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Water main break closes part of Sussex Avenue

21 Sussex Avenue shuts off water

Water main break closes part of Sussex Avenue

A water main broke at the intersection of Sussex Avenue and Huron Street overnight on Monday.

In an email to tenants, building administrators at 21 Sussex Avenue, otherwise known as The Clubhouse, said the water would be shut off starting midday due to the incident, and that service would be restored within nine to 10 hours.

By morning, workers could be seen onsite trying to fix the water main break. Sussex Avenue is closed east of Huron Street while maintenance is ongoing.

This story is developing. More to come.

In conversation with Wild Rivers

The Toronto-based band's latest EP, Eighty-Eight, is a nostalgic, harmonic blend of genres

In conversation with Wild Rivers

Formed at Queen’s University, Toronto-based band Wild Rivers is on an upward trajectory. The indie four-piece, comprised of Khalid Yassein on guitar and vocals, Devan Glover on vocals, Andrew Oliver on guitar and bass, and Julien Laferriere on drums, recently released their EP Eighty-Eight, a mix of Americana and folk influences.

The record is a perfect soundtrack for when summer starts slipping into fall, one that pivots between tones of longing and nostalgia on tracks like A Week Ago and the beautiful harmonies of Howling, and resignation on the plaintive Call It a Night and kiss-off track I Won’t Be Back.

Wild Rivers are currently opening for Australian band The Paper Kites on the North American leg of the Where You Live tour. The Varsity spoke to Yassein about the production of Eighty-Eight, the band’s time in Nashville, and the upsides and downsides of touring.

The Varsity: You and Devan [Glover], the other vocalist in the band, were formerly a two-piece called Devan & Khalid, but you’ve since added two new members, Ben Labenski on drums and Andrew Oliver on bass and guitar. How has that affected Wild Rivers’ music making process?

Khalid Yassein: We’ve kind of become a whole band as opposed to the duo that we were before. We’re more jamming in a room instead of just doing acoustic stuff, and sounds are coming from different places. So it’s really enriched our creative process. That’s two, three years ago, and we haven’t looked back.

TV: You just put out an EP a few months ago, Eighty-Eight. What were some of the themes that you wanted to incorporate in the writing and production of that album?

KY: Musically, we wanted to do a pretty raw representation of who we are as a band. A lot of the sounds were tracked live in a room, without a lot of additional stuff. So it’s got a live feel, which we really wanted. We spent so much time touring our first album and playing on the road that we feel like we have become a real band. Then, thematically on the album, a lot of the songs explore relationships in some way or another. And a lot of them involve the element of time. “I Won’t Be Back” and “A Week Ago” are songs about getting out of town and having regret, and that became the theme accidentally to the EP, which is why we called it Eighty-Eight. There’s a lyric in the first song, “A Week Ago,” that goes, “If I could get this Chevy up to eighty-eight / I’d take it back in time,” from Back to the Future, obviously. That kind of theme just accidentally came across through all the songs on the record. 

TV: While you were listening back to all the songs that you had put together, was it then that you felt like there was a theme? It hadn’t been obvious to you all along?

KY: Totally, yeah. We have our tendencies when we write, to write about certain stuff — usually mention a car, or a movie reference, or some kind of accidental calling card. It’s cool that it makes the music feel a little more organic and not so contrived, that the songs just naturally have these ideas that we’re talking about based on where we’re at in our lives. So it was cool to notice that and lean into that after the fact.

TV: Would you say that while you were putting the songs together, you were thinking of how they would play live?

KY: I think it was actually a little bit of the opposite. Usually, before we record we do pre-production, which is us in a room rehearsing and talking about the arrangement of a song, and we definitely did that for the EP, but a big part of it too was that we played a bunch of the songs live this year before we recorded it and got the live feedback from the audience and figured out what hit, and what worked, and what felt good live. That more informs the record than us worrying about if we could play the songs on the record live. At its core, it’s just us, because we played the songs, and that’s what made it feel good and real. If we want to do something in the studio, we try not to worry about if we can do it live; we consider it a totally different medium. We find that it’s been good not to tie ourselves down to worrying about that too much.

TV: How do you know when to take feedback from the audience and when to disregard it because it’s something you feel really strongly about?

