Category Archives: Flames Jerseys 2020

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Despite everything else going in Calgary over the last 7 days, David Rittich wasn’t fazed as he took home the NHL’s 2nd Star of the Week honours.

Rittich went 2-0-1, allowing only six goals on 101 shots and helped the Flames pick up 5 out of 6 points against Eastern teams. Rittich had a particularly strong performance against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, making 34 saves including a number of highlight-reel ones.

Rittich continues to lead the league in starts with 23 and is carrying a 12-7-4 record on the year. This is David Rittich’s first appearance of his career on the NHL’s weekly star ranking. Flames fans are aware that it is very well deserved, and the rest of the league may be starting to realize just how good he has been all year long for Calgary.

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Millville High School’s Chapter #6925 of the National Tri-M Music Honor Society inducted new members and held a recital for its returning members on Dec. 4. The Fine and Performing Arts Department is proud to have such amazing young musicians represent them with this honor.

New inducted members are: Daniel Laird, Aurora Ryan, Emily Abdill, Gabby Akiatan, Alison Dingle, Natalie Harrison, Cassidy Miller, Matthew Phillips, Carter Crockett, Jared DeShields, and William Shea.

Returning members are: Justin Billman; Taylor Hastings, secretary; Lexi Kukal; Rebecca Rehmann, historian; Brooke Jablonski, vice president; Maia Morales, president; Bobby Williams; Zach Nolter; Andrew Hickman; and Rosalynn Rodriguez.

Henry Hartman, Joseph Sino, Donna Terry, Matthew Adams and Robert DeSantis are the faculty advisors for Tri-M.

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Milan Lucic says he’s more interested in the main event points race in the first Edmonton-Calgary meeting which comes halfway through the season, than the individual undercard: the goal battle with James Neal

But, they’re both good stories.

“I’m excited to be coming back to Edmonton but more so I’m looking at what the game means in the standings,” said Lucic, who spent three years in Edmonton and was traded this past summer to the Flames for Neal, two players spinning their wheels. “It’s a rivalry game but it’s also a competitive game.”

Arizona and Vegas are tied for top in the Pacific with 46 points. Calgary and Edmonton have 44. Vancouver has 42. It’s the 41st game for the Oilers on Friday night, the 40th for the Flames.

“As you know when I was in Boston and played Montreal, those games were also very competitive games and we played each other four times and that ramped up the rivalry,” said Lucic.

“This division is tight … if you lose two games, you’re almost out of a playoff spot, and if you win two or three, you’re back in the mix. Vegas, Arizona, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, all five of us are battling for maybe four (playoff spots).”

Lucic says having Calgary and Edmonton playing first at the halfway point is strange stuff. The Oilers are finished with Vancouver, playing four times, but haven’t seen their main rival.

“It is kind of odd but when I played in LA we didn’t play Anaheim for the first time until January,” said Lucic. “With the Oilers I think we play four times in the next six weeks, though. We’re going to get to know each other well.”

The dichotomy between Lucic and Neal is hard to ignore. Neal has 16 goals, in the first month he was the NHL’s hottest player. Lucic has three goals in 50 shots and eight points this year, but nobody’s complaining because he’s keeping the flies away from Johnny Gaudreau. He skates hard, provides fuel to the fire and he’s a fan favourite in Calgary.

If Neal scores at least 21 goals and the difference between the two at least 10 goals, the Oilers give Calgary a third-round draft pick. But that’s for the rival GM’s to consider.

“I’ve maybe only watched five Oiler games this year, but you always pay attention to the guy you’re traded for. I won’t lie to you there,” said Lucic. “At the start it was like ‘Holy Smokes, he’s really doing well and nothing much is going for me’ but I’ve moved on from that.

“I’m not the type of guy who wishes bad on others. If the other guy is playing well and you’re not, you create negative energy and you drive yourself crazy. You turn it into a pity party for yourself. It’s not a healthy way to live. I’ve never been like that. If somebody’s doing well whether you like or hate the guy or got traded for him, I believe in the ‘he’s doing well, good for him.’ Just go about your own business.”

Lucic seems to have found a regular line with Derek Ryan and Dillon Dube. They’ve been together for 10 to 12 games.

