British-Jamaican Marilyn Neufville: Youthfullness, Sprint World Records, Controversy, and Injuries

Introduction

As an elite black Jamaican athlete in the United Kingdom during the tumultuous years of racism and black power movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s, controversy would swirl around slender Marilyn Fay Neufville.

A south London resident who had migrated from Jamaica when she was eight years old, and even competed for Britain internationally, she had “defied British officials and missed a meet against East Germany in order to train with the Jamaican team” (Associated Press: 1970). Neufville had ran for the Cambridge Harriers of southeast London during her teens after she had arrived in Britain in 1961 when she was 8 years old. Four months before the summer Commonwealth Games of 1970, Neufville had represented Britain and won the 400m title for Britain. She was born in Hectors River in Portland (Jamaica) on November 16th 1952. She started as a short-distance sprinter, and it was at the end of 1969, that she started concentrating on the 400m.

1967

Neufville first became significantly recognized at national level when in 1967 she won two Amateur Athletic Association of England sprint titles in the under-15 group: the 100 and 150 yards (in 17.3 seconds).

1968

Again as a junior, in 1968, she won in the 220 yards in the Amateur Athletic Association under-17 group in 23.9 seconds–a new national record in this category. The Amateur Athletic Association, reputably the oldest athletics’ national governing body in the world, was established in April 1880. The championships are regarded as the British National Championships, though they have been open to foreign competitors.

1969

As an intermediate (under-17), Neufville won the English Schools Championships title in the 150 yards, improving her personal best to 16.6 seconds in Shrewsbury. She would progress to the women’s Amateur Athletic Association championships in 1969 and was just beaten into second place (24.3) by 28 year-old legendary Dorothy Hyman (23.7) in the 200m; Val Peat, the previous champion, won the bronze medal (24.3). Hyman, a multiple medallist at the European Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics is regarded as Britain’s greatest sprinter.

During 1969, 16 year-old Neufville was ranked 27th in the 400m in the world, courtesy of her personal best (54.2) executed in London on October 9th. Earlier, on August 23rd 1969, running for the track team Cambridge Harriers, Neufville ran a 54.4 in the 400m which time still places her among the top ten British youngsters among the under-17 group. In September, Neufville was part of the winning 4x400m relay team that won in the track meet versus West Germany in Hamburg. Also on September 6th 1969, she won the 300m in London, in 38.3 seconds. This time is still listed as among the best among United Kingdom youngsters under 17 years of age.

1970 and the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in Edinburgh

As a British runner, Marilyn’s personal outdoor best in the 400m would become 52.6 achieved when she won The Internationales Stadionfest 400m title in 1970. Here, in Berlin, she smashed the British record. The silver and bronze medallists were West Germans Christel Frese (54.3) and Inge Eckhoff (54.5). Neufville’s personal best indoors was her 53.01 world record breaking and winning performance that is mentioned below.

At the 1970 European Athletics Indoor Championships held in Vienna (March 14th to 15th), Neufville, representing Great Britain, won impressively in the 400m (53.01). This, established on March 14th, was a new indoor world record; a timing more than a second below her previous personal best (54.2). The silver medallist was Christel Frese of West Germany (53.1), followed by the previous (1968) Olympic gold medallist Colette Besson of France (53.6). The indoor record would be reduced by Nadezhda Ilyina (Nadezhda Kolesnikova-Ilyina) of the Soviet Union, in 1974.

On May 17th 1970, Neufville participated in the Britain vs. Netherlands Women’s meet in Sparta Stadium. In the 200 meters W. Van den Berg of the Netherlands won (23.7), Neufville was second (23.8), and M. Cobb also of Britain was third (24.1). As for the 4x400m relay, Marilyn ran the last leg flawlessly with ease, and the British (3:45.1) beat Netherlands (3:50.8).

Also early in 1970, Neufville won the 400m title in the British Amateur Athletic Association indoor championships in 54.9 seconds, establishing a new national record. Jannette Champion (56.5) was second, and Avril Beattie (57.1) won the bronze medal. Neufville would participate in the same championships during the next year 1971, but this time representing Jamaica. This time the winner was Champion (now Jannette Roscoe) in 56.1, Marilyn was second (57.3), and Maureen Tranter of Britain (57.5) was third.

Still in 1970, Marilyn Fay was a notable fixture at the South of England Championships that were held in London. Here, she won the 200m and 400m in 23.9 and 52.0 seconds, respectively–both new records in the annual event. She would return to the Championships the next year 1971 as a Jamaican, and would retain the 200m title, winning in 24.2 again in London.

On July 23rd at the Commonwealth Games, the 17 year-old long-legged and slim Neufville established a new 400m world record of 51.02, and then the next day at a press conference refused to comment on the accomplishment in which she had just lowered the record, that had been jointly held by the French women Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos (set in Athens in 1969), by a massive seven-tenths of a second. The 51.02 would endure as Neufville’s personal best. Neufville had won by a full twenty seconds ahead of the runner-up Sandra Brown of Australia (53.66), in a time one second faster than she had ever ran in the event! The performance was the day’s highlight at the Commonwealth Games. Judith Ayaa of Uganda was third (53.77).

On July 24th, “at a bizarre news conference,” Neufville, “… sat with her Jamaican team manager, Norman Hill… and just silently shook her head at every question” (Associated Press: 1970). In the extraordinary scene, Hill had brought her into the room that was lined with forty newsmen and ushered her into the reserved seat of honor, and then declared that she was not going to answer to any questions and comments. As for her silent passive response, the manager Hill explained that Neufville was warily tense about uttering anything that would possibly jeopardize her future in athletics. Indeed she had ran for Jamaica, though she had formerly ran for Britain to which she was tied under the international rules of athletics.

Would Neufville be in trouble with the British Amateur Athletic Association for which she had competed in world events? She had been allowed by the Association to tour Europe with the Jamaican team, as long as she would return and be part of Britain’s team to be pitted against East Germany. Neufville defiantly stayed with Jamaicans, she did not show up for the European track meet executed two weeks earlier. Hill was even evasive in replying about whether Marilyn Fay, in maintaining silence, was protesting British officials’ attitude. Marilyn would later compete in the 4x100m relay: the Jamaican team finished fifth.

Though the Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, right in the United Kingdom, “Neufville was not jeered or beaten, though her preference for representing Jamaica while she was a resident in London angered many, especially as many [blacks] sought… British [sports] titles but were prevented from doing so by a rule that specified that a… contestant ‘has been resident in the United Kingdom for a period of not less than ten years'” (Cashmore 2010: 242).

It would take two years for Marilyn’s world record to be equaled–Monica Zehrt of GDR on July 4th 1972 in Paris. It would be nearly exactly four years later (July 22nd 1974 in Warsaw) that superwoman Irena Szewinska of Poland broke Neufville’s world record, down by more than a second (49.9) and the first ever below 50 seconds.

Near the end of July 1970, about a month after her Commonwealth triumph in Edinburgh, British track officials convinced that she was bent on competing for Jamaica, declared that they would not include Neufville on the British team that would soon participate in the European Cup competition. They would not object to Neufville’s defection to Jamaica, but would defer the matter to the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) for approval. Neufville even nursed the option of studying at an American college. After he Commonwealth performance, there was jubilation in Jamaica, she was officially congratulated by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer and also accorded a civic reception in her home parish Portland on the north coast of Jamaica. Neufville left Jamaica for London in late August, only days before her athletics’ national affiliation and situation would be decided by the International Amateur Athletic Commission in Stockholm. It would be decided that international athletes could henceforth be able to switch from one country after one year after competing, instead of every three years.

1971

In Toronto, on February 5th 1971, Neufville won in the 300 yards (35.7).

At the 1971 Central American and Caribbean Championships held during mid-July in Kingston, Marilyn Fay won in the 400m and established a course record (53.5). She was followed by Carmen Trustee of Cuba (54.0) and the bronze was captured by Yvonne Saunders of Jamaica (54.3). Neufville was also part of the Jamaica 4x400m relay team that won the silver medal (3:41.0), behind gold medallists Cuba (3:38.6, a new course record), and ahead of bronze medallists Trinidad and Tobago (4:03.2).

Only weeks later, on August 3rd, Neufville won a gold medal at the 1971 sixth Pan-African Games (held from late July to early August in Cali in Colombia) in the 400m–the first time the event was contested at these Games. Her winning time was 52.34 (51.34?), and the team-mate Yvonne Saunders was third (53.13). The two were also part of the Jamaica 4x400m relay team that also included Ruth Williams and Beverly Franklin and won the bronze medal (3:34.05). Jamaica was beaten by the United States (3:32.45) and silver medallists Cuba (3:34.04). Fay’s 400m performance in Cali was her personal best of 1971, and the second best in world annual ranking. Here in Cali, Carmen Trustee of Cuba finished second (52.8).

Neufville left Britain for Jamaica in July 1971, amidst the storm of controversy in which she claimed she had been mistreated and that she would therefore continue to run for Jamaica. She denied that she was leaving London because of racial prejudice. It was argued that under International Amateur Athletic Federation rules, Marilyn Fay would be eligible to compete for Jamaica in the forthcoming Olympics, but that she would not be eligible to under the International Olympics Committee rules.

