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Monumental achievement on horizon for Shanahan’s Leafs




They’re not a park, a swale, a landmark or a historical monument.

They are, I suppose, a tree: The classic maple.

Leafs fans Brian Game and Julian Bronk had their (ahem) game faces on for Wednesday night’s season opener against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena.
Leafs fans Brian Game and Julian Bronk had their (ahem) game faces on for Wednesday night’s season opener against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Maple leaves. Maple Leafs.

And now, because a bright 8-year-old boy initiated the petition, they’ve got a plaque.

Er, ta-da.

Lift the velvet drape and there it was on Wednesday afternoon, hours before the curtain rose on the 2018-19 season, franchise Year 102 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, nee the Arenas, subsequently the St. Pats, Leafs since 1927.

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Beloved, iconic, hallowed; up there with the New York Yankees and Manchester United as a way of life, a heart’s desire, a troth, even in days of wretchedness.

Which these surely ain’t.

Thirteen Stanley Cup championships under their belts and not for half a century, arguably, as rosy blue a fingers-crossed destiny as now, starting with an up-and-over overtime goal by Auston Matthews Wednesday night, edging Montreal 3-2 despite not being the best team on the ice.

Fist bump to Evan Allenby, the kid (in the John Tavares jersey) who made the nomination with his dad Shawn (in the Auston Matthews jersey) to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, via Parks Canada. Although it was kind of a weird sideways event, Parks Canada seizing a piece of the opening-night action.

Plaque shmack, you know?

“Over the last few years a lot of different people have had a lot of opportunities to ponder the Maple Leafs for their history, what they’ve done in the past,” said team president Brendan Shanahan. “We always say that we’ve very focused on the future, but we really embrace and cherish the past.”

Easy for Shanny to say. He never pulled on a shin pad for the Leafs all through those dark decades. He was off collecting rings in Detroit during the course of a hall-of-fame career. Until this Mimico boy finally came home to oversee a franchise transformation.

Maple Leaf Gardens may be a supermarket and the current rink now branded by a bank, but the Leafs are an enduring ethos, all glittery this season with Tavares, Matthews, Mitch Marner et al. A team to dream on under the stewardship of Mike Babcock, the general managing of Kyle Dubas, the uber-command of Shanahan, whose five-year Shanaplan is hurtling toward ultimate fruition.

“No, no, that was somebody else,” il presidente objected. “I never gave a number of years.”

The Raptors rouse, the Blue Jays dismay, but no team is so bred in the marrow of this city, this country, as the Leafs. So, along with that bronze plaque — not sure exactly where it will be placed — open up another can of 48th Highlanders and fasten your seatbelts.

“We’ve always been honest and truthful about where we were in any one part of our process,” noted Shanahan, and that’s no fib. “So I think our fans and our players have earned the right to be excited. I believe that they’ve earned the right to be in a position … to have the ability to now go all the way, compete for a Stanley Cup. Our fans recognize that, our players recognize that.

“I recognize what’s happening. We’ve been slowly building. For me, it’s always been about what’s next and what’s on the horizon. It’s always about getting to that next level. I’m really proud of the steps that have been taken, but we didn’t come here simply to be a team that’s a contender. Once you become a legitimate contender, it only gets harder.”

Fretfully, at the moment, with the distraction of no William Nylander in the lineup yet, still off doing the holdout bidding of his agent and perhaps his ex-NHLer dad. It’s not an impasse Nylander has any chance of winning. All the riches of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can’t blunt the harsh realities of a salary-cap era, with the domino effects of this current loggerhead looming as reverberations for next summer’s contracts with other young studs.

Shanahan, once upon a time a font of quote-bites as a player, doesn’t show his face much anymore to media scruffs; he has stepped back, presidentially, allowing hot-shot executive Dubas to make the interview rounds, be the voice of record. He did step forward Wednesday, briefly, for the plaque commemoration press conference, fussing nicely over young Evan.

And making a few pointed remarks about the significance of being a Leaf, of wanting to be a Leaf, particularly at this hyper-expectant point in their history. Which clearly was a dog whistle aimed at Nylander and those — hey dad — who’ve orchestrated this standoff, the one sour note clanging off-key in the opening-night symphony.

“I had said, at the end of my first season, that we need players that want to be Maple Leafs. And this might not be for everyone. But I know a lot of people that have embraced it here, that have had success embracing what it means to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, to represent the city of Toronto. You have to want to be a Toronto Maple Leaf and we are lucky to have a lot of players that seem to really embrace that responsibility.”

Shanahan knew precisely how those comments would be interpreted, even as he reiterated his faith in Dubas’s ability to resolve the Nylander stalemate. The implication is that the Leafs, if necessary, can move on without Nylander or, if it comes to that, trade him, for all his to-drool-for talent. It did sound very much like Shanahan was intimating that a haircut might be required in the Nylander camp’s demands — Nylander is not, well, the second coming of Brendan Shanahan — and the need to understand, really understand, what he might be forsaking for a million here or there.

“I can speak from personal experience that when I get together with some of my old ’mates from the Cup years in Detroit, we talk about living together and growing together, that’s what we remember looking back. At the end of the day we all found a way to fit with each other so that we could keep adding to the group. That’s obviously what we are asking some of our young players to do.

“There’s a lot of other voices, understandably. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. We’re not for everybody. But we think the players that we currently have, while it’s not going to be easy, we have great confidence that they have bought into being a part of this program, being a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs and representing Toronto.

“I hope they can look back 20 years, 30 years down the road, that what’s going to be important to them is whether or not they maxed out as an individual and as a team and have championships to look back on.”

And one final nudge, a reminder of how good the game is to those who excel at it.

“At the end of the day, when I talk about fondly looking back, we all did quite well financially, we all did quite well professionally on the ice as well. We’re a lucky group of people to be involved in hockey and the luckiest ones are the ones to move on with.”

Listen up, Willy.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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