“If you look at goals and assists you can say it’s not going well, but I’m playing better, more to the way I can play, in the O-zone, creating scoring chances, providing energy. The way the last 15 games have gone, I could easily be at the 10-goal mark but it hasn’t gone in for me,” he said.

Lucic had 23 goals in 175 shots (13.1 shooting percentage) his first Oilers season after they signed him as a free-agent in 2016, but couldn’t find the net the next two with 10 and six goals when his shooting percentage was 6.8 and 8.1.

Even with his troubles, the fans refused to get on him.

“The Edmonton fans were good to me from start to finish and I appreciated that. Even when times were tough they never turned on me, they never booed me, which I was appreciative of,” he said.

Lucic hasn’t had a lot of angry games in the Battle of Alberta. There was the Lucic scuffle around the crease with then Flames goalie Mike Smith in Calgary.

“The first time we played them last season they (Flames) were going after Connor (McDavid) and I had a big hit on Gio (Flames captain Mark Giordano), too. That was a pretty ramped up game,” said Lucic. “That’s why I’m excited about this one (Tuesday). We know what this game means in the standings.”

It will be strange for Lucic to be going against McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

“The first time I did it was my year in LA and it was Connor’s first season and Leon’s second. Seeing how good they were was a big reason why I decided to come to Edmonton. I saw how good Connor was as an 18-year-old,” he said. “I’m very interested to see how good they’ve gotten because when you play with guys you appreciate how good they are but when you play against them you see how hard it it.”

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The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets each had a glaring need and were able to help each other when Seth Jones and Ryan Johansen were traded for one another. From Columbus’ perspective, Johansen was not a favorite of coach John Tortorella and already had a lengthy contract dispute. Nashville had an abundance of talent on the blueline and needed to find a top line centerman. When a trade of this magnitude happens, one team usually regrets the move but, in this situation, both teams were left quite pleased.

It takes a lot of extenuating circumstances for two teams in the thick of a playoff race to trade their captains, but in 2014, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning completed the transaction. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman created a dispute with Martin St. Louis when he left the future Hall-Of-Famer off Team Canada’s original roster for the Sochi Olympics. In return, St. Louis requested a trade and the Lightning ended up honoring the request. On the other side, Glen Sather wrapped up contract extensions with Henrik Lundqvist and Dan Girardi but struggled to find common ground with Callahan. Even though the Lightning had very little leverage in the negotiations, Yzerman still found a way to pry two first-round picks from New York in the process. The Rangers went on to lose in the 2014 Cup Final and fell in the 2015 Conference Finals to the Lightning in a seven-game series. Neither team won a championship because of this move, but both clubs settled a problem with this transaction.

A few maneuvers were significant when Los Angeles won two Stanley Cups early in the decade, but the Kings paid a steep price to acquire Mike Richards in June 2011. Coincidentally, another big piece, Jeff Carter, was traded that day to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was eventually sent to Los Angeles at the 2012 trade deadline where he became a key cog for the Kings. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown were already in place, but the acquisition of Richards and Carter were a huge reason why Los Angeles was very successful in the first half of the decade.

On the flip side, the Flyers were looking to change the culture around the club that offseason and landed Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn in the Richards deal, while acquiring Jakub Voracek in the Carter trade. Philadelphia did not win a Stanley Cup, but they were not ripped off in either deal when trading legitimate NHL stars.

It was a blockbuster trade in June of 2018 that helped both the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames. Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox were sent to Carolina in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. If one was to define a hockey trade, this would be a great place to start.

There are always overreactions after losing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but the way the Boston Bruins reacted to losing the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was clearly a mistake. The Bruins front office decided to trade Tyler Seguin, a star in the making, to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and several other pieces. The Bruins did not make matters worse by handing Eriksson a lucrative contract extension in the summer of 2016, but they did lose a player that averaged 77 points per season since the trade.

This deal is easy to judge knowing how each player performed since the trade. However, in April of 2013 the move did make some sense for both teams. The Ottawa Senators had a crowded crease with Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner and Bishop while Conacher was off to a strong start with the Tampa Bay Lightning, recording 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in the first 35 games of the season. The undersized forward instantly became the Senators’ leading scorer upon his arrival but would never become the lethal scorer Ottawa hoped for. On the other hand, Bishop has become a well-rounded NHL goaltender.