From September 1971, she lived near Los Angeles with multi-world record-holder Chi Cheng (Chi Cheng Reel) of Taiwan and her husband and coach Vince Reel who also coached Neufville and was the coach at Claremont College.

1972 and the Olympics in Munich

The ninth annual Albuquerque Jaycees Invitational track meet was held in the middle of July 1972. Here Carol Hudson, a native of Albuquerque, ably beat Marilyn Fay and also Karin Lundgren of Sweden in 600 yard run. Hudson’s performance was new American record (1:21.8)

On January 24th 1972, Neufville competed in an indoor track meet in Los Angeles, in the 600 yards. Unfortunately, she fell near the end of the race. She was visibly in great as she was helped up. With a severed tendon, she became scheduled to undergo an operation at Glendale Community Hospital. The officials were pessimistic about her chances at recovering quickly enough to compete in the forthcoming summer Olympics in Munich. The track doctor Jerome Bornstein said that it would depend on how significant the tear was. He said that if the tendon was badly severed, it would incapacitate Neufville for at least six months–a condition that would spoil her regimen of adequately building up for the Olympics.

She was helped to foot her medical bill: “World record holder Marilyn Neufville became the first claimant to receive payment for expenses caused by athletic injury under the Amateur Athletic Union’s optional athlete’s insurance program, which went into effect January 1… a total of $1000 has been sent to Ms. Neufville and Glendale Community Hospital… ” (Amateur Athletic Union of the United States 1972: 9).

It became doubtful that Neufville would participate in the Wills-Qantas Olympic fund-raising meetings that were scheduled for mid-March in Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne. She was to have been a feature attraction at the meets.

In the middle of July 1972, Neufville was listed in the 27-member track and field team that would represent Jamaica at the Olympics. There were still hopes that she would recover from the snapped Achilles tendon that had disabled her from competing since the fall in January. In the second week of August, it was declared that Marilyn Faye had not sufficiently recovered and so would not compete at the Olympics.

Monica Zehrt of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) had equaled the world record held by Neufville. The latter was injured and unable to compete at the Olympics in Munich in 1972, but 19 year-old Zehrt, “[seemingly] unaffected by the pressure of her opponents or by her role as favorite” (Wallechinsky 2000: 206), went on to win the gold in the event, setting a new Olympic record (51.08).

1973

In the middle of January 1973, in Winnipeg, 18 year-old Joanne McTaggert of Canada won in the 300m (40.2) in the first time she had competed in the distance. She beat the big names Yvonne Saunders, Kathy Hammond, and Neufville.

At the Sunkist International Invitational Indoor Track Meet in Los Angeles, Neufville and Chi Cheng Reel, running for the Los Angeles Track Club, were part of the sprint relay that won in 1:14.3.

At the end of January 1973 Neufville, again representing the Los Angeles Track Club in the Albuquerque Invitational Track and Field meet, won the 300 yard dash in 35.4 seconds.

On February 23rd 1973, the United States Indoor National Championships were held in Madison Square Garden in New York. Neufville, representing the Los Angeles Track Club, finished third in the 440 yards (56.2), behind Brenda Walsh of Canada (55.5), and Kathy Hammond of the Sacramento Road Runners (55.7).

In the first week of June, Neufville set a Kennedy Games record of 55.1, in winning.

Near the end of June 1973, at the Women’s Amateur Athletic Union meet held in Irvine in California, Neufville was beaten into second place in the 440 yards. She was second (54.5) and the winner was Olympian Mable Fergerson (54.1).

The Pacific International Games were held early in July 1973. in Victoria in Canada. The winner in the 400m was Charlene Rendina of Australia (52.4). Neufville disappointingly finished sixth.

On July 19th 1973, Neufville together with the other Jamaican world record hold Donald Quarrie were included on the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association’s team scheduled to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Athletic Championships to be held during July 26th to 29th in Maracaibo in Venezuela. Injuries prevented Neufville from competing.

1974 and the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in Christchurch

Marilyn Fay at 21, would travel to Christchurch in New Zealand to represent Jamaica at the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in 1974. The injuries plagued her and she would only afford a sixth place finishing in the 400m (54.04). The gold medallist was her former team-mate Yvonne Saunders (51.67) who had become a naturalized Canadian, followed by Verona Bernard (51.94), and bronze medallist Charlene Rendina of Australia (52.08).

1975

As a University of California at Berkeley student, Neufville finished fourth in the 800 yards, in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Outdoor Championships.

1976 and the Olympics in Montreal

On July 25th 1976, 23 year-old Neufville competed for Jamaica in the 400m at the Olympics in Montreal. Here, in the third of the six heats of the first round and running in lane 3, she finished fourth (52.93) behind Ellen Strophal-Streidt of East Germany (52.56), Christiane Casapicola-Wildschek of Austria (52.65). and Judy Canty of Australia (52.88). Though Marilyn Fay qualified for the next round (quarter-finals) to take place in the evening, this would be the first and end of her Olympic presence as injuries discouraged her from competing any further. Still, the 52.93 was her personal best for 1976. This timing is the fourth personal best all-time performance among the 400m University of California at Berkeley (California Bears) women track stars. The time is also the oldest only 1970’s personal best timing that is among the top ten best in the quarter-mile sprint. The best California Bears’ personal bests were established by Latasha Gilliam (52.53, 1996), Alima Kamara (52.75, 2010), and Marian Franklin (52.90, 1980).

As a student competing for University of California at Berkeley, Neufville’s collegiate personal best was 54.08, also established in 1976. This timing is listed seventh among University of Califoria at Berkeley performances, behind Latasha Gilliam, Marian Franklin, Kim White, Chantal Reynolds, Connie Culbert, and Kelia Bolton. Marilyn attended the University of California at Berkeley between 1972 and 1983.

In Montreal in the Olympic finals of the 400m, 30 year-old Irena Szewinska-Kirszenstein of Poland, also an outstanding short-sprinter and long jumper as well as multiple Olympic gold medallist, established a world record (49.28), ten meters ahead of runner-up 18 year-old Christina Brehmer of East Germany (50.51), and 23 year-old Ellen Strophal-Streidt also of German Democratic Republic (50.55). In 1974, Irena Szewinska-Kirszenstein had become the first woman to officially run the distance in less than 50 seconds.

The Aftermath

Marilyn Neufville has for many years been employed as a social worker both in the United States and the United Kingdom. She has worked at Local Authority Social Services in London, in a mental health care division. In March 2013, 60 year-old Neufville filled a claim over unfair dismissal in 2010 by the Richmond Council in London (Bishop: 2013). Accused of mishandling a case that involved domestic violence, she had been fired.

In the United States, Neufville lived and worked in and around Haviland and Halstead in Kansas, Martinsville in Virginia, and in Ballwin and St. Charles in Missouri. She lived in Oakland while attending University of California at Berkeley. She was also affiliated with Tilastopaja Oy Athletics, St. Columbas School in Kilmacolm (Scotland), and the South England Athletic Association. After he win at the Commonwealth Games, national stamps with her image were issued.

Jamaica women’s 400m record, established by Lorraine Fenton on July 19th 2002 in Monaco, is now 49.30. Neufville is still the only Jamaican woman to have ever held a world record in outdoor athletics. From 1978 to 1982, Marita Koch of East Germany lowered the 400m world record six times, from 49.19 to 48.16 in Europe. Her dominance was interrupted by Jarmila Kratochvílová of Czechoslovakia who in August 1983, lowered it to 47.99 in Helsinki. At 1:53.28, Jarmila Kratochvílová still holds the 800m world record that was also established in 1983. The 400m world record (47.60) was re-established by Marita Koch in October 1985 in Canberra.

Neufville was officially listed as 5’5″ and 125 pounds. She did not have the commonly significant build of a sprinter, and her thinness made her prone to injuries. As a result she was unable to perform at many international competitions and her performance deteriorated. But she was perhaps Britain’s first elite black athlete.

Works Cited

Associated Press: “‘M’ Student Takes First,” (July 24, 1970) in “Michigan Daily.”

Amateur Athletic Union of the United States: Amateur Athletic Union News Volumes 43-46, 1972.

Bishop, Rachel. “Social worker claims unfair dismissal from Richmond Council,” (March 1, 2013) in “Richmond & Twickenham Times.”

Cashmore, Ellis. Making Sense of Sports. London: Routledge, 2010.

Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Olympics. London: Aurum Press, 2000.

Should NHL Teams Relocate?

I’m too young to remember the Minnesota North Stars playing here in Minnesota or them moving to Dallas. But I can imagine all the fans being disappointed at Minnesota’s hockey team leaving. If the Minnesota Wild ever left, I would be absolutely heart broken, devastated, crushed – use whatever word you want. So would every other hockey fan in Minnesota.

Of course I’m talking about relocating hockey franchises. I don’t particularly like the idea of owners moving franchises because it can create more than one problem. Even if ownership changes hands and a new owner comes in, the new owner should not be able to move the franchise for a minimum amount of time. I can understand if it’s absolutely necessary for a franchise to move, such as poor attendance/ revenue or moving to a more profitable market area, but otherwise they shouldn’t.

