government's insistence that putting off deadlines for Inuktitut education will somehow benefit the young Inuit who can't get a high school education in their own language.
It's no wonder so many struggle to be a success story.
But each of us can have a hand in helping a young person. University of Winnipeg researchers said in 2015 that parental encouragement made the difference for those who did graduate in Nunavut.
As students prepare for the end of the school year, take the opportunity to be an ally for the young people you know.
Show them the benefits of waking up and making their way to school each day.
Point out job and volunteer opportunities you see that will raise their spirits. Advocate for youth at DEA meetings and to the government. Speak up when you see bullying or children struggling.
It could take generations to catch up to the pace set by southern schools but the youth want their dreams to come true. People in the territory have to do what they can to help.
Stability for whom?
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 16, 2017
Aurora College is still in limbo. It's 'foundational review' is months away - at earliest -- and the only thing the government seems to have done worth noting is axe its board.
Last week, Education Minister Alfred Moses replaced the Aurora College board of governors with an administrator. His reasoning? To better support the review of the college's operation.
The idea that axing a school's management structure provides stability is puzzling at best. How does getting rid of the board accomplish that?
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green was on to something when she said this move appears to be punishment for the college's decision to cut its social work and teacher education programs after the government told the college to trim $1.9 million in spending. The program cuts were controversial at best and have put heavy pressure on Moses in the legislative assembly.
The uproar led to a petition presented to the legislative assembly as MLAs lobbied to restore funding and then -- suddenly, in March --- the time-purchasing 'foundational review' magically appeared. Now, poof, the board has disappeared.
The good news for Aurora is that the budget cuts were frozen until the review is complete; the bad news is, so were admissions.
So while the wait for the review continues, no students are being admitted to Northern social work and teacher education programs -- no next generation of graduates are being introduced locally in areas that are critically important for Northern communities.
One has to wonder, even if the review is completed by fall whether these programs will survive the enrolment suspension.
There are no guarantees the college's board will be back either.
As it stands, all the minister has accomplished on this file is save a bit of money while putting the long-term viability of the college's flagship education programs in jeopardy.
Bureaucracy shouldn't impede democracy
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 16, 2017
Financial transparency is important for fair elections but bureaucracy shouldn't be a barrier to attracting candidates to run in them.
Election rules in the Northwest Territories draw heavily on laws from other jurisdictions down south. These jurisdictions are typically more urban and have larger populations who have greater access to banks, governments and other institutions.
Last week, the NWT's chief electoral officer Nicole Latour made a number of recommendations in a committee meeting about relaxing a few of the territory's election laws.
First and foremost, she suggested the government do away with the requirement for candidates to provide statements from banks in their financial reports -- given that it was causing major headaches on both sides -- and allow a designated accounting official of some kind to approve the paperwork.
Latour got it half right. But she should be careful about what sort of official gets approved for this task. If she is talking about chartered accountants they are as rare as banks in the smaller communities.
A more practical solution would be to have candidates fill out a spreadsheet and then someone could guarantee it, not unlike finding a guarantor for a passport.
Another suggestion, to increase the penalty for failing to file candidate financial reports to $5,000 from $250 is way too high of an amount, and will surely only serve to dissuade people from running.
The chief electoral officer's other suggestion of a $50 a day fine for late financial reports is far more reasonable.
Elections need to be free and fair but good candidates shouldn't be scared off by red tape and fines.
Bait thieves with kindness
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 15, 2017
As remarkably friendly as the people of Inuvik are, no community is free of troublemakers.
The John Wayne Kiktorak Centre, Inuvik Community Greenhouse and Aurora College have all been victims of break-ins in recent weeks.
It's hard to pick out worse places for people to deliberately damage. You've got a shelter for people in need, a beloved community resource and an educational institution. Maybe the hospital would rank well as the next target - really take out the pillars of society.
Often, people who steal and cause such mischief are in a poor state themselves, whether in a dire situation financially or subject to morality-altering drugs and substances.
Stealing from the John Wayne Kiktorak Centre, a facility specifically for such people who need help, is a bizarre and seemingly incongruous move.
Then again, hypocrisy might not be a thought on the perpetrators' minds, more focused on any opportunity to steal what they can.
The crimes may not all be related, but there is a clear common denominator: mischief is attracted to goodness.
Therefore, perhaps we could construct the ultimate trap for these troublemakers and misfits like them.
It has to be more supportive than a food bank, more educational than a college and more comforting than a homeless shelter.
No doubt it should serve the elderly, the youth, the disadvantaged, those who just need a friend and anyone who would like a hug.
However we shape it, it must be a bastion of pure support and community betterment, existing solely to improve the lives of people in Inuvik with no possible debate about its intentions.
Then, we advertise this fact. We sing its praises in the media, the streets and the coffee shops. We create a fake building with a big, bright sign. Perhaps we call it The Inuvik House of Happiness, Love, Freedom and Prosperity.
And below that sign, we list our business hours, conveniently ending at 9 p.m. each night.
The goodness within will draw thieves like flies to honey.
Once the prey enter the house, the door automatically locks behind them, trapping them inside, while a spring mechanism in the floor launches them across the room so they cannot use new entries to make their escape.
We could leave this going for a good week or two to make sure we catch all of the troublemakers in town. A few buckets of river water left inside the building will ensure the captives do not die in the meantime.
Surveillance cameras could live-stream the would-be thieves' compromising situation, creating something of Inuvik's own Big Brother show.
When it seems like the flow of inmates has trickled to a halt, the RCMP simply barge in and arrest them all. Or we just leave them there and go about our lives.
In times like these, ingenuity is needed in dealing with those who wish to dim the bright lights of our community.
If it can entertain us at the same time, that's two birds with one stone.