There probably could be a category for several of the moves Peter Chiarelli made but trading two premium draft picks for Griffin Reinhart is at the top of the list. It doesn’t help when one of those picks turned into Mathew Barzal, but the Oilers general manager hoped Reinhart would solve Edmonton’s defensive issues. Former Islanders general manager Garth Snow is probably still confused how he pulled this one off.

Hall helped the New Jersey Devils return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and captured the 2018 Hart trophy, while Edmonton picked up a middle-pairing defenseman.

Why the Ottawa Senators were interested in trading a young center with Zibanejad’s potential is still a bit mind-boggling. The Swedish forward has turned into one of the more underrated centers in the NHL while Brassard has bounced around the NHL the past couple of seasons.

The Minnesota Wild received Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft pick, but Burns has been one of the most dynamic defensemen in the entire NHL throughout the decade. There are very few assets that could have lived up to the value Burns has provided on the ice.

For those who understand the salary cap recapture penalties, the Nashville Predators took a significant gamble when sending Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban. If Weber were to retire before his deal runs out, they will be forced to operate with a lot of dead money on their books.

Subban did help the Predators reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 but has since been shipped off to the New Jersey Devils.

The 2019 Conn Smythe winner was an integral member of the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup run last season. Doug Armstrong gave up a lot at the time including a top prospect, two premium picks and two roster players, but the Buffalo Sabres miscalculated in their evaluation. Without the the O’Reilly acquisition, the song ‘Gloria’ is probably not a huge hit in the St. Louis area.

It wasn’t always a smooth ride in Pittsburgh, but Kessel averaged 75 points per season and played a major part in back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships.

The Washington Capitals have been one of the most successful teams over the last decade but didn’t get over the hump until the spring of 2018. T.J. Oshie was not the main piece during the championship run, but he has provided secondary scoring and strong two-way play since his acquisition in the summer of 2015.

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It feels like a great time to be a defenceman in the NHL.

The position has evolved a lot in the past 10 years, following the league’s trend towards faster, shiftier puck-movers while also very much still valuing the traditional big body on the blue line.

Some of the best leaders can be found on defence — take Shea Weber, who has captained two different teams this decade — as can the most underrated (we finally see you, Mark Giordano). Playmakers like Kris Letang, P.K. Subban, Victor Hedman and, more recently, John Carlson, have played important roles in the evolution of the defensive skillset, and evidence of that can be seen in some of the young stars emerging today.

Putting this list together was… difficult… but in a good way — we’ve seen so many elite defenders this decade, each bringing their own style to the game (and we’re not just talking about Brent Burns’s arena-arrival outfits).

The biggest question while looking at the long list of contenders kept coming back to this: What do you value in a good defenceman?

Is it the ability to drive offence from the blue line or quarterback a power play? The steady stay-at-home presence that allows forwards to go forward with confidence? The lock-down, shut-down, take-you-down grinder that will have offences thinking twice about entering enemy territory, or the shifty puck-mover that will pick your pocket and skate circles around you while exiting the zone?

All of the qualities above are represented in this list of the top five rearguards of the past decade.
1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks

In addition to being the best defencemen, Karlsson is also one of the best NHLers of the past decade, period.

From his smooth skating and elite passing to his smart playmaking and sound defending, the 29-year-old is a perfect representation of the term “offensive defenceman.” He leads his blue-line peers in assists (452) and points (583) this decade and sits third in goals (131). That points total puts him in the conversation with some of the league’s most productive forwards, tied with Patrice Bergeron and sitting at No. 22 among all skaters’ point totals in the past 10 years.

He’s also proven himself to be a strong playoff performer, leading all defencemen in points per game (0.79). His best playoff performance was in 2017-18 when he captained the Ottawa Senators to within a single win of the Stanley Cup Final — and did so with a fractured foot.

He’s got two Norris Trophies to his name (2011-12 and 2014-15) and is in the conversation almost every awards season. Though injuries have taken a bit of a toll of late, Chapter Two of Karlsson’s career promises several more Norris nods to come next decade.
2. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

Though he’s fallen out of elite conversations in the past few seasons, Keith was atop the league for much of the past 10 years. He was the steady, gritty presence on the Chicago Blackhawks’ blue line, logging marathon-like minutes to propel the team to three Stanley Cups.