KY: It’s kind of intangible — when you go to a show and you can feel that moment that everyone’s in it and responding to it emotionally. Everyone in the room, us and the audience, can feel it when that kind of stuff happens. It’s more of an organic thing than someone coming up to us at the merch table and saying, “Ah, you should add a bridge after verse two.” It’s a feeling, and after the show we’ll talk about, “Oh, ‘Call It a Night’ felt really good tonight.” We feel like we were catching a groove and everyone was buying into it. So it’s that kind of thing that informs it on a human level, which is hard, because the magic about it isn’t obvious on paper and it’s rather a vibe, which is something we tried to chase for the EP. 

TV: How would you say that your sound has evolved over the years? Even from being a duo with Devan through to the album in 2016, and now with Eighty-Eight.

KY: In terms of genres, I think we started in the indie-folk world, and that was a product of the songs starting as a voice or two voices and acoustic guitar, and building a song around that. Every song on the first record had an acoustic guitar at the centre of it because that’s the origin. And on the second record, the EP, there were more band songs, more songs that originated from the four of us jamming in the room, and that’s allowed for a different sound — rock, some indie-rock, some country. It’s become a little more of a polished version of our sound, especially production-wise. We just recorded a song a week ago that doesn’t have an acoustic guitar at all and it’s a different feel. We’re all individually into all kinds of music and we’re lucky that the fact that the two voices and acoustic guitar makes it us, but at this point we can explore a little bit to do something cool and different and it still feels honest and like a Wild Rivers song. So it’s cool, we feel like we’re in a place where we can really do whatever we want and we’re always trying to get better at what we’re doing. 

TV: I read in an interview with the Queen’s Journal that you wrote Eighty-Eight between Toronto and Nashville. What do you think those two cities bring to the table, musically speaking, and do you think the EP has influences from both places?

KY: We’re all from the Toronto area, and that’s where the conception of the EP happened. We wrote a bunch of the songs in Toronto but we made them our own in a little studio that happened to be on 888 Dupont Street, a little basement recording studio, so that was another push for the namesake of the record. It started in Toronto and then we went to Nashville, which we’d been spending some time there this year, and wrote two other songs for the EP. We’re all crazy about the city and it’s so rich in talent; every time we go, we feel like we soak up a ton of energy and inspiration and get a lot done. We consciously decided to lean into that influence as a product of being on the road and being in Nashville that year. It was a cool part of where we were at. There’s definitely a little bit of that feel in the design, the album cover. It was an important part of the project practically and it comes out a little bit in the sound too, which is probably more country, Americana than we’ve ever done.

TV: Do you see Toronto as your home base for the foreseeable future?

KY: I think so. Right now we’re talking about spending a month or two here to start working on the next record, but we’re very easily enamoured by new cities. So, who knows, Toronto’s definitely our home base and I don’t ever see us leaving for good, but the great thing about this job is we don’t have a 9 to 5 and we can live and do whatever we want, whatever feels cool, and push ourselves. So, who knows, maybe the next record we do will be an LA concept record or we’ll move to a cabin in Montana. 

TV: Pivoting a little bit toward the tour, is this your first months-long experience on tour or have you done similar lengths in the past?

KY: This is basically on par with our longest tour. We just came back from our longest tour, which was a little over a month long. It was a couple weeks ago, we just came back. So we’ve been on the road a lot this fall. But I think this is the biggest scale tour we have. We’ve upgraded our van, we have a tour manager, we’re playing these amazing theatre venues all over Canada and the US, so it feels like we’re doing it bigger than we’ve done before. 

TV: What’s your favourite and least favourite aspect of touring?

KY: Favourite is eating good food and getting into shenanigans with my friends. My least favourite is probably that it’s tough to sleep and it’s tough to stay healthy. But you live so much and have so many experiences in such a short period of time that you don’t really think about how tired you are — you just kind of enjoy it. We’ve had a lot of fun touring and being on the road this year. I think we’ve set a good balance of being ambitious and serious, and also appreciating that what we’re doing is actually crazy and enjoying every moment. 

Wild Rivers will be opening for The Paper Kites on November 22 at The Opera House.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Major League Baseball awards bookend an eventful season

There’s always next year for the Blue Jays

Major League Baseball awards bookend an eventful season

The Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, handing the Los Angeles Dodgers their second World Series loss in a row. Whether you’re a Dodgers fan wallowing in disappointment all over again, a Red Sox fan celebrating your club’s ninth championship, or even a Blue Jays fan forgetting already almost all that has happened this season and thinking wistfully of the impending Guerrero era, you’d be inclined to agree that 2018 was a pretty fun season for baseball.