A good example of this is what’s happening with the Nashville Predators. Billionaire and Blackberry CEO Jim Ballsillie has signed a letter of intent to buy the Predators from the current owner, Craig Leipold. If the sale of the Nashville Predators is approved, there will be a clause in the consent agreement with the NHL that Ballsillie would have to sign specifically stating that he will not relocate the Predators for a certain amount of time – seven years to be exact.

But I also read and heard that if he is not able to get attendance to average 14,000 fans per game next season so that there is a cumulative average of 14,000 fans between last season and this coming up season, then he can move the team because a possible loophole that could get the team out of their lease early with Sommet Center, the arena they play in. Which is also tied into the lease that Nashville has with the arena. Beth Harris said in her article on Yahoo!, Bettman: Nashville franchise `is not going anywhere,’ that there has to be a lease between the team and the arena where the team is playing.

There is a lease between the Predators and Sommet Center but a loophole could prevent the team from staying in Nashville if attendance averages less than 14,000 fans per game cumulatively for two consecutive seasons, as I just mentioned. For example, if there is a total average of less than 14,000 between last season and this upcoming season then the team could get out of the lease. That’s how current owner Craig Leipold understands it anyways. But of course “city politicians and lawyers appear to be interpreting the lease differently than Leipold [-] the “early termination” clause has to be invoked one year ahead of time, which Leipold planned to do soon. But one Nashville city lawyer said…that the Predators couldn’t invoke their escape clause until after the 2007-08 season, meaning they couldn’t leave the city until 2009″ (Lebrun, Collision Course over Hamilton Plan).

So in theory, Ballsillie could move the team either after this coming up season, 2007-2008, or after the 2008-2009 season if the Predators don’t average 14,000 fans per game cumulative through the end of next season.

If you had been reading up on NHL news the last few months, Jim Ballsillie had also put in a bid to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins but then later withdrew it. The Penguins had been talking about possibly relocating if they couldn’t get an agreement done with the city and state for a new stadium, but eventually they did. If Ballsillie had ended up buying the Penguins, he would have moved them to Canada, near Hamilton in Ontario.

I don’t like the idea of relocating a team for several different reasons. First off, if a new owner comes and moves the team right away, the fans of that team (say Nashville for example where the Predators are now) will be bitter towards the owner for taking the team and would be left wondering how the whole situation happened. If a new owner waited to move and got to know the fans better (and vice versa), help boost attendance, etc – just like the possible situation in Nashville – it would leave fans a lot more appreciative. If the new owner could help attendance along with anything else that needed addressing, the possibility of relocation wouldn’t be so high.

Another potential problem would be if the NHL has to re-format conferences if one team moves to the Eastern Conference from the Western Conference or vice versa. A couple minor problems also follow this. If a team switched conferences, for example, if the Predators – who are in the Western Conference – moved to eastern Canada, then there would also be the possibility of having to re-format the divisions as well, entailing moving teams around. This could also happen even if a team moves from the northern United States, or even Canada, to the south or the middle part of the country. This could lead to scheduling changes and nightmares because of teams switching divisions and/or conferences.

A third potential problem is a city that a team relocates to might not have a stadium ready for them to move into. In that case, a stadium would need to be built which has the potential for a whole different can of worms, including and the fact it could cost the people of that city a whole lot more tax money. And even if there is a stadium in place for the team, there would still have to be negotiations as to how much revenue would be shared, if there would be other games going on in the stadium, or perhaps concerts and/or other events. This would have been the case with the Pittsburgh Penguins if they had not stayed in Pittsburgh. Kansas City has a stadium built, or almost finished, that the Penguins would have used PLUS getting all the revenue AND would have had to pay for operating costs entirely. The downside to moving to Kansas City for them would be a smaller hockey area (like Nashville, who’s known for country music more so than hockey) and would have to shell out their own money for operating costs. If they moved to any place else like Las Vegas or even Hamilton, Ontario, a stadium would more than likely have to be built just for the team. Plus, Las Vegas isn’t necessarily a good place for a hockey team. Granted it’s a big city but it’s hot there and it’s not really a hockey market per se.

I know what some people are probably thinking – how can you say that relocation of a team is not a good thing? It’s not totally bad – I do understand that. Relocation can, obviously, get a team to move from a non-traditional hockey market such as Florida or Arizona to a more traditional hockey market like the northern United States or even Canada, and it can create more money for that area as a result of the fans who are going to be spending money on tickets, etc, and overall create a general interest in the sport. As I just mentioned, relocation can get more fans out to the game – even those who are just slightly interested in the game. That in turn can create more jobs and more money for the city.

Adverting on TV, radio, Internet, etc can definitely help a lot as well in terms of getting people out and attracting more people, but one will also need to consider the cost of advertising as well. It costs quite a bit to advertise the team, especially if you are advertising on a lot of different media. Plus you run the risk of fans not coming out to see the team despite all the advertising efforts. Too much advertising can change the perception of people and whether they want to go out and see or buy something. Fans might choose to watch the games on TV for some time firs before spending their money to watch the games in person, which of course hurts attendance and in the end, the revenues as a result. Advertising for a team overall, can be a good thing if it’s not overused. It can create many positives for the team as I just mentioned – such as bringing more fans out to the games for example – but if over-used, it may risk turning fans away from coming out to the game and watching their team play.

What could tie into the whole concept of a team relocating is the fact that there are, plain and simply, going to be people who are just not going to be interested from the very start. Take Nashville for example. They averaged just over 13,800 in paid attendance per game this last season. This is a pretty good figure for a city that is known for country music and not hockey. I would be very surprised if they have had a lot of sellouts – maybe a few when they first came into the league in the late 1990s, and when Peter Forsberg got traded to the Predators. If any other team averaged only 13,800 attendees a game, especially those in the northern U.S. or Canada, they would be in serious financial trouble. And it turns out that the current owner, Craig Leipold, and the team has indeed been losing money ever since it came into the league. It’s been mentioned in several of the articles that I read, the Predators would like to average at least 14,000 in paid attendance per game so that they can stay in Nashville and not have to relocate.

Of course there are other teams that could run the risk of relocating, and quite possibly for the same reasons already mentioned, but choose to stay where they are because of the loyal fans that they have, or because of a lease they have on their current space; or perhaps it’s one of the many other reasons a team stays where they are instead of relocating.

There have been a number of different NHL teams that have relocated, and for various reasons. The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Phoenix Coyotes. The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas and became the Dallas Stars.

I know there have been teams that have moved to places where originally, hockey really wasn’t very popular. They have ended up making a big impact on the community and the popularity has just gone up like crazy. As a result, there are now more hockey teams, more rinks, and overall, more interest in the sport has gone up. The Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes, for example, are in markets that are not known for hockey and they have definitely been able to draw fans even if the team isn’t doing well – as is the case in Phoenix. The Nordiques moved to more of a hockey market because people think of Colorado having the perfect climate and passion for the sport, which is more than likely why the Avalanche are doing pretty well with attendance.

This brings up an interesting point about attendance. There has been some talk about how attendance is down around the league in general, but yet doesn’t seem to be affecting a lot of teams in the league. It could be a problem for some teams but we don’t seem to hear or know too much about it. According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, attendance is about the same from last year and seems to be pretty good for the most part, with the exception of a couple teams. The whole issue of attendance and whether it’s affecting teams has sparked conversation in many different areas including bringing up the possibility of whether the Predators are going to be moving or not.

While I have been talking about relocation of NHL teams, I know it can happen, and has, in other sports as well. The Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. The Washington Senators came to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins. The Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis and became the Indianapolis Colts. The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Lakers.

But of course, the other major sports like basketball and baseball don’t seem to have a non-traditional market like hockey does. They all seem to have pretty much a good, stable market where ever they are located, which helps quite a bit. It just seems that teams in other sports don’t have much of a problem getting fans out to the game and have to resort to the possibility of relocation. There are, of course, always exceptions in each sport due perhaps to the team not having the greatest win-lose record. Which in itself can be rather ironic because there are teams who don’t have a winning record, like the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers this past season, and fans still show up to the games. On the flip side, you can have a case like the Nashville Predators where they do well but they don’t average a lot of fans per game. So, the question is raised, in the case of the Flyers, do you move because the team sucks and there’s still a decent turnout? No, of course not. There could be any number of factors to consider for that. So do you relocate because there aren’t a lot of fans coming out even though the team is doing well, such is the case with Predators? I would answer that it depends. If you’re continuously losing money and attendance doesn’t go up, then probably yes. But if you’re starting to make some money and attendance is going up, then probably not.

While there have been cities and states that have gotten a team back, such as Minnesota getting another hockey team with the Wild, Baltimore getting another football team in the Ravens, Washington D.C. getting a baseball team in the Nationals, that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is whether teams should relocate or not and if they do, they should have a legitimate reason to move.

