Match Day 13 Premier League Predictions: Perplexing Play of the Week

Videos

The Wingman takes centre stage in this week’s Premier League pick and perplexing play segment, replacing the Canada Sports Betting’s previous host.

This week’s Perplexing Play(s) of the Week was a no-brainer. Selhurst Park was chockfull of controversial and mind-boggling moments. From Oumar Niasse’s blatant dive – which earned Everton a decidedly unjust penalty kick – to Crystal Palace scoring in the first minute of play. Oh, and let’s not forget Julian Speroni’s moment of madness in Crystal Palace’s net. He gifted Everton the equalizer on the cusp of halftime. It was as intriguing and exciting as it was riddled with comedic errors.

We go to Anfield, where Liverpool host Chelsea, for our Pick of the Week. Liverpool haven’t lost at home so far this season and Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal in three Premier League matches. Contrastingly, Liverpool are scoring more than Leonardo DiCaprio at the moment. We like the draw on the moneyline. Take a look at this week’s segment for all the details.

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Why Canada Sports Betting? Because every player needs a wingman.

Video script and Wingman creation by Gary Pearson. Video production and animation by LTD EDN Productions.

There is something incredibly soothing and peaceful about travelling on a train. And, no, I’m not referring to a city’s crammed subway or unventilated underground. Those types of trains are merely a means to an end, a necessary and unavoidable evil.

I’m talking about commuter trains that connect the world and, with the slightest gaze out onto the horizon, stimulate your mind and open your imagination.

Even though fully aware of the final destination, unless inadvertently hopping aboard the wrong train in a foreign land or finding yourself incapacitated by a drug stupor, you are forced to surrender control and let the tracks lead the way.

You  find yourself slipping into a state of comfortable helplessness. The tracks, as they cross bridges, slide alongside lakes and swerve ever so slightly into the distance, cannot be dictated to. The rhythmic pace at which trains zip down the track tends to settle even the most nervous traveller.

Powerlessness pervades while  barrelling down the tracks. Once you realise fate is out of your hands, sit back, relax and truly appreciate the undulating hills, meandering rivers, quaint towns, imperious peaks and memorising skylines that so often pass us by.

Photography

Calgary abuzz at prospect of new-look Flames

Sports

After recently attending two Calgary Flames games – including the home opening 5-4 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks – the city of the 1989 Stanley Cup champions has been set alight at the prospect of the vibrant and fearless new-look outfit.

The Flames, through the first five games of the season, remain undefeated in regulation and boast a 3-0-2 record, which is good for a share – with five other teams – of second place in the Western Conference. But we all know the standings at this inchoate stage of a campaign are about as meaningless as an NHL All-Star game.

Sure, there is bound to be teething pains for this crew of energetic spark plugs. So first let’s run through the dark and gloomy: Calgary, allowing 17 against, is profusely bleeding goals, having the sixth worst goals against average; a squeamish 66.7 per cent penalty kill success rate is good for fourth worst, and in both losses the Flames have squandered multiple goal leads, maybe the most glaring of follies.

Lucky for Flames fanatics, the good most definitely outweighs the bad. Scoring in prolific fashion, Calgary sits in sixth spot on the NHL table with 3.60 goals per game. More impressive, though, is how threatening and venomous the team looks on attack thanks to a refreshing can-do attitude from the players and coaching staff.

And Flames supporters are absolutely loving it. The Scotiabank Saddledome’s atmosphere reached fever pitch for the home opener versus the arch-nemesis Canucks. Most fans get ramped up for home openers, but the ambiance inside the ‘Dome exceeded all expectations. Finally, the proverbial sixth man played its part.

Head coach Bob Hartley has implemented compulsory team skates on game day, nullifying any chance of complacency. Rookie Sean Monahan, who turned 19 on Oct. 12 (Happy birthday you old geezer), has started like a flame on an accelerant with four goals and two assists in his first five games in the big show. Heaven forbid the organization sends its sixth overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft back down to the juniors after his nine-game threshold. The squad doesn’t have enough depth to contemplate that scenario.

Most rousing is the camaraderie showcased by this upstart unit. Players are fighting for one another and their on-ice performances prove that. Few analysts and broadcasters have given the Flames any chance of making the playoffs.

And while the improbable feat may still just be out of Calgary’s grasp, I bet would-be experts may hold their tongues for a little while longer. The lion’s share of pundits, due to Calgary’s obvious inexperience, still expect the Flames to be doused and starved of oxygen in games to come.

But an impressionable team swelling with confidence and having everything to play for may yet raise some eyebrows in press boxes and locker rooms across the league.

(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

A tight squeeze from Calgary to London

Opinion

Imagining I am sat on a beach somewhere, sinking into the soft sand splayed out on a reclined lounge chair, gazing out onto the open water with a rum and coke in hand, I can’t help but notice something snatching at my big, protruding toe.

Is it a curious bird? Or, maybe, it’s a harmless sand dweller.

