The Flames did not deserve to win

**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog

Reginald Tiangha – Let’s not delude ourselves with “what if” and “if only”. Despite our winning two games and somehow managing to take game 6 into double overtime, the Detroit Red Wings were consistently the stronger team throughout the entire series.

Even in game six with everything on the line, the Calgary Flames continued to play their defensively-weak game play. I consistently saw forwards standing around waiting for stretch passes (that were continuously intercepted) and not helping out the defense when they were pressured in their own zone. This was most prevalent in the shots on goal totals for game six (55 for the Red Wings, 21 for the Flames). Despite the fans cheering their hearts out in order to motivate the team (of which, I was one of them), we just couldn’t motivate the team to sacrifice and aggressively win puck battles. Bluntly put, they deserved to lose the game and the series, and if you looked into the faces of those in the stands who attended game six after the game, there was neither anger nor sadness (well, not much after the initial shock anyways). I think it’s safe to say that no one was surprised at the outcome. The only bright spot in the entire game (and the entire series) was the play of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and this was reflected in the standing ovation that the fans gave him and the team afterwards with chants of “Kipper! Kipper!” ringing throughout the building.

The season may be over, but the saga continues. Some tough questions will be asked and tough decisions will need to be made during the off-season. Who is responsible for the inconsistent play of the Calgary Flames throughout the season? The players, or the coaching staff? Were the players battling through something behind the scenes? With unrestricted free agency looming over the entire team for the next two years, who will stay and who will go? Will we be able to afford to keep both Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla? Time will tell.

That said, Flames fans shouldn’t despair. When we made it to the final round of the playoffs in 1986 and lost, it took us three years to bounce back and win it all. I believe that something similar is in store for us.

In 2003-04, we made it to the Stanley Cup finals but lost in the final game. Many attributed this to a lack of depth.

In 2005-06, we addressed those depth issues with some defensively minded players and our system and team identity reflected that. The system of that time was of a defense-first mentality, and it was consistent throughout the season. Unfortunately, we were defeated in the first round and many attributed it to our inability to score.

For the 2006-07 season, we addressed our offensive deficiencies by adding some skilled players, most notably with the addition of Alex Tanguay. There was even a coaching change with Darryl Sutter stepping down and acknowledging that his system may not have been what was needed to go all the way in the so-called “new NHL”. No one can deny that we became a more skilled team overall, scoring 40 more goals in the regular season over last season. Unfortunately, the increase in offense came at the expense of defense, letting in 26 more goals than we did last season and allowing more shots on goal as well.

If you look at the general trend, we went from an extremely defensive team to an extremely offensive team and were unable to find that happy medium. There were times where we played as dominantly as we looked on paper, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to consistently play like that for the entire season. Bottom line, we lost the team identity that defined us between 2004-2006 and were unable to find it again. Everyone should take this as a learning experience and keep in mind that this entire season acted as a moment of transition from one system to another.

I believe that we’ll take the lessons we learned from this season, fix whatever internal problems that kept us from achieving the potential that everyone saw on paper, and will ultimately come out of this as a much stronger team. If we can find that happy medium between responsible defensive play and creative offensive play, and, most importantly, find a new identity that defines and reflects the new makeup of this team (instead of trying to re-capture the old identity from a team long past), then the Calgary Flames will finally become the team that all the critics and all the fans were expecting them to be this season. If all that were to happen, next year could very well be our year, of that I have no doubt.

In the meantime, I may be taking down my Flames shrine at work, but this off-season should prove to be just as interesting to watch as the regular season (well, almost).

So until next time, Go Flames Go!

Re: End the transit strike before it begins

**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog

Reginald Tiangha, Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reginald Tiangha – April 22, 2007 15:09 – I question how serious city council is on trying to curb a transit strike before it happens. You would think that they would have learned from what happened last time and tried their hardest to prevent things from getting to this point.

There were no winners when the members of ATU 583 went on strike in 2001. For seven weeks (the longest strike of its kind in Calgary’s history), Calgarians had to find alternate ways to get around. Where possible, people biked, rollerbladed or walked to get around. For the majority of people, traffic became a nightmare and the number of cars on the roads increased dramatically. Getting a taxi anywhere around town was impossible and, while lucrative for the taxi industry in Calgary, there were still complaints by some taxi companies that they were ill-equipped to deal with the demand and advocated a quick end to the strike for their own sanity.

As a post-secondary student at the time, I remember hearing about students being unable to make it to classes, being stranded at school and even missing exams. It was horrid.

Fast forward to 2007. According to Calgary Transit’s 2006 20 Year Capital Plan, public transit usage in Calgary has increased to the point that they are consistently at near-capacity during peak hours and estimate that more people are deterred from using public transit because of this.

Forty-two per cent of work travel to the downtown core is now done through public transit (compared to 36 per cent in 1995). Between 1995 and 2004, ridership increased by 46 per cent, approximately double Calgary’s population growth rate of 24 per cent.