And that gets me on just one more point on why I am not really in favor of teams relocating. It’s the point that relocating teams can have such a negative impact on the community they are leaving like I mentioned earlier with the Nordiques, North Stars, and Jets moving to the southern states. Teams that move from one city to another can disrupt the whole community aspect of the city that they are leaving. Remember what it felt like when the North Stars left? Everybody had had a general common interest, a common bond in the team and when they left, it left such a huge void for so many. No more friendly banter about the team and how the season was going, no more community events sponsored by the team, none of that comradery in attending games.

Granted, a number of the teams that have relocated to new cities have been able to create a genuine interest, building a sense of community among the sports fans and getting a sport growing in the area, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes relocating a team can have a negative community aspect because the citizens in the new host city may not want the team there. I also have read that there are some former Quebec Nordiques fans from when the team was there that are now Colorado Avalanche fans. So in all reality, I think relocation of a team can have a negative impact on the feeling of a community in a city and having a team stay where they are can have just as many positives as if they relocated to a new city.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m on the fence, so to speak, of teams relocating because I know there are both pros and cons of relocating teams to new cities. But as I mentioned earlier, I’m more on the side that teams/franchises should not relocate unless they absolutely have to. I know that there are some exceptions such as moving from a non-traditional hockey market to a more traditional hockey market, moving because of declining attendance or revenue among other reasons, but they should not relocate just because they can, or just because they want to. Teams/franchises should have a legitimate reason to why they are relocating to a new city – and not because owners can move a team just because they can and have the money to do so.

Sources I Looked At:

Harris, Beth. “Bettman: Nashville franchise `is not going anywhere’.” Yahoo!. 28 May 2007. 29 May 2007. http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news;_ylt=AqhET94fiME.qchctGdfH5R7vLYF?slug=ap-stanleycup-bettman&prov=ap&type=lgns>

Lebrun, Pierre. “NHL, Ballsillie could be headed for collision course over Hamilton plans.” Yahoo!. 14 June 2007. 15 June 2007.
http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news?slug=cp-nhl_predators_balsillie&prov=cp &type=lgns>

Marijuana Grow Ops in Your Neighborhood: Warning Signs to Look For!

Grow Ops: Signs to look for!

Hi everyone:

Marijuana Grow Ops make our news every few weeks, usually when a large operation is ‘busted’ by police. Quite often they end up on the news when it happens to be a $500,000-house in an upscale neighborhood, but make no mistake about it, Grow Ops can happen anywhere.

With an estimated street value of approximately $1,000 per full-gown plant, and an average house being able to handle hundreds of plants per crop, it is easy to see that the price of the house has little impact on the bottom line. In fact, organized crime focused their efforts on nicer, upscale neighborhoods primarily because residents used to think “THAT would never happen in OUR neighborhood!”.

The amount of damage caused by these operations is considerable, and can be categorized in 3 areas: First, there is the structural damage caused by altering the building itself. Culprits damage the electrical hookup, and often convert fireplaces to act as vents for the house. Foundation walls are often ripped open in an effort to steal hydro electricity, which must be used in huge quantities during the grow ops operation.

The second category of damage is that caused by the excessive moisture as a result of the operation. Moisture which, over time, gets into the walls, attic and every crack and crevice in the home, creating harmful mold. The third area of damage is that done to the property value of the home in question, and in fact to the entire neighborhood. Having a neighbors house on the news, with the accompanying story of ‘organized crime’ and ‘toxic mold’, can’t be good for your property values.

Nor are Grow Ops confined to houses: As an example, in March 2004, Toronto police discovered a huge grow-op in 8 apartments in 2 Toronto high-rise buildings. Some of the apartments had been structurally altered to accommodate the operation, which caused $150,000 in damage. 800 plants, some as high as 6 feet, were seized.

Winnipeg Police have long ago discovered effective ways to locate and fight this threat to our neighborhoods. But police require the help of watchful citizens, who call in and report possible Grow Ops in their areas.

So here are a couple of signs that neighbors should be on the lookout for:

1) Lack of Traffic or Odd-Hour Traffic

New people have moved in, but no one ever sees them. Not likely to have children living in houses used as Grow Ops, and any traffic in and out might be at late hours.

2) Excessive moisture on windows

Windows may be covered by tarps, foil or other material, and excessive water is witnessed on the inside of the pane

3) Tampered Electrical Meter

The ground around the Hydro Meter has been turned, or you’ve seen people working around that area.

4) No garbage or re-cycling left out

Since no one actually lives in the house, no garbage is being created.

5) Don’t count on racial profiling

These folks have gotten smart. Don’t assume that the culprits who run Grow Ops will be from one ethnic group or another, or even that they are all male.

These are just some of the main things to look for. No one knows your neighborhood better than YOU. So if you notice any of these signs, call your local police or CrimeStoppers Tip Line, and help your neighborhood out.

Learn How to Manage Your Debt!

Debt is the subject of talk shows, news items and even jokes. The reality TV series “Until debt do us part,” has even been a hit. However, debt is the cause of many marriage breakups, job losses and suicides as well.

Being in debt is not necessarily an evil thing, in spite of what many religious leaders have warned over the centuries. Indeed, there can be such a thing as “good” or “creative” debt, such as borrowing money against your home, and then investing it wisely and thoughtfully, while “writing off” the interest on the borrowed sum on your income taxes. We will discuss this strategy later.

Still, falling into debt is no laughing matter. Many people end up trapped in a cycle of “bad” debt, borrowing money all the time to purchase things that will only drop in value, or depreciate, such as an automobile or big screen television. I am personally alarmed by the gigantic debts being run up by university students, often thanks to credit card companies handing out credit cards like candy.

Let’s face it, most kids who go away to school at the age of 18 or 19 have had their parents doing their laundry and buying and paying for their groceries – not to mention making their beds. Over the previous two decades they were never taught how to budget or even pay bills which quickly add up to large debts. Most of these young people should never use credit cards in the first place, however, once they do, they quickly find themselves straddled with 12%, 18% or even 26% interest and fees on their monthly bills.

Ask yourself these questions?

  • Do you find that you are constantly concerned about your financial situation?
  • Are you always paying your bills late?
  • Have you started to get calls from creditors about “unpaid bills”?
  • Have you “maxed-out” your credit cards, and begun to carry large amounts forward each month, paying only “the minimum amount due?”
  • Is a larger and larger amount of your net income going to cover merely the interest on the debts you owe, without even touching the ever growing principal?

Here is a simple strategy you can implement to get out of debt:

Establish a budget and track all your income and expenses

There is usually one person in the relationship who handles the money and pays the bills. When I ask if they follow a budget, the answer is usually “no”; however, they feel they know where the money is being spent. I personally am very specific when it comes to my budget. I review and allocate every expense so I know where my money comes from and how it is being spent.

The process is relatively simple. I just take one of the envelopes that my bills come in and write the current month on it. Anything I buy gets logged on a monthly sheet and the receipt placed in the envelope for that month.

2013 NHL Draft Preview

It is never too early to look at the top prospects and see how they will end up in the charts at the following NHL draft. Today, we look at some of the most likely candidates that could be number one at the 2013 NHL draft.

Nathan Mackinnon

The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native is in 5th place in QMJHL scoring with 14 goals and 8 assists in just 12 games. He is already at a plus 16 and his team is in 1st in the entire QMJHL. Thanks to him and his top scoring linemates Jonathon Drouin and Stefan Fournier, the Halifax Mooseheads have the most goals in the league. Mackinnon makes his teammates around him better. Both Drouin and Fournier are 2nd and 3rd place in scoring respectively on their team and its because they play with Mackinnon. Unlike Sidney Crosby (Who was also raised in Cole Harbour) Mackinnon likes to deke and shoot preferred to the pass. His 14 goals in 12 games tells you that he has killer goal scoring instinct and a flair for the highlight reel goal. His plays have already made it on Global National News and his skills are heavily displayed on Youtube. He is just 18 years of age but he has accomplished a lot and his best days are yet to come.

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is a big defenseman at 6′ 4″, 206 pounds. He is a freight train at the defensive end and checking is what he does best. He is not praised for his offensive ability although he has 2 goals and 4 assists in 10 games with the Portland Winterhawks which isn’t too bad but his specialty is at the defensive end. He covers a lot of the ice and takes the man at the right time. He is very poised when moving the puck up the ice and always seems to make the right decision with his plays breaking out of the zone. He is very similar to Zach Bogosian of the Winnipeg Jets with the way he quarterbacks the blue line on the powerplay and even strength play. He has a booming shot and a willingness to use that cannon when it is needed. He doesn’t try to be flashy when playmaking but he makes the simple but effective play when he has possession of the puck.

Overall he plays a sound two way game with a physical edge and defensive knack for taking the man. He is still adjusting his play in his first WHL season with the Winterhawks but his stats should get better as time goes on in the season.

Sean Monahan

Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL is slated to be the 2nd centerman behind Nathan Mackinnon to be selected in the draft. He has an undeniable goal scoring touch and his playmaking ability is just as effective. His point totals are strong with 4 goals and 11 assists in 11 games. For him to be in the first overall seed in the 2013 NHL draft, he has some work to do. His team is dead last in his division with just 3 wins in 11 games played so far this year and he is already at a minus 10 with a group of teammates that are either hovering around the +5 to +10 range or the -5 to -15 range. Monahan needs to be in the plus range in order for his rank to increase and that is a difficult task at that. Expect a slight fall in his ranking in the coming weeks but you should also expect a bounce back in the coming months ahead. Don’t think he is bad player because he is on a bad team or is in the minus range. When you see him play, he loves to either skate to the slot with the puck or looks for the man in front of the net to pass to when he is behind the net. He loves utilizing the slot and he uses it well.