For starters, there were three teams who recorded no-hitters — up from last year’s grand total of one. Oakland’s Sean Manaea secured one, and Los Angeles’ quartet of Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore combined to secure another no-hitter. In addition, Seattle’s James Paxton became the second Canadian-born pitcher to record a no-hitter; even more symbolic is that he achieved this feat against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.

However, none of the aforementioned pitchers won the coveted Cy Young award, which went instead to Tampa Bay Rays’ Blake Snell in the American League (AL). Snell recorded a remarkable ERA of 1.89, helping Tampa Bay surpass expectations. The Rays finished comfortably third in the AL East division, eighteen games over .500.

In the same league, the pitcher who generated the most buzz preseason on account of his ability to both hit and pitch, Shohei Ohtani, won Rookie of the Year, which came as a surprise to no one. Ohtani, along with Silver Slugger winner Mike Trout and Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons, made the Los Angeles Angels an exciting team to watch, though they did not ultimately reach the playoffs.

In the National League (NL), Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. won Rookie of the Year, while the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom also became a first-time winner, securing the Cy Young with an almost unbelievable ERA of 1.7.

And it was a good year for pitchers — specifically, for the strikeout: for the first time in Major League history, there were more strikeouts recorded than hits. In more hitter-friendly records broken this season, the previous record of 80 walk-off home runs was broken in August.

One player who contributed to setting this record was Mookie Betts, who had a year that can only be described as spectacular. The Red Sox’s right fielder finally won the AL MVP award, as well as a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger — all while helping his team win the World Series. Boston combined to win more awards than any other team, with three Gold Glove winners and three Silver Slugger award recipients, to secure 2018 as the year of Boston.

In more local review, the Blue Jays put up a less than impressive season: no pitcher landed in the league’s top 50 lowest ERAs and no hitter landed in the top 50 highest averages. To say Toronto was mediocre would be a compliment, as the Jays were uninspired and utterly forgettable.

However, that may have been partially due to the moves the team made during the season: the Jays dealt JA Happ to the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson to the Cleveland Indians, and Curtis Granderson to the Milwaukee Brewers. If Toronto fans want any claim, however small, to Boston’s World Series win, it would be in Steve Pearce, who had started the season with Toronto until being traded in June, and was named the World Series MVP.

Pearce, Betts, and JD Martinez will make the AL East a difficult division to compete in for years to come. This season, the AL East was the only division to have two 100-win teams in the Yankees and the Red Sox. The former would go on to be eliminated in the Division Series, whereas the latter would go on to win the whole thing.

On the flip side, not a single team recorded a 100-win season in the NL. In fact, four teams had to play one extra game — increasing their total to 163 games in the regular season — because they were tied for division champs: the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies to clinch the NL West, while the Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs to clinch the NL Central. Milwaukee would go on to lose to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, though they found some consolation, as newly-acquired Christian Yelich secured the NL MVP award for his incredible season.

From no-hitters to walk-offs, 2018 gave baseball fans a lot to be happy about. Established teams, like the Red Sox, the Dodgers, and the Yankees, delivered what their fans expected — while the Braves and the Brewers surprised all with their dominance. With the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel as prominent free-agents this offseason, 2019 can be the success story for teams that had unimpressive seasons this year.

Wherever the superstars land, and however players are traded from one team to another, one thing is for sure in this offseason: March can’t come soon enough.

Varsity Blues men’s hockey falls short against Mustangs

Blues lose eighth straight contest

Varsity Blues men’s hockey falls short against Mustangs

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team dropped their eighth straight game 64 in an aggressive matchup against the Western Mustangs on Friday night at Varsity Arena.

The Mustangs outshot the Blues 32–23, giving the Blues their eighth straight loss, placing them second last in the Ontario University Athletics men’s hockey standings.

The Blues started aggressively as Nicholas Turenko of Mississauga drew a slashing penalty 46 seconds into the first period. The Blues continued their approach as Victoria native Hunter Atchison shot one past Mustangs goalie Luke Peresinni to score.

Western responded in kind with three consecutive goals from Kenny Huether, Anthony Stefano, and Ray Huether to end the first period.

The Mustangs started the second period with a goal 35 seconds in, courtesy of Theo Lewis. The Blues responded with an early goalie change as Alex Bishop came in for starting goaltender Frederic Foulem, who had allowed four goals in under 21 minutes.

