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Female hockey official says gender cost her opportunity to referee AJHL games

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Cassandra Gregory’s talent as a hockey linesman was recognized when she was assigned to work the men’s final at a prestigious annual midget triple-A tournament in Calgary on Jan. 1.

The 23-year-old from Edmonton also was nominated by her region’s referees committee to work lines in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season.

She was asked in August if she was available for exhibition games, which would have made her the first female official in the AJHL.

“Everybody was ecstatic because we’ve finally broken the female barrier in the Alberta Junior Hockey League,” said former NHL linesman Mike Cvik, who now volunteers as an officials supervisor in the province.

“Saskatchewan has already done it, B.C. has done it, Manitoba has done it.”

‘Because I’m a female’

But Gregory was informed she would not work those AJHL exhibition games.

She said she was told by Hockey Alberta referee-in-chief Craig DeCoursey “this was all happening because I’m a female. And those were his exact words. They didn’t even try and hide it.

“I honestly lost sleep over it for the first week and a half,” Gregory continued. “I would sleep maybe two hours a night and wake up absolutely upset. I do have aspirations to work at the highest level possible.”

DeCoursey denied gender was the reason he gave to Gregory for the rejection of her nomination.

“She expressed that to me. I tried to explain I didn’t believe that was the case,” DeCoursey said. “I feel like she went away not believing what I had to say.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with gender whatsoever.”

But a referees committee member who spoke on the condition he not be identified said “the resistance is coming because she’s a female and the extra hoops are being presented because of that.”

AJHL denies gender bias

The AJHL assigns referees to games, but Hockey Alberta is responsible for assigning linesmen, according to AJHL spokesperson Charla Flett.

“We’ve had female coaches go through our league, we’ve had female players go through the league and I think right now we’re at 11 of 16 team trainers and athletic females are female, so it’s something we’re not shying from at all,” Flett said.

“I understand where the question is coming from because we don’t have female officials right now. It isn’t something the league is opposed to.”

Neither DeCoursey nor Curtis Nichols, who is both the AJHL’s supervisor of officials and Hockey Alberta’s manager of officiating, would say why Gregory was rejected or who made that decision.

DeCoursey, Nichols and George McCorry, the AJHL’s vice-president of officiating, are the ultimate authorities on which officials get into the league.

Hockey Alberta’s six regions nominate officials for the AJHL and assign linesmen to games when they’ve been approved.

Nichols says roughly half a dozen referees and 10 linesman whose names are put forward by the zones each year don’t make the cut.

“Every region nominates referees and linesmen. There are people that are pushing certain officials and there’s others that say people aren’t ready,” Nichols said. “There’s a multitude of reasons why they may be rejected.

“We’re always looking for the best officials. It doesn’t matter at all, male or female.”

Gregory calls both male and female hockey games, but works primarily men’s hockey as a linesman in midget triple-A, junior B and college leagues.

She worked the Alberta Midget Hockey League playoffs in 2017-18 up to and including the semifinals.

In junior A hockey across Canada, there are four female linesman in Saskatchewan this season, Kaylah Krieger works lines in Manitoba, linesman Cydnie Rice became the first female official in B.C. in 2014 and Meghan Mallette referees New Brunswick Junior Hockey League games.

Females can’t reach top level of official certification system

Hockey Canada’s officials certification system includes six levels. The highest level women can currently achieve is Level 5, which became available to them in 2014.

Gregory is a Level 3 working towards her next certification. There are currently Level 2 linesmen in the AJHL.

Edmonton’s George Hart, an AJHL referee, has worked junior B games with Gregory in the past. Hart started out in the AJHL as a linesman and says Gregory has checked the right boxes to get a tryout.

“The path I took to get to the AJHL years ago, I worked the same hockey she did,” Hart said. “I’m not in that chair, but do I think she can do the games? Yeah, I definitely think so.

“The attributes of a good linesman would be awareness and judgement. Her awareness has always been pretty decent trying to pick good spots to go to after whistles and be preventative so the referee doesn’t have to call many penalties.

“Judgment-wise, she’s always been in position a lot of the time. She can tell if one guy and another guy on opposite teams are maybe having a bad shift with each other. One didn’t like how he got hit and his first chance, he might try and go back at him if he can after a whistle.

“I know she communicates well with the players letting them know ‘OK guys, we’re done’ and trying to talk them out of doing worse.”

Gregory is five foot eight and 155 pounds.

“It’s not how big and strong you are in breaking up a fight,” Cvik said. “It’s the technique you use when they’re done fighting.

“You’re not going to go in there and stop them fighting. You go in when they’ve stopped fighting.”

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart said at his December induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame that he would like to help women officiate in the NHL.

But Gregory is worried she could pay a political price and get passed over for future assignments because she is speaking out about her situation.

“There is a good chance I will never work [in] the league when this comes out,” she said. “It could totally ruin my career on the female side too.

“But I’d rather stand up for it and have it change in the future.”

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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