Hunter Shinkaruk

Another top ranked prospect from the NHL, Hunter Shinkaruk is a left winger playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers. He currently has 6 goals and 6 assists in 12 games with his club but his Tigers team is only in 5th place in the central division in the WHL. He plays almost identically like Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and when you see his highlight videos he displays all sorts of skill whether skating to the slot and rifling the puck top corner or making that cross-ice pass for an open player with a wide open net, his skill set is so versatile and unpredictable. He also does everything with great speed too. He does have a -7 on his team however the amount of talent he has makes up for his defensive short comings. He is probably the most talented player in the draft besides Nathan Mackinnon. He might just steal the 2nd overall NHL draft seat from Seth Jones if he racks up enough points this season.

Reduced Speed Ahead – There Are Alternatives to ‘Full-Stop’ Retirement

If you are a news junkie like me, you’ll often spend the weekend scanning the newspapers from cover to cover looking for tidbits of information about what is going on in our community and the world.

At this time of year, much of the news and many of the announcements are about scholarship and fundraising activities as well as graduation ceremonies. Picture after picture and article after article highlight the smiling faces as they accept their high school, college or university diplomas. It is also the time of year when honorary degrees are granted to local dignitaries who have made significant contributions to society.

However, quietly interspersed within all of these graduation ceremonies is another kind of announcement, that of “graduating” to the next phase of life — a career in the sunset of life called retirement. These smiling faces have contributed to society, to corporations and not-for-profit organizations for terms ranging from 30- to 40-plus years. These people have decided that whatever power, money, prestige or job satisfaction they achieved in the work world is no longer important enough. They have reached the stage in their lives where they want more control of their day, they want freedom, and they believe that retirement is the answer. After all, the summer season is the best time to call it quits and simply relax at the lake.

Yet more and more, you can expect that many of these smiling retirees won’t be smiling by the time fall rolls around. That’s because they focused solely on the financial aspects of retirement and they didn’t really think through all of the psychological impacts, which can be so powerful that people will feel they’ve been hit with a “ton of bricks,” so to speak. And it hurts!

One of the first pangs of pain a retiree will experience is the issue of personal and professional identity. This is because most of us have gained some of our identity from our professions. For instance, when asked what we do, we say that we are a teacher, an engineer, an accountant, a carpenter, an electrician and or a consultant. There is a good deal of pride in what we do at work. This is where we have gained all of our job satisfaction and accomplishments.

With this in mind, you might now be able to understand why women cringe when they have to answer “just a housewife.” And it’s even more difficult for a man who has decided to be a stay-at-home dad. Being a homemaker has simply never been given any value in society. And to some extent, this same concept of undervaluing segments of society has been applied to retirees. Somehow, society has considered retirees as a “non-entity” with little value.

So as you can imagine, the retiree who has allowed his/her identity and sense of satisfaction to be tied too tightly into a profession and/or an employer will go from feeling like a “somebody” to feeling like a “nobody.” These feelings can represent a wide range of responses including severe depression; after all, a sudden change of identity can be quite upsetting.

A second shock wave to hit a new retiree might be the lack of social interaction. Those with a large social circle which included work colleagues, bosses, customers and vendors as well as corporate volunteer activities is suddenly shrunk to one’s immediate family. And while most will gladly last the summer season with friends, grandchildren, travel or golf, once the tempo of life dies down, it can get pretty quiet and lonely. This is often the time when longtime marriages fall apart.

A third shock to the retiree’s system is that of personal time management. More than likely, he or she didn’t realize how they had become so attuned to a day that was managed, scheduled and scripted by their work responsibilities. While we might say we can’t wait until we are in control of our time, it is quite another thing to manage your time “all of the time.” It’s not just one day or vacation that you have to manage — it is every minute of every day.

As the economy heats up, I predict we’ll start to see that more and more of those baby boomers will be looking more closely at taking the retirement route. Yet, at the same time, there is a challenge for both employees and employers. First of all, many potential retirees are not psychologically ready to retire and would perhaps consider working part time. Secondly, employers are not ready to let their seasoned employees go. We need their skills, particularly as we move through an economic recovery,

So, what can be done? The answer lies in the application of three concepts: succession planning, pre-retirement training workshops and phased-in retirement.

First, organizations need to get a handle on their retirement and succession issues. You need to determine the age demographics, identify who is eligible to retire and when and what risks might be created. You then need to develop a succession and replacement plan that enables you to plan for at least five years ahead. Many of the succession plans we create include developmental plans for incumbents, yet most planning fails to consider what could be done for and with the potential retirees.

Pre-retirement planning creates a second opportunity for organizations. While providing pre-retirement planning in the workplace has not been common practice, there is no reason why employers can’t play a more active role. According to Greg Genik, managing partner of Career Partners International in Winnipeg, their “New Horizons, Mapping Your Path to Retirement” program is directed to all employees and helps them to develop a plan for a successful and satisfying retirement. And while many baby boomers want to take a different path at this stage of their life, they don’t want to leave the workforce completely.

This creates a great opportunity for employers to find ways to accommodate the work-life balance interests of their employees. One such strategy is phased-in retirement, which allows both the employer and employee to avoid the classical approach of “full-stop” retirement and instead enables them to engage in a broad range of alternatives. This could include a gradual reduction of a workload from five days to four days and then perhaps three days. Phased-in retirement can also include job sharing, part time, seasonal work and/or any other creative combination of time and energy.

With the growing economic recovery, baby boomers will be looking for new ways to live their lives. So, it is time for organizations to get creative and to think outside the so-called traditional retirement box.

Destination Weddings Offer A “Stress Free” Celebration!

I have been invited to be a part of several wedding parties for friends and family over the years, and for many of them, they quickly experienced the level of stress and the amount of time consumed in planning and organizing their local ceremony, not to mention the amount of people who were also involved.

For the very reason above is why I wanted to go in a different direction and have a Destination Wedding when I decided to get married, and I was hoping my future wife would feel the same!

There are so many time sensitive arrangements to take care of with traditional weddings, and if one critical element is not right on schedule, it can turn the day into a complete inconvenience for everyone, and not only for the bride and groom, but also for all the guests attending as well.

Spending Quality Time with Family and Friends is Important!

What happens when you have too many guests attend your wedding? I witnessed this first-hand where the bride and groom seemed to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying their hardest to talk to everyone they possibly can, and the conversations seemed so rushed, plus it was inevitable that they were continually interrupted by other guests wanting to get their own conversations in before the night and event was over.

I understand that some couples believe in family traditions, which seems to be passed on from generation to generation, and they of course would not change their tradition for anything else in the world. However, times are changing, and there are a growing number of newlywed couples thinking differently, and they don’t want to go through all the stress and tedious planning that is involved in a local wedding.

They’re looking for convenient alternatives to fit their current lifestyle, needs, and budget. They’re thinking that a relaxing week on an exotic island or a cruise may be the option for them. They want to be relaxed, stress free, and they also want to spend quality time with their loved ones, and special invited guests.

Comparing Destination Weddings to the Traditional Wedding Ceremony!

Now talking with experience, we took part in our own destination wedding, where we exchanged our vows in Varadero, Cuba back in 2004. We had the traditional ceremony, where we renewed our vows back home, and went through much of the traditional planning many couples would experience.

You might be asking us, why did you do both?

All I can tell you it was a decision we made at the last-minute to accommodate our families that could not make it to our wedding in Cuba, and the best situation we got out of this was the ability to provide many of our newlywed couples a true comparison between the both options.

When talking about the two styles of weddings, with a destination wedding, imagine sitting down in a relaxing environment ready to experience a gourmet style dinner with your loved ones. Having ample time to talk, and then later taking a leisurely stroll on the beach while taking in the view of the Caribbean Sea. Now does that sound stressful to you? As the days go by in destination we would spend quality time by the pool with friends and family as this was all leading up to our special wedding ceremony day.

All this without having to take care of any details of our ceremony! The fact that we didn’t have to exhaust any of our time with arranging our wedding, we were able to spend as much or as little quality time with all our invited guests, and never had that guilty feeling of wishing we had more time to spend with everyone that attended.

With the Traditional Ceremony we found it to be the Complete Opposite!

It did feel somewhat stressful, even if we tried not to let it get to us. Family came in from other cities, such as Windsor and Toronto, and many of them were staying with us, so we needed to not only accommodate them, but we also had to ensure they were entertained as well.

We actually had to deal with some last-minute cancellations, and do what all the other wedding couples had to do, and that was unfortunately absorb the cost of unused plates. Plus the fact that we had worry about time as our ceremony was at a Catholic church that as many miles from the banquet facility where our reception was to take place that evening. I will be honest with you, it was not as stressful as I thought it would be, but I did notice that we were so concentrated on the time, and making sure everything was going smooth, the entire day and evening for me to this day is still a blur.