Blues defenseman Matt Heffernan drew the first of what would be six penalties in the period. Mustangs Jonathan Laser drew a slashing penalty, which resulted in a Toronto power play goal courtesy of David Thomson. With Toronto’s offense shrinking the gap, Kenny Huether answered and closed the second period with his second goal of the evening.

The high intensity eased up in the third period, as Matt Watson scored to extend the Mustangs lead. With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Blues forward Max Lindsay scored his second goal of the evening, but it wasn’t enough as the Blues fell short to the Western Mustangs 64.

Varsity Blues suffer tough loss against Brock Badgers

Blues men’s basketball lose 103–54

Varsity Blues suffer tough loss against Brock Badgers

The Blues men’s basketball team had a tough go in St. Catharines on Friday night, falling 103–54 to the Brock Badgers at their Bob Davis Gymnasium.

The Badgers imposed their will right out of the gate, opening the game on a 12–0 run on the merits of their high energy and upbeat pace on both ends of the floor.

Fourth-year Blues point guard Christopher Barrett would stop the bleeding midway through the quarter, sinking a three-pointer from the top of the arc and another quick lay-in off a sideline out-of-bounds play to cut the deficit to seven, with five minutes remaining in the first.

Barrett’s two buckets, Toronto’s first five points of the game, would unfortunately be the last for the Blues in the opening period, as Brock upped their lead to 23–5 heading into the second.

The Badgers had seven assists in the first quarter alone, and complemented their smooth, unselfish ball movement on offense with an imposing, physical full-court press that produced 17 Toronto turnovers for the game.

A much improved second quarter for the Blues saw the Badgers outscore Toronto by just five points, 25–20. However, the damage was done, and Toronto found themselves down 48–25 at halftime.

The second half was much the same, as Brock’s efficient shooting gave them a 20-point third quarter advantage. Toronto’s struggles continued throughout the half and the game came to a close with a lopsided 103–54.

The Blues struggled to find their team game throughout, producing six assists to the Badgers’ 27. Brock were lights out, going 55 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from beyond the arc to sink 15 triples on the night. Toronto had a comparatively harder time drawing iron, shooting 27 per cent overall and just 16 per cent from three.

The Blues, however, did manage to win part of the rebounding battle, procuring 14 offensive boards to the Badgers’ seven. Toronto’s bench also maintained a slight advantage, outscoring Brock’s reserves 29–25. Fourth-year forward Daniel Johansson led all Toronto scorers with 16 points and six boards, while rookie guard Iñaki Alvarez chipped in with 14.

The Badgers improved to 5–1 with the win, perched at the top of the Ontario University Athletics West Division rankings. Toronto holds strong despite the loss, with a 3–4 record in league, good for sixth in the East Division.

Varsity Blues women’s hockey drop contest 3–1 against Waterloo Warriors

Louie Bieman scored Toronto’s lone goal of the game

Varsity Blues women’s hockey drop contest 3–1 against Waterloo Warriors

The Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team suffered a 31 loss against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday afternoon.

Waterloo put a goal on the scoreboard to open up the game with a tip shot by fourth-year forward Alison Hanson, giving the Warriors a 10 lead to end the period. Despite the Warriors’ early lead, the Blues managed to generate eight shots on goal to the Warriors’ five.

The Warriors’ lead quickly disappeared as Blues forward Louie Bieman tied the game with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second period. Waterloo’s offense appeared to be more aggressive, generating more shots than Toronto’s. With less than five minutes in the period, the Warriors jumped to another lead as forward Angela MacDonald scored, giving them a 21 advantage. Toronto could not find any momentum as the Warriors’ late push carried them into the final period.

Toronto found themselves on the penalty kill twice early on in the third period, reducing their chances of tying the game even more. First-year forward Taylor Trussler committed both of the penalties by bodychecking and boarding. The Blues could not get past Warriors goaltender Amanda Smith in the final period. Samantha Burbridge sealed the game for Waterloo with an empty netter in the final minute, giving the Warriors a 31 victory.

Toronto’s first-year goalie Erica Fryer made 14 saves in the loss. Smith stopped 18 of 19 shots.

“It was back and forth. We had some good spurts. It wasn’t very consistent though. We really only played with a sense of urgency when we were down, like the middle of the second period and the last 10 minutes of the third,” said Blues forward Louie Bieman, when asked about the team’s performance. “So, it’s hard to win when you’re not playing a full 60 minutes unfortunately.”