Reality comes crashing down when I realize that an impish infant with cold, piercing devilish eyes is trying his best to pull my toe from its socket.

She may look cute, but her voice is untiring and packs a knockout punch.

She may look cute, but her voice is untiring and it packs a knockout punch.

Welcome to an Air Transat flight from Calgary to London. Numerous babies sporadically strewn about the cabin relentlessly squeal at an intolerable pitch, a pitch one would assume only dogs should have the ability to hear. Passengers are packed in like sardines (I don’t recommend travelling with this no frills supplier if your on the higher side of the body mass index scale), a mother complains about the airline’s in-flight protocols – primarily its absence of seatbelts or add-ons for infants – and, arguably worst of all, Air Transat lives in a land devoid of complimentary booze.

But what does one expect at at such low rates?

Paying just over $600 for a one-way flight across the pond, I shouldn’t be in a position to complain, but will do so anyway. Brief silence, like the tranquil moment before a catastrophic storm makes landfall, befalls the aircraft. Without warning, the silence is blown to smithereens by another wailing toddler.

At least I purchased the rights, for a nominal $20 fee, to pre-emptively reserve an aisle seat. There is ample room for my laptop to sit comfortably on the retractable tray. That is, until the disgruntled mother of the fiendish, evil infant decides to aggressively recline her seat. Jabbing into my stomach, the laptop finally settles at an odd angle, coming to rest on my lap. I have every reason to believe, if the laptop had the ability to scream,  it would join the bevy of babies in their deafening chorus.

I sit on pins and needles to see what gruel will come our way at dinner. And I sit not on pins and needles with anticipation but with the unavoidable numbness overwhelming my lower extremities.

On the upside, only seven hours remain on-board this germ-infested airborne daycare centre.

Making like snowshoe hares atop the Rockies

Travel

Ascending slowly toward the summit of Sunshine Village in Banff National Park, Alberta, we were easily entranced by the imposing Canadian Rockies, whose snowcapped peaks dominated the skyline. The wind, brisk and forceful, shook the gondola to and fro, so that it resembled a pendulum perpetually swaying. A cramped chairlift completed the climb, elevating nine adventure seekers to 8,900 feet above sea level.

With snowshoes in hand the first threesome, anticipant of the prospective trek, scampered clear of the disembarked chairlift. The mercury had dipped below – 22° Fahrenheit. The wind, howling like a wolf trying to rally its pack, accosted us without restraint.

“Get your snowshoes on as quickly as possible,” bellowed Michael Turcot, his voice muffled by the prevailing gale. “Then we can get moving.”

Before most of us had our snowshoes on, my father, Raymond Pearson, discovered first hand the callous nature of extreme weather at high altitude. Turcot, a snowshoeing specialist and guide working on behalf of White Mountain Adventures, noticed a pronounced, ghost-like whitening of Pearson’s earlobes. Early stages of frostbite had commenced. Pearson’s toque had failed to cover the entirety of his ears, leaving his lobes vulnerable after only minutes of exposure. Since he was the only one to have fitted his temporary appendages, Turcot saliently sprang, like a snowshoe hair, to my father’s aid.

“Rub your ears as quickly as you can,” implored an urgent Turcot. “Time is of the essence; you need to build some friction.”

The group’s attitude had already visibly shifted from exuberance to skepticism and uncertainty. Pearson had thought a first snowshoeing adventure would be a unique and memorable way to commemorate his 60th birthday, which sounded a desirable proposition before this tussle with the Mother Nature’s wrath. I wished my father’s February birthday hadn’t coincided with winter’s harshest fury.

Boundless thoughts of relaxing in one of Banff National Park’s many soothing natural hot springs infiltrated my mind, propelling me into dreamlike state. The stinging blasts of wind-driven snow, however, hastily whipped me out of reverie.

Although Pearson’s ear was swollen, gruesome and of ashen complexion, Turcot confidently assured the frostbite-stricken 59-year-old that his lobes, if properly attended to, would heal completely and regain their pinkish undertone. I would have offered words of encouragement had my jawbone not felt like it was frozen in place.

“It will get warmer once we descend and get out of the open air,” said Turcot, instilling the group with hope through positive reinforcement. “With the weather and the snow it changes everything; every time you come up here it is a different day.”

Snowshoeing: a centuries-old pastime

Straddling the border of Canada’s farthest-reaching western provinces, I took a moment to fit the gigantic flipper-like shoes before crossing the Continental Divide into British Columbia. Modern snowshoes – consisting of lightweight metal, plastic and synthetic fabric – are easily fastened. Once a strap is pulled snug against your heel and clasped shut on both snowshoes, you’re set to partake in a centuries-old pastime experienced by adventurers, hunters, fur traders, trappers and explorers alike. In fact, snowshoes can be traced back to pre-Christian days when Armenians are said to have used an antiquated version – comprised of a clunky hardwood frame with interwoven rawhide lacings – to scour the snow-laden Caucasus Mountains in search of food, fur and refuge.