The federal government wants to encourage public transit adoption by offering tax credits. Many new housing developments have popped up near C-Train stations which will probably entice those home owners to adopt transit for their transportation needs. With housing costs what they are today, many people are forgoing cars in order to pay for housing, and are becoming reliant on Calgary Transit for their transportation needs.

Add to the fact that many post-secondary students now use transit due to U-Pass transit fees being a mandatory tuition fee, it is painfully obvious that the demand for public transit in Calgary has increased over the years, will continue to increase, and is stronger than ever before.

Calgary Transit has an ambitious plan to expand transit infrastructure in Calgary to meet the demand. Those plans include expansions to the NW and NE C-Train lines and construction of a West line that would take the place of the current BRT line in the West and continue on all the way to Aspen Woods. In order to meet these targets, they plan on adding more train cars and busses to their fleets and hiring over 200 drivers and additional technical staff to maintain it all, which is probably why the current public transit staff feel so overworked.

With the importance of public transit and the long term plans being considered to increase service, it boggles my mind that city council continues to allow situations like these to degenerate to the point where they are now. I mean, seriously, what have they been doing all this time? I’m disappointed with the fact that it seems like the city has been dragging their heels on getting this situation resolved for so long now, especially with public transit being so important to so many people.

Furthermore, I’m not impressed that the transit union is asking for a wage hike that is higher than what many of the other city unions accepted this year (on average, a 10 per cent increase, which is the same deal that the city initially offered the transit union).

I’m not saying that transit workers don’t deserve more money. Part of the problem is that they feel overworked and thus they feel that they deserve more pay and justifiably so. No one likes working 12 hour days. However, if the city had accomplished their goal of hiring the extra 200 workers they had originally been looking for, then perhaps transit staff wouldn’t feel as overworked as they are now and may have possibly settled for less than the 15 per cent increase they desire.

Regardless, now that they have it stuck in their heads that they deserve an increase in pay higher than what most of the other unions in the city got (ex. Fire, EMS and Police), they’re not going to settle for anything less and are going to do whatever it takes in order to get it, citizens be damned.

How much more damage will it take before the city realizes that a full blown, long term transit strike can and will have a disastrous effect on this city’s economy? For many more people in Calgary, transit is now a service essential to their livelihood and a part of their daily lives.

Therefore, I believe that it’s time for city council to seriously consider declaring public transit an essential service. Considering Calgary’s population growth and that the number of people who depend on public transit solely for their transportation needs due to economic situations, encouragement by government, and environmental concerns will increase over time, public transit will eventually become a service that’s essential for many Calgarians, if it isn’t already.

I think that it’s simply gotten to the point where the city and its citizens cannot afford to cope with a full blown transit strike anymore. If city negotiators are incapable of figuring out a way to resolve or prevent these problems from occurring in the first place, then city council should take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

The beginning of the end for DRM?

**Note: Also appears in the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog

Reginald Tiangha, Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reginald Tiangha – April 2, 2007 21:56 -With EMI Group PLC announcing today their intent to release music without any cumbersome DRM (Digital Rights Management, a technology that limits the ability to play certain multimedia files on other devices) through Apple’s iTunes music store, all I have to say is this: It’s about time.

The plan is to sell EMI music through Apple’s iTunes music store without DRM and at a higher sound quality than their regular music which does contain DRM. They plan to sell these premium tracks for an extra 30 per cent more, which translates into another 30 cents per song. The best part is that this is not an exclusive deal; EMI may choose to offer these types of downloads through other online music providers in the future.

While some people may balk at a 30 percent increase, I think $1.30 is perfectly reasonable for a file that will play anywhere with no effort involved. Although I don’t own an iPod, I do own a number of desktop computers as well as a couple of standalone MP3 players, a couple of CD Players with MP3 capabilities, a Pocket PC and a PSP.

Trying to get a piece of music to play on a device that was not the computer I had originally purchased it on usually required me to jump through a lot of hoops in order to get a file that would be truly portable, if it was possible in the first place. Also, trying to find a store that rivaled iTunes in variety and selection has been difficult. Finally, I run Linux on some of those desktop machines, which makes it difficult to play any kind of protected multimedia content on them, much less purchase any kind of legal, downloadable content. In today’s day and age where time is precious, 30 cents seems a small price to pay for convenience and interoperability.

I’m also excited at the potential this deal may have. EMI may prove to other music labels that selling DRM-less music can indeed be profitable, prompting them to do the same. If this is successful for EMI, I have no doubt that they’ll offer this service to other online music stores like Napster and MP3.com thus increasing availability and consumer choice.

This may even spread to downloadable video content, resulting in video downloads that can be easily converted into other formats for playback on all sorts of devices. For me, this has the potential to open up the entirety of Apple’s iTunes diverse product catalog to someone who doesn’t own an iPod yet still wants to be able to purchase music to play on another portable device or on a machine that is not running Windows. For the consumer, I think this is a big win.

It will be interesting to see if piracy will increase as a result of this, but I’m optimistic that this move will be a very profitable one for EMI. I have to applaud EMI for finally listening to consumers and for doing what they chose to do today, and I hope that this is the beginning of the end of that pesky DRM.