His dominance started when the decade was still new, winning his first Norris Trophy in 2010 — the same year Chicago’s dominance began, which is certainly no coincidence. He also won Olympic gold with Team Canada that year, a feat he’d repeat in 2014. (He won the Norris Trophy again that year, too.)

Keith’s 426 points over the past decade rank him 10th among all NHL defencemen in the regular season, but it’s his playoff resume that really sets him apart — he leads all rearguards in average post-season ice time (28:45), assists (57) and points (75) and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts when the Blackhawks hoisted their third Cup of the decade in 2015.
3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Doughty is a dream for those who love to watch — and read about… and write about — hockey: He talks the talk, with many a great soundbite coming from his mouth on any given night, and he backs it up by walking the walk, too.

Through his honest comments in the media — whether about rivalries, how to contend, or knowing your worth on the open market — Doughty has become one of the biggest voices in the game, and one of the strongest forces on the ice.

He’s won just about everything there was to win this decade: Olympic gold (times two), the Stanley Cup (times two) and the Norris Trophy — and it could easily be argued there should’ve been another “times two” beside that one, too.

He has proven himself incredibly durable, completing seven full seasons of the last ten and missing just 15 games through the other three and has built a reputation as one of the league’s best endurance athletes — his average ice time of 26:39 over the decade ranks second among all players.
4. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

Burns’s brief stints as a forward earlier in his career are evident in how he plays the game as a defenceman, unafraid to jump into offensive zones — that’s what sets him apart from his blue-line peers, and why he’s on this list. While his risk-taking style can come back to bite the Sharks at times, his offensive skill-set puts him among the elite players of the game regardless of where you line up at puck drop.

Burns leads all defencemen in goals (166) over the past 10 years and sits second in points (544) behind his teammate, Karlsson. His incredible 83-point campaign in 2018-19 was the best season of any d-man this decade, and his 67 assists ranked him fifth across all skaters in the category. He’s a weapon on offence and a true force on his own zone — that take-you-down style mentioned in the introduction can definitely be applied to the six-foot-five, 230-pound powerhouse.

His contributions to the game extend beyond his one-ice accomplishments, as one of the most notable personalities in hockey — and that’s a victory for the growth of the game, too.
5. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Is he the dominant force now like he was at the beginning of the decade? No, but when you look at the past 10 years overall he’s still very much been one of best blue liners in the game. His game isn’t comparable to the others on this list in terms of production, but that’s never been his M.O. In a game quickly being handed over to fast puck-movers and dynamic playmakers, Chara is a grand example of the value of a big body, a long reach, a little sandpaper and the traditional laser-beam slapshot from the blue line.

Longevity alone makes him worthy of a spot on this list, but while much of today’s commentary on Chara is centred around how the 42-year-old is able to continue playing at the level he is — we’re talking Tom Brady-like stuff here — what he’s doing on the ice is still incredibly impressive regardless of age.

He opened the decade fresh off a Norris Trophy win (2008-09) and though he didn’t win another in the 2010s, he landed several nominations thanks to his sound, lock-down defence.

Chara led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011 and is a major reason why the club has returned to challenge for Lord Stanley’s chalice almost every year this decade, including two more trips all the way to the Final. The NHL’s longest-tenured captain leads all defencemen this decade in playoff appearances (119), and ranks eighth in average ice time (26:15) during that time.

The most astounding number on Chara’s stat sheet, though, is his plus/minus rating: he’s plus-207. Compare that to the others on this list and, well, there really is no comparison at all.

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-Where You Been?: It’s been a rough start to 2019-20 for Michael Frolik, but he’s been turning it up as of late. The Flames forward scored one goal in his first 29 games of the season. Since then he has scored in three straight games.

-15 And Counting: On the other side of the ledger it’s been a struggle for Mikael Backlund. The veteran hasn’t found the back of the net in 15 straight games and it’s not for the lack of trying. He’s had 27 SOG with many of those being quality chances.