If I were to compare the two scenarios, one being our wedding in Cuba and our ceremony back home in Winnipeg, I actually can still make out conversations in my head that I had with family and friends in Cuba, but if you were to ask me if I remembered one conversation I had at our ceremony back home, I would not be able to come up with one that I clearly remembered.

Now I can go on and on about the convenience of having a destination wedding, but let me tell you the benefits of costs and flexibility…

A Destination Wedding Is Not Only Affordable, But Offers Complete Flexibility!

If you agree, a wedding that is planned from beginning to end can easily run from $20,000 for an average sized ceremony to almost having to take out a second mortgage for a more elaborate event. Such factors to take into consideration when planning a wedding at home are; How many guests would be attending, where your ceremony and reception will take place, plus all the other venue decisions and expenses, such as photo sessions, and pre-ceremony dinners and related parties. Whew!

Okay, now with a destination wedding, you can easily spend far less for a very exotic and romantic ceremony, and if you’re a couple who really like to have that luxurious Caribbean style wedding, you can easily achieve your dream ceremony for less than $10,000.00.

As mentioned, our wedding ceremony and reception took place in Varadero, Cuba, where our total cost was under $2,500.00. We did some research and found a beautiful luxurious 4.5 Star all-inclusive resort that offered a “free wedding ceremony” and reception if we stayed at their property for 6 days or more and had a qualified amount of guests stay as well. The good news is, there are so many other destinations and quality resorts that offer this to couples looking to get married, or even for the couple that are looking to renew their vows. You even save more money if you plan to have your honeymoon at destination as well! No mental stress and of course no stress on the budget.

In conclusion no matter what direction you go in planning your once in a lifetime event, I agree that a destination wedding is not for everyone, and believe it or not there are still those traditionalists that firmly believe that a wedding at home is the only option. But if you’re someone who does not believe in the passed down from generation traditions, and you want that stress-free planning experience, and you want to avoid having to apply for a mortgage for your special event, then a wedding at destination has your names written all over it. Go for it, as I assure you it will be something that you will both remember for the rest of your lives!

Pilots And UFOs: Death In The Skies

The phrase “unidentified flying objects” suggests that UFOs have an affinity with our terrestrial pilots – both fly and share our airspace. Thus, terrestrial pilots should have seen and reported a goodly proportion of UFO events. And that indeed is the case. There’s been many an interesting close encounter between military, commercial and private pilots. No great news there. However, there have been several UFO incidents that have resulted in the death or disappearance (and presumed death) of the pilot(s) and sometimes crew too. That ratchets up the seriousness ante quite considerably.

UFO sightings by airline pilots (military, civilian, and private) now number in the thousands. Unfortunately, there have been instances of pilots who have died or who have gone missing (presumed dead) while witnessing, pursuing or otherwise involved with some form or other of UFO-related activity. That alone suggests that UFOs are not only a serious business, but also at times a deadly business.

The list of pilot encounters with UFOs is now so extensive that it would take several book length volumes to adequately cover the subject. There is however that deadly subset of those pilot-related encounters. Here are a few of the better known case histories and fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, they are relatively few.

MAURY ISLAND INCIDENT (1947): This incident is only indirectly related to ‘pilots and UFOs’ insofar as it involves an alleged UFO incident and the death of two military officers piloting a military aircraft, but there was no direct encounter between the UFO and the aircraft. While there is a massive amount of material related to the Maury Island Incident, from conspiracy theories and cover-ups to threats by the Men in Black, to the disappearance of witnesses and evidence (photographs), even something approaching an outright hoax that ended up involving several of the early pioneers in the ‘flying saucer’ business, most of that story isn’t relevant to the deaths of the military officers and is omitted here.

The basic tale revolves around Harold A. Dahl, his son Charles, and a dog. They were all out boating near Maury Island in Puget Sound near Tacoma Washington on or about the 21st of June 1947 (which actually precedes the ‘official’ beginnings of the modern UFO era by a few days). They claimed to have spotted an overhead fleet of what we’d now call (doughnut-shaped) UFOs flying in formation and surrounding another UFO which seemed to be having some sort of difficulty. The object that was in some distress or that was malfunctioning ejected some solid slag-like material which, obeying the laws of gravity, fell earthwards, struck and damaged Dahl’s jointly owned boat, caused some minor injuries to himself and his son, but alas killed the dog. Samples of the ‘slag’ were recovered. Via a roundabout route, two military (Army Air Corps) intelligence officers were ultimately called in to investigate. The two investigating officers, Captain William L. Davidson and Lieutenant Frank M. Brown of Army A-2 Intelligence, arrived and conducted interviews and obtained samples of the ‘slag’ before boarding and piloting their B-25 aircraft, destination Hamilton Field in California. The plane carrying the two investigators and the slag crashed near Kelso, Washington, shortly after leaving Tacoma, killing both men. Two others on board, one an aircrew the other a military ‘hitchhiker’, Sergeant Elmer L. Taft and Technical Sergeant Woodrow D. Matthews survived by parachuting from the airplane after it lost its left wing and the tail section due to a fire in the left engine.

An FBI report into the incident noted that investigators from McChord Field near Tacoma had investigated the wreckage and were convinced there was no sabotage involved. It’s noted that one of the leading USAF UFO investigators, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, chief of Project Blue Book in the early 1950s, wrote in his 1956 book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects” that he was convinced that the entire UFO sighting story was a hoax. The initial FBI field report concluded the story was a hoax as well. Regardless whether the incident was true (as some still believe), the cover-up of an advanced, classified but nevertheless terrestrial aerospace craft, or a hoax, the death of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown was real enough.

MANTELL INCIDENT (1948): If there was ever a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then the Mantell Incident qualifies.

On the afternoon of the 7th of January 1948, Godman Army Airfield (at Fort Knox, Kentucky) was notified by the state highway patrol of a strange circular object they could not identify some 250 to 300 feet in diameter that was flying along a westward course. Being conscientious officers, they saw it as their duty to notify the nearest military base – Godman Field.

Military personnel, including the Commanding Officer, spotted the unknown object in question from the airfield’s control tower. It was also witnessed from other Army Airfields (Clinton County Army Air Field and Lockbourne Army Air Field, both in nearby Ohio). Witnesses collectively described the movement of the object ranging from stationary to 500 mph; ranging in altitude from near ground level to 10,000 feet. The lone object appeared to be white, but with a reddish fringe on the bottom.

Unfortunately, a formation of four P-51 Mustangs of the Kentucky Air National Guard just happened to be in the air and in the vicinity – that vicinity being the wrong place; wrong time for one of the pilots, the flight leader, Captain Thomas Mantell, an experienced pilot (over 2000 flying hours) and veteran of World War II. Anyway, the P-51 flight was directed to get up close and personal and determine what this unknown object was.

Not all of the P-51’s were able to comply with that order to the maximum extent possible. One was low on fuel; two others didn’t have an adequate oxygen supply and had more sense than to climb too high though they kept pace with Mantell for as long as they could. Mantell, without an oxygen supply, however, being the flight leader and no doubt an alpha male, threw caution into the wind, boldly went ahead, outdistancing his wingmen when he shouldn’t of. He kept in hot pursuit, stating the object was moving at only half his speed and he was closing in for a better look. He allegedly described the object as metallic and of tremendous size, in contrast to some of his wingmen who described it as small and indistinct.

To make a long story shorter, Capt. Mantell climbed too high, blacked out from lack of oxygen, and the rest, as they say, is history. His plane began spiraling back towards the ground. A witness later reported Mantell’s Mustang in a circling descent. His plane crashed at a farm south of Franklin, Kentucky, on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. Some interested parties have suggested that while Mantell was an experienced pilot, he was rather new to the P-51 Mustang, and that this relative inexperience could have been a factor in the crash. Regardless, Captain Mantell was, as of 3:18 p.m. that date, the late Captain Mantell.

So what was the object that ultimately led to Mantell’s death? Well the first half-hearted explanation was that everyone had sighted, and the P-51’s had chased, the planet Venus! It’s obvious that no plane can climb high enough to get up close and personal with a planet that’s millions of miles away, so if Venus it was, it’s no wonder Mantell failed to close in on it. Desperate in the attempt, he climbed too high and passed out from lack of oxygen, that being the major factor in the resulting crash and his death. So went explanation number one.

Now Venus, depending on where it is in its orbit, can been seen in daylight, if one knows exactly where to look. However, it’s going to be quite faint as a daylight object at the best of times, and 99.999% of people, while quite familiar with Venus as the celestial object called the morning or evening ‘star’, have never seen the planet in broad daylight. I know I haven’t. That all of a sudden so many people, the highway patrol, other civilians, ground based military personnel, Capt. Mantell and his wingmen, zeroed in on Venus is absolutely astounding – too astounding to be credible. In any event, what Venus would look like in the daytime sky, and the description of the object in question, just don’t mesh. Scratch Venus.