Bieman scored the team’s only goal. “Megan made a pass out front. And the goalie had been dropping all game. So I just dragged it around her, had a wide open net.”

When asked about the team’s preparation for future games, Bieman said, “Don’t worry too much about this game. We have another one tomorrow afternoon. Have a quick turnaround, think about it a bit tonight. But, rest up, get ready to play tomorrow.”

Why I root for the New York Rangers

Wayne Gretzky closed out his career in New York and nearly played with Joe Sakic

Why I root for the New York Rangers

Why does a Toronto native root for the New York Rangers, the original six franchise with the least number of Stanley Cups?

There’s countless reasons, but I’ll attempt to keep this brief.

Seven years before John Tavares signed with the Leafs and renewed Stanley Cup aspirations in Toronto, I recall being ecstatic upon hearing the news that high-priced free agent target Brad Richards had agreed to sign a nine-year, $60 million dollar contract with New York Rangers.

Richards embodied what I wanted in a first-line centre; tremendous vision, the ability to hit the 20-goal mark plateau, and less importantly, a left-handed shot. He spent only three seasons with the Rangers, but he helped lead the team to a Stanley Cup appearance in 2014, which saw the Los Angeles Kings win the cup in five games.

Despite having to buyout the rest of his contract the following offseason, the initial move of signing a veteran star to a long-term deal was a pretty typical decision for New York, unlike for most NHL teams. The Rangers are never afraid to take big swings in free agency, despite the fact that they’ve signed some of the worst contracts in NHL history.

My love for the Rangers is intertwined with my affinity for history. Mark Messier broke the team’s 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994; in the early ’90s, Alexei Kovalev wore white skates in a similar style to fellow Russian star Sergei Fedorov; not to mention New York was the last franchise that Wayne Gretzky played for.

The 1994 Stanley Cup winners even had a University of Toronto connection behind the bench with head coach Mike Keenan. A decade prior, Keenan led the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team to our most recent national championship.

Here’s a fun late ’90s story from Rangers lore that sums up the Blueshirts experience. Fittingly enough, it happened the year of my birth.

In July 1997, longtime Rangers captain Mark Messier — the greatest player in Rangers history — departed New York to join the Vancouver Canucks. His exit left a 36-year-old Gretzky as the team’s best centre.

Desperately in need of youth to play alongside Kovalev and ensure any possibility of contending for a Stanley Cup, the Rangers signed star Colorado Avalanche centre Joe Sakic to a three-year, $21 million USD offer sheet — a deal that would pay him a $15 million USD signing bonus up-front.

The Avalanche was a small-market team that could not financially compete with New York, and relied on a fortuitous outcome to ensure that Sakic wouldn’t play for the Rangers.

Then owned by Ascent Entertainment Group, the Avalanche fell back on on profits from the 1997 blockbuster Air Force One to sign Sakic; the team’s primary owner Charlie Lyons had produced the film with his production company Beacon Pictures.

To sum it all up, Harrison Ford prevented New York from solidifying their future.

And while it would’ve been cool to see Sakic in a Rangers uniform, 36-year-old Gretzky still managed to lead New York to 91 points, fifth-best in the league for the 1997–1998 season. It’s no wonder they call him ‘the Great One.’

Why I root for the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017

Why I root for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Canada’s game is back and, for a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, this season couldn’t come soon enough! Growing up in a hockey-centred household and being from Toronto, I was raised a Toronto Maple Leafs fan but soon discovered the joy in team rivalry. My brother and I have been fans of the Penguins for as long as I can remember. From collecting hockey cards to playing street hockey and not missing a single play, you could say that hockey became less of a game and more of an identity for me.

The Penguins have had a rough start to the 2018–2019 season and are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference. Here in Toronto, my dad doesn’t hesitate to remind me that the Leafs are in second, with 14 wins and six losses.

There’s plenty for Penguins fans to be optimistic about, though. The team is led by star captain Sidney Crosby, and only a few years prior, in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins became the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in 19 years.

I have no doubt that our time is coming soon and that the cup will once again be held by the Penguins. Sharing in your team’s victory and having bragging rights is hands down the best feeling as a fan. But all that aside, I think that love for a team goes deeper than the jersey you wear to moments you share with fellow fans. The ability to celebrate a team as fans and stand connected through our love for the game is why I truly believe that hockey is a game that unites people.