-Loves The Flames: Mitchell Marner scored last night giving him points in 6 of the 8 games he’s played against the Flames.

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Sam Bennett‘s long-running saga of swapping Bora-Hansgrohe for Deceuninck-Quick-Step finally concludes, with a happy plot twist. Shane Archbold also moves across from Bora-Hansgrohe to the Belgium outfit, both on two-year deals.

Bennett was linked to a move to Quick-Step, but was caught up in a contract tussle that took months to resolve. With favored lead-out man Archbold also part of the package, Bennett said he’s motivated to move to the top Belgium squad.

“It is a daunting task to race for this team, but it is motivating and a challenge, having been with my previous team for so long and I feel refreshed,” Bennett said Tuesday. “It is fantastic to be having Shane here, too. I am delighted for him as he had a few years where he wasn’t getting opportunities, so for us to both be here is special. To have a friend and a work colleague with him, it makes the job easier.”

Bennett 29, was one of the top sprinters in 2019, winning 12 races across the calendar, including stages at Paris-Nice, Critérium du Dauphiné and Vuelta a España, as well as winning the Irish national title. His career victory haul stands at 42, and he’ll be under pressure to replace the likes of Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and Fernando Gaviria, who left in 2018 for UAE-Emirates.

Bennett was forced to wrangle free of a tentative deal to stay with Bora-Hansgrohe in order to sign with Quick-Step. The contract dispute was eventually settled, clearing the way for the Irishman to join team boss Patrick Lefevere.

“The protracted nature of Sam’s move has been well documented but I am delighted to have him on board,” Lefevere said. “His palmares alone speaks volumes about his talent and determination, but he is also a great character and another leader to have around the team. We all cannot wait to start working with him.”

Archbold was also part of the deal. Close friends with Bennett, Archbold has emerged as the Irishman’s favored lead-out man. With ace lead-out man Max Richeze heading to UAE-Emirates, Archbold and Bennett will likely pair up throughout the season.

“It has been an up and down few years for me and to be able to join them is great for me and I am looking forward to being able to improve and race with what is regarded as the world’s best team,” Archbold said. “Obviously, me and Sam have had a good relationship since 2013 and it will be great to continue that. We have grown as a pair since then and to be able to be part of the progress of a great friend is an honor.”

Archbold and Bennett were teammates at An Post-Chain Reaction as well as for three seasons at Bora before Archbold left to join the ill-fated Aqua Blue team. After the team collapsed in 2018, Archbold returned to Bora early in 2019, helping Bennett take some of his biggest wins.

Even though Quick-Step already has some top lead-out men, including Iljo Keisse and Michael Morkov, Lefevere found room on the roster for Archbold as well.

“We know how important it is for a sprinter to have a lead-out man that he fully understands and has faith in,” Lefevere said. “While we have several excellent lead-out guys already here, when it became clear that we could add Shane to our squad to help Sam, it made complete sense. He is extremely skillful at what he does and is rightly regarded as one of the best in the world.”

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Former NHL All-Star Tom Lysiak has died of leukemia at the age of 63.

Lysiak’s daughter, Jessie Lysiak Braun, confirmed on Twitter that he died Monday.

He played 13 NHL seasons with the Atlanta Flames and Chicago Blackhawks, putting up 292 goals and 551 assists in 919 career games. Lysiak made the All-Star Game in 1975, 1976 and 1977.

In the process, Lysiak also made a fan for life out of Ed Olczyk, who idolized the center from High Prairie, Alberta, while growing up in Chicago. Olczyk’s friend sent a letter to Lysiak when they were 14 saying the aspiring pro hockey player wanted to be his teammate someday, and Lysiak responded with a signed picture.

“On that picture it says: ‘To Eddie, hope someday we can play together. Best wishes, Tommy Lysiak,’” Olczyk said Tuesday. “I thought that was like the greatest thing ever. I still have that picture on my mantle at home. There’s not a day that I don’t see it.”

Olczyk went on to play two seasons as a teammate of Lysiak’s with the Blackhawks and showed him, his wife and daughter that photo a few years ago. When play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick offered his on-air condolences Monday night during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final to Lysiak’s family, including son-in-law Justin Braun of the San Jose Sharks, Olczyk said it was difficult to get through the emotions of the moment.

