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A broken stick leads to broken hearts for Canada’s world juniors

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When a Canadian is on the losing end of a hockey game at any level it’s never easy.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a peewee house-league final in Cole Harbour, N.S., or on the bigger stages like the world junior tournament, the world championship or an Olympic gold-medal final.

So imagine how the 2019 Canadian world junior team feels after its heartbreaking 2-1 loss in overtime in Vancouver on Wednesday. The team had this one in the bag.

There were only 46.4 ticks left on the clock in the third period when, with Canada up 1-0, a puck deflected off the left shin pad of Finland’s Aleksi Heponiemi and past Canadian goaltender Michael DiPietro for the tying goal.

But Canada still had a couple of glorious chances to take the game in overtime.

WATCH | Finland defeats Canada in overtime:

After tying the game with 46 seconds left in the 3rd, Finland scored after Canada failed to convert on 2 game-ending opportunities in overtime, knocking the hosts out of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver. 2:23

Captain Maxime Comtois was awarded a penalty shot early in the extra period after Canadian defenceman Evan Bouchard was hooked on a breakaway. But Comtois, chosen to take the shot by Canada coach Tim Hunter under new rules this year, was turned aside on his low blocker attempt.

A few shifts later Canadian first-line centre Cody Glass feathered a cross-ice pass to defencemen Noah Dobson. The native of Summerside, P.E.I., had an open net staring at him, but his stick broke on his one-touch attempt.

The unexpected turn of events gave Finland an odd-man rush the other way. Unlike Canada’s missed opportunities to close the deal, Finnish defenceman Toni Utunen, who just happens to be a Vancouver Canucks prospect, finished off Canada at his future home with a blast that deflected off the stick of Glass and over the left shoulder of goalie Michael DiPietro.

The Finns, all of a sudden, were off to the semifinals. They have a date on Friday with Switzerland, who pulled off a shocker earlier in the day with a 2-0 quarter-final win against Sweden in Victoria.

« We gave it our best, » said Comtois, who played through a painful shoulder injury. « Sometimes you don’t get the bounces in your favour. »

Hunter selected Comtois to take the critical penalty shot because he was the team’s best shootout guy in practice. But it didn’t work out, which it usually does when Canada hosts this holiday event. In the previous 12 times Canada has played host to this tournament, Canada has won five gold medals, five silvers and two bronzes.

Canada’s Maxime Comtois, right, misses a penalty shot on Finland goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen during Finland’s 2-1 overtime win on Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

But Canada never found its groove in this tournament. It was especially poor on the power play, going 0-for-3 in this game and scoring only three times in 18 man-advantage situations in its five games.

Finland might have enjoyed a slight edge in play in this game, but both teams had opportunities to salt this one away. Finland was foiled by DiPietro — often. 

The Canadian goalie, also a Canucks prospect, won plenty of fans in his future home. The Canucks selected DiPietro in the third round a few weeks after he helped the Windsor Spitfires win the 2016-17 Memorial Cup. 

Late in the second period, after a series of stellar stops, the crowd gave the Canadian goalie a standing ovation and chanted his name. This brought DiPietro’s mom to tears. 

« It was game that was played well on both sides, » DiPietro said. « I’m at a loss for words. You feel you’ve let your country down, but you also feel you’ve let your teammates down.

« It just didn’t work out. »

The second-guessing started immediately after Utunen deposited the winner. Did Hunter choose the right guy to take the penalty shot? Why couldn’t the power play get on track? Why was this team so inconsistent?

The bottom line is that it is not the 1990s or the early 2000s anymore, a time when Canada won five gold medals in a row on two different occasions.

Since 2009, when Canada, with the late Pat Quinn as coach, won its fifth in a row for a second time, five different countries have struck world junior gold. The United States have won three times, followed by two apiece from Canada and Finland and one each to Russia and Sweden. There’s parity in them there hills now.

Who knows? Maybe in a few days it will be Switzerland’s turn.

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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