The next best option was, at that time, a top secret US Navy Skyhook weather balloon. Why a weather balloon should be top secret is beyond me, but classified it was. The general characteristics of the Skyhook are reasonably consistent with the appearance and movements reported by Mantell and other witnesses, the sticking point being no particular Skyhook balloon could be conclusively identified as being in the area in question during Mantell’s pursuit according to some; facts disputed by the skeptics who said that multiple Skyhooks had been launched that day about 150 miles away. Regardless, if the object was a Skyhook, it’s little wonder nobody could identify it as such seeing as how it was a classified project and object. Of course it wouldn’t have been very politically correct to admit that a secret American military program resulted in the demise of an American military pilot!

The cause of Mantell’s crash remains officially listed as undetermined by the Air Force.

In 1948 flying discs or saucers were still pretty unique and so the first death directly attributed to a flying saucer was Big News and it was widely reported in the press. Unfortunately, some more lurid sections of the press suggested that Mantell had been shot down by the UFO and/or that his body was riddled with holes and/or his P-51 aircraft was found to be radioactive. These reports were false.

In the end, it matters little what the object was – bona-fide hardcore UFO or something more prosaic like Venus or a Skyhook weather balloon – Mantell was just as dead.

KINROSS INCIDENT (1953): On the 23rd of November, 1953, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla (pilot) and Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson (radar operator) were scrambled from Kinross Air Force Base in their United States Air Force (USAF) F-89 Scorpion to investigate the incursion into American air space, just on the American-Canadian border and over Lake Superior of an unknown aircraft that had been detected by Air Defense Command radar at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. At roughly 8000 feet elevation, after being guided by ground radar tracking that was also required for an intercept, an intercept was accomplished. Ground Control tracked the F-89 Scorpion and the unidentified object as two separate blips on their radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they seemed to merge as one return blip. Assuming that pilot Lt. Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that moments later, the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips. There was little actual fear that the two objects had struck one another in collision. To their astonishment, rather, the now single blip disappeared from the radar screen, and then there was no radar return at all. The F-89 apparently merged with the other mystery radar return. Its IFF signal also disappeared after the two returns merged on the radar scope. Attempts were made to contact Lt. Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but found not a trace of the plane or the pilots and radar officer.

The USAF reported that Lt. Moncla and Lt. Wilson had crashed and that the ‘unknown’ object was only a misidentified Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft. The official USAF Accident Investigation Report identified the unidentified second aircraft as a RCAF C-47 Dakota VC-912, crossing Northern Lake Superior from west to east at 7,000 feet en route from Winnipeg to Sudbury, Canada, that had traveled off course.

But, on multiple occasions, the RCAF refuted their involvement in the intercept incident, in correspondence with members of the public asking for further details on the alleged encounter.

So, like the Valentich case below, did a bona-fide UFO make off with an aircraft and crew? No trace of the F-89, Lt. Moncla or Lt. Wilson has, to this day, been found despite the alleged ‘crash’ in the official report.

SCHAFFNER INCIDENT (1970): United States Air Force (USAF) pilot Captain William Schaffner was on an exchange program serving with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in September 1970 at RAF Binbrook. On the 8th of that month an unknown objected was picked up by radar at various locations, and aircraft from various bases in Iceland and Scotland were directed to take off and investigate it. However, the object in question kept playing hide-and-seek, appearing on and off radar scopes as various aircraft approached, thus forcing them to ultimately abandon the chase and return to base.

When it became Capt. Schaffner’s turn to investigate and intercept, piloting a Lightning, the object quit playing games allowing the officer to make visual contact. He spotted and described a dazzling blue conical-shaped object minutes before his plane then disappeared off the radar. It would seem at first glance that his plane and the object merged, the object then moving off at high speed, but that was only apparent as the disappearance of the Lightning aircraft off the radar was because for one reason or another Capt. Schaffner was flying way too low and actually flew directly into the North Sea. And that’s when the real puzzles start.

The aircraft was located (within three weeks) and recovered from the bottom of the North Sea shortly thereafter (within three months) of the incident. The Lightning aircraft was largely intact with minimal damage; no explosion, in fact no signs of any mechanical failure that would have led to the crash. The canopy was in place and closed. Unfortunately, there was no body of Capt. Schaffner within the plane. Capt Schaffner’s body has never been found – and he did not eject from the cockpit into a survival dinghy.

So was the missing pilot snatched by aliens? The Board of Inquiry came to the conclusion Capt Schaffner manually abandoned the aircraft, but because he has not been found, he was presumed to have drowned during or after his escape. But, since the aircraft canopy was in place when the Lightning was lifted out of the sea (and pictures confirm that), how did the pilot exit the craft? So, regardless of what the unknown object was, and some say it was nothing but a slow moving Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft that had lost radio contact with the outside world that Capt. Schaffner was trying to intercept and not a bona-fide UFO at all, you still have a UFO incident and one missing, presumed dead pilot. Of course if aliens did somehow manage to abduct Capt. Schaffner while in the air, that would explain why his now unmanned jet landed in the drink!

VALENTICH INCIDENT (1978): America, the U.K., so why not Australia? One of many, many highly unexplained UFO cases is the events surrounding Frederick Valentich on 21 October 1978. It’s more a case of where there’s smoke, there’s smoke, but smoke there certainly is, and lots of it.

In a nutshell, on the evening of that date, in perfect weather for night flying, Mr. Valentich piloted a private plane from Melbourne, intended destination, King Island in Bass Strait. He took off only to shortly thereafter radio in repeatedly asking if there was another aircraft in his vicinity. That was a negative according to air traffic control. This ‘aircraft’ ultimately started hovering or orbiting over him. Let’s now call a spade a spade here and state the ‘aircraft’ was a UFO. The UFO was also spotted by several independent witnesses. While radioing in his observations, ultimately acknowledging at the end that the mysterious ‘aircraft’ was not an aircraft, all contact ceased; all communications abruptly ended. Mr. Valentich, plane and all, vanished without trace. An extensive air and sea search failed to find any sign of Mr. Valentich, or his plane. No oil slick, no floating wreckage, no body – nothing, zip, bugger-all. No trace has ever been found of pilot or plane – not then, not since, not ever.

One obvious explanation was that Mr. Valentich staged his own disappearance, although friends and family could offer no reason why he would do so. Of course many people voluntarily disappear themselves for various reasons; many eventually are found, are caught or reappear voluntarily. But keep in mind; it wasn’t just Mr. Valentich who disappeared. One entire aircraft vanished as well, never to be seen again. Surely if Mr. Valentich wanted to ‘drop out’, there were easier and way less conspicuous ways of doing so. If he had deliberately gone walkabout, in these decades since of security cameras and computer facial software recognition technology, it would be hard to remain an unknown walkabout in any populated area.

Was suicide a motive? Again, no wreckage or body was ever found, and who would go to all the bother of reporting a non-existent UFO overhead – a non-existent UFO that happened to be independently reported by others. Anyway, no suicide note was found.

And what of the plane since no wreckage was ever found floating on the surface of Bass Strait; washed up on beaches, or found on the ocean bottom – Bass Strait isn’t that deep.
It’s a mystery, and while it doesn’t prove aliens nicked off with Mr. Valentich and plane, there’s not that much wriggle room.

Interestingly, despite my (and others) asking for a copy of the Valentich ‘accident’ case report in an official capacity related to my employment at the time, the Department of Transport (Air Safety Investigations Branch) refused. To this day, to the best of my knowledge, that report has never been publicly released. A summary report was issued mainly giving the transcript of Valentich’s final conversation with air traffic control with the conclusion being that they could not determine the exact cause into the mishap.

In conclusion, there really is no common high strangeness thread here (though I’d suggest a few of the above incidents are individually in a high strangeness category), just a UFO incident and a dead pilot, sometimes pilot and crew. But that alone is enough to strongly suggest that UFOs are a serious business indeed.

Presenting: Calgary – Canada’s Heart of the New West

During our upcoming ski trip in the Alberta Rockies this March, we’ll be visiting Calgary for the first time. As a matter of fact, it will be our first time in the Canadian Rockies ever. We’ll have a brief one-day layover in Calgary before we move on to skiing in Banff and Lake Louise and will try to get a sneak peak at Alberta’s capital.

To prepare us for our compact discovery of Calgary, I have talked to Paul Newmarch from Tourism Calgary to get a lay of the land so to speak, to give us an overview so we’ll be able to explore Canada’s New West.

1. Please provide us with some general information about Calgary. How large is the city, where is it located, what is the weather like?

According to the civic census, Calgary’s population was 956,078 in April 2005. Calgary is located in the province of Alberta, 145 Km east of Banff, and 250 km from the US border. Calgary’s average summer temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter, average temperature is -8 Celsius. That said, there is a local saying in Calgary that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.

2. How can one get to Calgary and what is the best way of getting around in Calgary?

Calgary is accessible along the TransCanada highway, or by direct air from a number of cities, including the following:
Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Yellownknife.

The following US cities have direct connections to Calgary:
Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maui, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

You will find direct flights to Calgary from the following European cities:
Frankfurt, London and Manchester.

The best way to get around would be to use the Calgary Transit System. Train service is free in the downtown core, and a one way adult fare is $2.25. Otherwise, taxi cabs are available to and from all areas of the city.