Braun, who is married to Lysiak’s daughter, is expected to leave the team temporarily after Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to attend his father-in-law’s funeral.

“It’s a tough situation. To Justin’s credit, he was business as usual,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “You feel for him. He went out there, he battled for us under tough circumstances.”

On the ice, Lysiak was the runner up for rookie of the year in 1973-74, and after being dealt to Chicago was the Blackhawks’ leading scorer in 1980-81 with 76 points. Lysiak was given a 20-game suspension, one of the longest in NHL history, for tripping linesman Ron Foyt during a 1983 game against the Hartford Whalers.

During his junior career, Lysiak starred for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Canadian Hockey League, recording 297 points in 144 games and winning scoring titles in 1972 and 1973. He helped the Tigers to a WCHL title and an appearance at the Memorial Cup in the 1972-73 season.

Tigers President Darrell Maser said in a statement that Lysiak “is definitely considered to be, by many people, the greatest Tiger player of all time.”

Olczyk said he was lucky to play with Lysiak and now-Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter during his first NHL game. Almost 40 years later, he still thinks highly of Lysiak as a person and a player.

“He was a great mentor, he was a really good player, a very underrated player when it came to the passing and the faceoffs and what have you,” Olczyk said.

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According to years of tracking, Butts County School students are making progress in state measures of reading proficiency. Many students are reading at grade level or above.

But year after year, too many are still scoring below grade level.

Todd Simpson, Butts County’s new superintendent of schools, has a vision for reaching those children who start school behind and often never catch up.

On Nov. 20, he stood before 70 community leaders and declared his position: “Improving the literacy levels of our children is my job. I am accountable. I gladly signed up for this job.”

But because critical literacy skills are developed from birth to year 4, he said, “We must have a coordinated effort. Success only comes when we all work together.”

Simpson spoke to members of a task force he has gathered to work with him in his quest. The invited guests included social workers, law enforcement, and medical personnel, pastors, retired teachers, and others who work in agencies that provide services to children.

After a general overview of the data that indicates Butts County’s literacy levels, including the Georgia Milestones End of Grade Level Tests, Simpson turned the meeting over to his administrative team to present statistics that impact student learning. Simpson and his team are particularly focused on indications of reading proficiency by the end of grade three.

School psychologist Dr. Ashara McKee-Williams noted that students who are not reading on level by third grade are four times more likely to have reading difficulties in adulthood; three times more likely to have mental health problems, and twice as likely to be unemployed.

Simpson noted also that students who don’t read well by third grade are more likely to “interface with law enforcement.”

But reading proficiency doesn’t start in kindergarten or even pre-K.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in learning to read is limited language acquisition. Students who learn to read easily possess a huge vocabulary and expressive oral skills.

State and national data indicate strong correlations between depressed language development and other data: income levels, parental educational levels, birth and the emotional climate of the home. But all of these factors can be overcome with a language rich environment—talk, conversation, reading, naming and oral play.

According to school social worker Susan Sarsany, 436 Butts County students are considered homeless by state standards. Sarsany said that while many of these homeless families may temporarily live with relatives and are not all on the street, the situations “are not stable.”

She noted that every Friday the schools send home 300 children with backpacks filled with food to get them through the weekend.

“I want to put a book in all of those backpacks, as well,” said Sarsany.

Beverly Stewart, owner and director of Beverly’s Day Care, said, “When Susan was talking, I was thinking, that those children who are homeless are too concerned about where their next meal is coming from to worry about reading, tests and homework. They are thinking about where they will sleep.”

Stewart went on to say that she sees the same societal problems that interfere with early learning at her center.

“Even people with educations and good jobs are sometimes unable to make ends meet. Sometimes husbands abandon families, sometimes mothers get sick. But it all has an impact on the children, especially young children.”

All pre-K teachers in Georgia are required to read aloud to their students three times a day, Stewart said. “They have to write it in their plans and provide documentation that they have done it.”

Low birth weight and premature births are also highly correlated with brain development, reading and vision difficulties. Last year, 11.1 percent of children born in Butts County weighed less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

According to Babies Can’t Wait coordinator Erin Downing, “Brain nutrition is as important as body nutrition. A baby’s brain from birth on should be immersed in language and vocabulary, conversations, naming.”

