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Hockey n' History: Toronto calls in the troops

This week in Canadian history, in 1999, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman called on the military to help dig Toronto out of a massive snowstorm that had paralysed the city.
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This week in Canadian history, in 1999, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman called on the military to help dig Toronto out of a massive snowstorm that had paralysed the city. Supplied photo.
This week in Canadian history, in 1999, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman called on the military to help dig Toronto out of a massive snowstorm that had paralysed the city.

In early January, Toronto felt the brunt of a severe winter storm that had swept across the Great Lakes region. Typically, the Big Smoke receives around 122-125 centimetres of snowfall per year, with almost of third of this accumulating in January.

However, in January 1999, 118.4 cm fell on the city in less than two weeks. The Canadian military obliged Lastman’s request and dispatched over 400 troops from CFB Petawawa.

The soldiers rolled into town with armoured vehicles and proceeded to dig Toronto out of its whiteout. By Jan. 15, the worst of the storm had passed, prompting many across the country to view the episode with smarm and derision.

Vancouver Canucks at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: VAN 17-16-10 (4th in the Pacific); WSH 32-7-3 (1st in the Metropolitan)
Leading Scorers: Daniel Sedin (19G, 21A); Nicklas Backstrom (13G, 28A)
Alex Ovechkin etched himself into the National Hockey League record books on Sunday night when he scored his 500th career goal. The milestone marker tied him with Lanny McDonald on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list, but he added another to give him sole position for forty-second place. Ovechkin is unquestionably the premier goal scorer of his generation and continues to make a case as one of the best snipers in league history. With another goal or two tonight, the “Great 8” can also catch Joe Mullen (502) and Peter Bondra (503) and continue his climb up the all-time list.
Prediction: Capitals by three

Chicago Blackhawks at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: CHI 28-13-4 (2nd in the Central); MTL 23-17-3 (3rd in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Patrick Kane (25G, 38A); Max Pacioretty (17G, 16A)
Michel Therrien and company could certainly use some wins this month. Despite injuries to key players this season, Montreal has squandered the early lead it built in the Atlantic Division. Flashback to November 30th, they were in first and had a fifteen point cushion on Florida. But after going 3-11-0 in December, the Habs are currently sitting in third place in the division, eight points behind the leading Panthers. Sudburians may also want to keep an eye on Michel Therrien this month as he sits just four wins behind Sudbury native, Randy Carlyle on the NHL’s all-time coaching wins list. However, given the tailspin that the club has endured over the last six weeks, don’t rule out the possibility that Therrien is dismissed before he catches Carlyle.
Prediction: Blackhawks by 1

Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets, 8 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: NSH 19-17-7 (5th in the Central); WPG 19-21-3 (7th in the Central)
Leading Scorers: Roman Josi (9G, 22A); Blake Wheeler (11G, 30A)
Another Canadian city that is no stranger to snow is Winnipeg. According to Statistics Canada, the Manitoba capital receives 110.6 centimetres of snow each year, which actually less than Toronto’s annual average. The winter comparisons between the two, however, end when you look at temperature. In January, Winnipeg’s average high is -12.7, with an average low of -22.8. Significantly more frigid than Toronto’s high and lows of -2.1 and -10.5, respectively. Nashville, hot off a trade last week, rolls into “Winterpeg” tonight, but the Jets will be looking to freeze them out. Tonight is not just an ordinary game for these division rivals. A win for the ‘Peg will be a boon for them in the standings as they continue to try and jockey for a playoff position in the Central, a veritable murderer’s row.
Prediction: Jets by 1

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m.
2015-16 Season Records: EDM 17-23-4 (7th in the Pacific); SJS 21-18-2 (3rd in the Pacific)
Leading Scorers: Taylor Hall (16G, 25A); Joe Pavelski (22G, 20A)
Death, taxes, and the Edmonton Oilers losing in San Jose. We get so few guarantees in life, but you can bank on these three. Dating back to the 2011-12 season, the Sharks have won six straight games at home against the Oilers. Edmonton’s last victory in the “Shark tank” was on 6 March 2012, and they needed a shootout to secure that win. Heading into tonight’s game, it will have been more than five years since Edmonton picked up a regulation win in San Jose.
Prediction: Sharks by 2

Last Minute of Play

Many people still look back on Lastman’s decision with disdain and there’s nothing more Canadian than using snowstorms and winter endurance as yardsticks for measuring "Canadianness."

However, Toronto was not equipped, nor prepared to deal with such an onslaught of snow.

Historically, it was actually the snowiest two-week period that the city had faced since 1846. While many Canadians disagreed with Mayor Lastman’s judgement, he made a decision that he felt was in the best interest of his constituents.

Nevertheless, the iconic picture of Lastman riding through the city in an armoured vehicle will live forever in infamy as Canadians in general and Northern Ontarians in particular reflect back and smirk at the mayor's handling of the situation.

Who does snowstorms better than Toronto? Nooooooobody!

Prediction Record: 12-10


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