“They’re easy to use, cheap and need almost no maintenance,” said Turcot, whose fervent enthusiasm for the great outdoors, like an airborne contagion, started spreading throughout the group.

Making an impression

After ensuring everyone had his or her bumblebee-hued appendages secured, Turcot set forth across the unmarked 16-foot snowpack. He trampled the fresh and feather-like snow, making an impression with every step. The rest of us, like a herd of elephants, fell in line and followed our entrusted chief. Adapting to our elongated feet – to everyone’s bewilderment – was fairly seamless. Snowshoes disperse weight over a large area so as to not sink deep into the snow – a process called flotation – making it possible to cross the easily compressed surface.

“Try making your own trail,” said Turcot without breaking stride, his technique encompassing a wide gate that allowed for balanced strides. “Now that’s when the work really kicks in.”

Immediately following his advice, I excused myself from the group to make new tracks. Friend Shira Hutton and my brother, Kevin Pearson, followed suit, sprouting off in different directions. I sank like a hapless soul in quicksand, my legs smothered by powdery snow. But the more effort you put in – unlike when sinking in quicksand – the better the results.

“Keep your knees high,” reiterated Turcot, who broke free from the shackles of his office job in Mississauga, Ontario – his hometown – to travel west in pursuit of this adventurous life.

I quickly realised Turcot was not embellishing. Trudging through deep snow is gruelling work. Gasping for air, I could see that Kevin and Hutton shared my sentiment. We took a moment to admire the incongruent trails we had made, acknowledging that our handiwork would vanish with the next snowfall. As we gradually descended, Turcot pulled up just shy of a steep hill.

Brother bailing

“Those wanting to try test their skills, here is where you can do it,” he said, grinning ear to ear. “Try running down the hill. Just remember to keep your knees high.”

Hutton, Kevin and I responded with gusto. Our skills, or lack of, almost immediately shone through. Maintaining high knees we accelerated down the hill with reckless abandon, all of us toppling head over heels. It was like falling onto a goose-down duvet. The unsullied snowpack broke the fall, its composition much more forgiving than our travel companions. Our entourage laughed in unison as we came to terms with trying to stand up in the cumbersome shoes, a task more difficult than I thought possible.

Awe-inspiring scenery

After clambering to find steady footing, the majesty of the environment with which we were enmeshed emerged. We were situated at the foot of a valley on the British Columbian side of the provincial border. Encased by hills, we were sheltered from the wind’s might. For the time being all of its merciless power and rage had been quelled like a sedated cougar.

Other than some barely discernable snowshoe hare tracks, the landscape appeared undisturbed. Welcoming the silence that had enveloped the group, I scanned the terrain, admiring its uncompromising beauty. Lodgepole pines, whose branches sagged from the weight of freshly fallen snow, stood eminent across the vast expanse. The trees stood unified and defiant, resilient to winter’s torturous touch.

“I rarely see anyone else out here,” Turcot pronounced, breaking the serene silence. “Usually we are on our own back here – it’s fabulous that way.”

We moved forward like nomads of yesteryear, exiting the valley’s comforting and sheltered enclosure.

Walking on water

As the land flattened, so too did the snow beneath our tennis-racket-like shoes. The snowpack hardened, each step accentuated by a loud crunching sound. The landscape, with no imperious trees in sight, assumed a form more desolate and barren.

“Let’s cross the bridge,” said Turcot, momentarily confusing us. “We’re in Assiniboine Provincial Park and you’re standing on a lake.”

We began crossing the sizeable, frozen body of water. Walking on water – albeit water frozen solid to a depth of at least four inches – felt surreal and empowering, like a mystical right of passage.

The group forges forward in the blizzard conditions.

The group forges forward in the blizzard conditions.

“A lot of people visiting Banff don’t make it up here,” the outdoor enthusiast quipped. “And they definitely don’t get to walk across a lake. If you don’t get out and appreciate what is here, you can’t see what you’re missing.

“We have people snowshoeing into late June; hikers wonder when they get their turn. It truly is a winter wonderland.”

Spiritually regenerated, the entourage began its gradual ascent towards the Alberta border. The gales had dissipated, warming the conditions considerably. Minutes later we reached the hill’s summit, all of us visibly weary from the arduous climb as we crossed back into Banff National Park.

“It’s mostly downhill from here,” said Turcot, an outdoor extremist who prefers uphill challenges, like the time he had to make camp in a self-built igloo in the Yukon Territory.

Give us a wave

Before continuing downhill for the remaining half mile of our three-mile voyage, I looked upon the snow-swept, frozen ravine with adulation. I felt relieved that the group had swept aside its trepidations and eventually embraced the spiritually enlightening pastime. Snowshoeing atop the Canadian Rockies left the collective yearning for subsequent encounters with one of the worlds’ most humbling and mystique-endowed environments.