The school system offers parent education programs through its Family Enrichment Center. Daughtry’s Family Education coordinator Sheryl Warner goes into the homes of 19 students, and gets down on the floor and works with the children with puzzles and crafts, leading them to build language skills, but one person can’t do it all.

To guide them toward their vision of improved early literacy, BCSS is following a state program adopted by many other counties. Across Georgia 64% are not proficient readers, so Get Georgia Reading was developed.

Curriculum expert Fran Dundore described the four pillars of the Get Georgia Reading program:

Language Nutrition: ♦ All children receive abundant, language-rich adult-child interactions, which are as critical for brain development as healthy food is for physical growth.

♦ Access: ♦ All children and their families have year-round access to, and supportive services for, healthy physical and social-emotional development and success in high-quality early childhood and elementary education. Dundore wants to outfit an old school bus to help provide access to literacy tools — a kind of modern bookmobile.

♦ Positive Learning Climate: ♦ All educators, families, and policymakers understand and address the impact of learning climate on social-emotional development, attendance, engagement, academic achievement, and ultimately student success.

♦ Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness: ♦ All teachers of children ages 0-8 are equipped with evidence-informed skills, knowledge, and resources that effectively meet the literacy needs of each child in a developmentally appropriate manner.

Simpson noted that ensuring effective, engaging instruction is where he and his principals, support staff and teachers concentrate their efforts. But he is asking for help from the community in the community.

The next task force meeting will be Jan. 22. Call the Board of Education office if you want to help.

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CALGARY — When the puck drops in the Czech Republic for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament on Boxing Day, the Calgary Flames will have just one representative at the event. That lone player: 18-year-old Dustin Wolf. The American goaltender was one of the last selections at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and is quietly becoming one of the Flames’ — and the NHL’s — top prospects.

Originally from Tustin, Calif., an Orange County suburb on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Wolf starred in local leagues as a teen. He moved up the coast in 2017 to join the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips as Carter Hart’s understudy.

Now in his third season in the WHL and second as Everett’s starter, Wolf has emerged as one of the WHL’s top performers. Heading into the holiday break, he is among the leaders in wins (17), shutouts (five), save percentage (.941) and goals-against average (1.91) in all of Canadian junior hockey. With the pressure of his draft year off, the backstop is allowing himself to focus on hockey.

“Just being able to go and play now, not having any worries about what people think of you, [you're] just going out there and playing your game,” Wolf told Sporting News following a recent victory over the Calgary Hitmen. “When you come out with a win there’s a plus to it. We’ve got a great team right now and hopefully, continue that moving forward.”

Just six months ago, Wolf was one of the sentimental stories of the draft.

Highly touted due to his numbers and Everett’s strong season, he unexpectedly slid to the seventh round — 214th overall and fourth from the very end of the entire draft — and was still in attendance at Rogers Arena in Vancouver for the pick. Tears flowed and a big grin was there too as he was selected by the Flames, an organization whose captain is the undrafted Mark Giordano and most iconic players include late draft selections like Theoren Fleury who taken in a round that no longer exists.

“Obviously I didn’t expect to stay until the last four picks in the draft,” said Wolf. “But I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to come to Calgary. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them and they’ve supported me through everything thus far.

“It’s pretty much been a dream come true and still a lot of work to do, but a step in the right direction.”

Wolf’s latest challenge is the upcoming World Junior tournament. One of three goaltenders headed to selection camp — along with Florida Panthers prospect Spencer Knight and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Isaiah Saville – Wolf is hoping to make an impression and help the team win when they travel to the Czech Republic over the holidays.

“I want to go into camp and show how much I’ve improved since the Summer Showcase and try to make it a tough decision for who they start,” he said, agreeing that the incumbent Knight may have the lead for the American starting job. “He’s obviously a first-round pick for a reason. Awesome guy, great goaltender, but obviously you’re fighting for a job and you want to play as many games as you can. Whatever it takes to [win] a gold medal, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Needless to say, Flames brass is excited to see what Wolf can do on the international stage. For the first time since Johnny Gaudreau captured gold in 2013, the C of Red may be spending the holiday season cheering for the red, white and blue.