3. Please tell us a bit about Calgary’s history.

Calgary’s history as a city began in 1875 when a detachment of North West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived. The NWMP established Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in an area that, at that time, had few permanent inhabitants. Except for local native peoples who used the area for hunting, the only full-time occupants were Sam Livingston, a homesteader, and his family.

Calgary was named by NWMP Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. (Although there has been much discussion on the topic, it is believed Calgary is derived from the Gaelic Cala-ghearridh meaning “bay farm.”)

On Nov. 7, 1884, Calgary was officially incorporated as a town and less than a decade later, on Jan. 1, 1894, the town became a city. Harness-maker George Murdoch was the first mayor of Calgary. The CPR was delivering a continuous supply of settlers to Calgary by 1885. These new immigrants had an impact on the established ranching life surrounding Calgary as they moved on to the range formerly inhabited by large herds of cattle. Although the ranching industry changed significantly after its arrival, the presence of the CPR led directly to the importance of the processing and exporting of meat to Calgary’s economy.

4. Please tell us about some of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Calgary area.

Perhaps the best known Calgary attraction is the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day western extravaganza of rodeo, chuckwagon races, pancake breakfasts, square dancing and more. It always kicks off the first Friday of July, this year it runs July 7-16.

In addition, Calgary is home to Western Canada’s largest museum, the Glenbow Museum. With exhibitions that change twice a year, and a permanent exhibit on the history of some of Alberta’s first nations people, the Blackfoot, it is an attraction not to be missed.

Calgary is also home to the world renowned Calgary Zoo. The Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, and the new Destination Africa and Canadian Wilds Exhibits.

There is also Canada Olympic Park (one of the host sites from the XV Winter Olympic Games), Heritage Park, (Canada’s largest living historical village), Spruce Meadows, a world famous show-jumping facility, Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city , the Calgary Tower and the Calgary TELUS World of Science, a family attraction offering hands-on exhibits.

In addition, there are numerous art galleries, and live theatre organizations. The best resource for this is [http://www.reallivearts.com]

5. Our readers would like to find out about the festivals and special events in Calgary.

Outside of the Calgary Stampede, there is also the Calgary Dragon Boat Race & Cultural Festival August 25-27, 20006; The Calgary Comedy Festival, FunnyFest April 28 – May 13, 2006; GlobalFest, which is a multi-cultural festival and international fireworks competition August 17 – 20, 2006; and the Calgary Folk Festival, July 27-30, 2006 .

There is a helpful calender of events on the Tourism Calgary website.

6. What about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Calgary?

There are a number of dining areas in Calgary, including Stephen Avenue walk (8th Avenue), the 17th Avenue District, and Kensington. As far as nightlife, your best bet would be along 17th (web as above) or there are a few clubs along 1st Street SW, or 9th Avenue SW, including Mynt Ultralounge which was recognized as best new nightclub by enRoute Magazine in 2004.

7. Please give us an overview of the performing arts on offer in Calgary.

Everything from puppetry to the philharmonic, Calgary’s art scene is growing and thriving. Here is a listing of various performing arts organizations:

Theatre Calgary

Alberta Theatre Projects

One Yellow Rabbit (cutting edge theatre)

Vertigo Mystery Theatre

Alberta Ballet

Calgary Opera

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

Theatre Junction

Loose Moose Theatre (improv)

Lunchbox Theatre (longest running lunch time theatre company in the world)

8. What are some of the shopping opportunities in Calgary?

The Uptown 17th District (as above) is also a upscale clothing district. As far as unique products from Calgary and area, there is Alberta Boot, Alberta’s only western boot manufacturer, Crave Cookies & Cupcakes (they’re to die for! ), Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut , Alberta made art at The Croft or Art Central. There are also two large malls – Chinook Centre and Market Mall.

9. What are the outdoor, recreational and sports opportunities in and around Calgary?

Calgary has a 635 Km long system of paved pathways on which you can walk, in-line skate or bike. Many of the pathways are cross-country ski accessible during the winter, but more than 95 km is cleared in winter months.

There is also hiking and biking in Fish Creek Provincial Park, skate boarding at Millennium Park and The Source Skateboard Park which is one of the largest indoor skate parks in North America, skiing at Canada Olympic Park during the winter, and downhill mountain biking in the summer. There are also a number of guest ranches where you are able to horseback ride.

Just outside of Calgary in Kananaskis Country, which is a 45 to 60 minute drive, there are all sorts of activities, including horseback riding in the mountains, hiking, biking, and white water rafting.

10. What type of accommodations options are there in Calgary?

There are numerous options, from high-end 5 star hotels to bed and breakfasts to hostels to motels. The best resource is the Tourism Calgary website’s accommodation search function.

11. What are some of the major events and big news stories coming up in 2006 and beyond in Calgary?

There are a number of exciting news relating to Calgary and surrounding areas.

Calgary was rated #2 in the world for business travellers by the Economist Magazine. Calgary’s transportation, infrastructure and perceived safety were all factors in Calgary’s high marks.

Lake Louise has once again been named among the top 50 ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine, along with Vail, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

Lonely Planet’s Blue List – 618 Things to Do & Places to Go in 06-07 has selected the Canadian Rockies as the number 1 Most Spectacular Natural Attraction in the World. They also chose Rocky Mountaineer as number 3 on the Classic Train Trips list and Banff National Park as number 5 on the Most Extreme Environments list.

Here is a brief overview of major events coming up in Calgary

2006

World Figure Skating Championships

Players Championship of the World Curling Tour

CIS Women’s Volleyball Championships

World All-round Speed Skating Championships

2007

World Power Lifting Championships

Alberta Provincial Games – Special Olympics

2008

Canadian Gymnastics Championships

Thank you, Paul, for this overview. Now we can start planning our personal visit of the Heart of the New West.

Myths of Housing Market Crashes

According to the news media, we recently experienced one of the worst real estate market crashes on record in North America. As we listen to the stream of bad news, we are forced to accept and believe that we have undergone a crisis. Yet, does that mean that all of us have been crushed by the economic collapse of the housing market?

In the early 1980s, mortgage and loan rates skyrocketed, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners forced to give up their real estate dream because of the debt burden. Many times that number of aspiring buyers was crushed by the reality that they could not afford to purchase that dream home immediately.

In early 2008, the outlook for real estate sales & purchase across North America was the most optimistic in decades. Houses were being built and bought at a frantic pace.

By early 2009, the outlook was the most pessimistic in decades. Houses were being defaulted into bankruptcy and construction projects abandoned at a furious pace.

Such is the nature of a housing market bubble bursting. Yet, there are significant flaws in the “universal housing crash” stories.

Without a doubt, millions of North Americans have been deprived of their homes, and the real estate industry has suffered a huge hit.

In the US, cities like Memphis have seen as much as 30% of its housing stock subject to mortgage default, while places like Phoenix have been struck by declines in home values exceeding 60%. Condominium construction in Las Vegas has been decimated, with a huge overstock of unsold homes.

In Canada, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton & Toronto have experienced pressure on home prices, even though cities like Regina, Winnipeg and some Maritime communities have seen continual upward climbs in home prices.

But, in cities where sales have escalated, there are communities and market sectors where the “bubble has burst.” And, in the housing “death zones” of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, there remain vibrant segments of the housing market that have continued to do well in the crisis. In fact, the crisis never actually reached the magnitude in Canada that many experts were predicting. The bubble that stimulated the federal government to change mortgage financing rules may not have posed the threat that the media suggested, either.

Even with the market poised to collapse in 2008-09, the real threat was not to housing stock or to the existing homeowner, but to the financing of home ownership. So, if the quantity of houses continued to climb, there must be an opportunity in that market! Indeed, an astute buyer, throughout the past 3 years, could find a real bargain in most cities hardest hit by the downturn.

The crash of the 1980s, too, was caused by financing problems, rather than housing availability. Still, homes were available, at great prices, for the person who had saved enough for a sizable down payment.

Much of the media focus on the impending housing bubble burst is directed to pockets, or areas that are at risk. Rising prices have moved many homes out of the reach of first-time buyers. But that has happened in the past, and the market has corrected. Yet, new homeowners continue to show up, as they adjust their budgets and saving habits to enable their purchase.

Those corrections are not immediate. When a mid-range price market folds, new construction may move to entry-level or upscale homes. When new homes become too pricey for many of us, older homes, character homes, or existing starter homes fill the gap.

The media succeeds when people view, read or listen. People view, read or listen when the news is exciting. The media hype would have had us believe everyone was going to die of Ebola 15 years ago, Legionnaires disease 25 years ago, West Nile Virus ten years ago, or terrorist-generated anthrax five years ago. As serious as the threats may have been, catastrophe was not inevitable. As serious as the economic collapse of the past two years may be, home ownership collapse is not inevitable.

With the challenges that the housing industry faces, the reality is that, like Julie Andrews says (paraphrased) in the Sound of Music, “Whenever a door closes, somewhere a window opens.”

Today’s housing market should be looked at not as a wasteland of crises, but a field of opportunities, where, in the right area, the right market, at the right price, there are fantastic prospects for acquiring your dream home, or making a lucrative investment. Perhaps, even, you may be on the vanguard of a new real estate “gold rush.” The window is open.