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Archive for June, 2012

Congratulations LA Kings! Our Polar Bears Will See You (again) Soon!

By Rick Kemp, Director of Marketing & Communications, Churchill Wild

Congratulations are due to all of Churchill Wild’s California friends. Last night your Los Angeles Kings became the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions!

Travel Manitoba Mascot Toba on the Los Angeles Kings ice.

At home on the LA ice... It's a... uh... a Manitoba Polar Bear!

It went to the 6th game in a best-of-seven series – many were surprised it took that long. The road to the finals was dominated by the Kings as they rolled over everyone in their path. With the coveted championship trophy in the building the Kings dominated the Devils. The final score was of 6-1. Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick led the team with stellar performances, but it was a true team effort and everyone looked like a superstar.

Speaking of superstars we also saw Matthew Perry, James Gandolfini, David Beckham and my lifelong crush Alyssa Milano in the crowd. Star-studded event is an understatement — I’m sure there were others, not to mention a certain distraction for the New Jersey coach.

Canadians are known for our love of hockey and last night my family was glued to the TV watching the action. We had been cheering for the Kings since the early rounds when our personal favorites were exiled to the golf courses.

Elliot in LA Kings Dressing Room

One happy kid!

The Stanley Cup finals are a yearly ritual in our house. I am a huge hockey fan and my wife probably loves it more than I do! My 11-year-old son Elliot plays hockey and is one of those stereotypical Canadian kids you hear about — he learned to skate shortly after learning to walk.

With the recent return of our Winnipeg Jets we may have our own team, but they didn’t make the playoffs. Lucky for me I had a connection to the Kings that made them my surrogate choice for the cup.

This past spring I traveled to LA for a round of meetings and an event hosted by Travel Manitoba at the Staples Centre. Being Canadian it was an appropriate gesture to host California’s travel industry professionals (in a suite) at the game between the Calgary Flames and the Kings.

I met a lot of great people and I’ve continued to stay in contact with many of them – a few are even coming up to the lodge this summer for one of our Arctic Safaris where they will see polar bears and swim with beluga whales in July and August.

Unfortunately I missed most of the game, but I ended up with an experience I’ll always remember, and one that my son bragged to all his friends about.

Travel Manitoba has a mascot named “Toba”, a polar bear with a big round belly and an enormous head. I’m always adventurous so I volunteered to assume the Toba identity, leaving myself at the mercy of Travel Manitoba’s Dene and Lilian to dictate my agenda.

I was escorted by Kings’ staff thru the hallways under the stands (beautiful building!) to my “dressing room” where I put the costume on and immediately felt like I was transported to a 100 degree sizzling sunny summer afternoon. I didn’t realize there was a cooling unit built in and toughed it out for the remainder of my moment in the spotlight.

LA Kings Mascot Bailey vs Travel Manitoba Mascot Toba

Mascot Showdown

Between the first and second period I was ushered onto the ice to assist the King’s mascot Bailey in supervising/refereeing a mini-game with mini players. As the kids skated circles around us we were sideshow entertainment for the fans.

When we inevitably met at center ice it was a surreal summit of two safari icons. The African Safari’s lion meets our Arctic Safari’s polar bear.

I couldn’t see much from inside that immense white bobble-head but I was assured the exchange was both comical and entertaining – and I give all credit to Bailey.

I may have missed the suite visit from one of my all-time hockey heroes (Luc Robitaille) but how many people can say they dressed as a polar bear in LA and waddled around in front of 18,000 fans? I guess this was my big Hollywood moment.

The Kings franchise was founded on February 9, 1966, when the city was awarded a 1967-68 NHL expansion franchise, becoming one of six new teams (California Seals, LA Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St. Louis Blues).

In the 45-year history of the franchise the Kings had never won a Stanley Cup. From the days of Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon to the era of Gretzky and Robitaille the Kings had many sweet victories and sad defeats, even going so far as losing in the Stanley Cup final of 1992-93.

The current roster including Brown, Quick, Richards, Carter, Gagne and the guiding expertise of Darryl Sutter are sure to make future seasons just as exciting. I can’t wait to see them face off against the Jets!

Congrats again to our California friends! Our polar bears look forward to seeing you this summer!

Travel Manitoba Mascot Toba (Churchill Wild) with LA Kings.

A polar bear in LA... Kings! Congratulations on winning the 2012 Stanley Cup!

Churchill Wild to attend First International Wolf & Carnivore Conference in Thompson MB, October 23-24, 2012

Arctic Wolf at North Knife Lake Lodge

Arctic Wolf at North Knife Lake Lodge

Wolf experts and scientists from Canada, USA and Russia, along with researchers, students, conservationists, eco-tour operators and others will gather at the First International Wolf & Carnivore Conference, which takes place in Thompson, Manitoba on Oct. 23-24, 2012.

Churchill Wild will be represented by North Knife Lake Lodge founder Doug Webber, who has spent most of his life in Churchill, Thompson and the surrounding Manitoba wilderness. North Knife Lake Lodge has been home to more than one family of wolves for almost 40 years, and along with taking fishing guests on hikes to view the wolves, Webber has also assisted wolf researchers on numerous occasions.

The main organizer of the conference, Volker Beckmann, is hoping that the conference will help to transform Thompson into the Wolf Capital of Canada.

“Wolves should be seen as an ecological and economic asset, similar to the way polar bears and beluga whales are to Churchill,” said Beckmann in a recent Winnipeg Free Press article entitled Wolves Pack them in.

“In northern Manitoba, wolves can attract researchers and tourists, provide new income and business opportunities, and create positive publicity for Thompson and Manitoba if managed and marketed properly. Thompson could link itself as the wolf capital to the polar bear capital in Churchill for eco-tourism efforts. There’s great potential.”

Main Themes of the Wolf & Carnivore Conference:

  • Wolf Ecology, Management and Policies
  • Wolves and Polar Bear Dynamics along the coast of Hudson Bay
  • Defining a Wolf/Carnivore Centre of Excellence
  • Current and future Wolf Research Projects in unstudied regions


Invited Presenters and Keynote Speakers include:

Rick Baydack, CWB

Rick Baydack is a Professor at the University of Manitoba, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, Department of Environment and Geography, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is also the Canadian Section Representative to The Wildlife Society Council. His principal professional interests are practical management applications for wildlife and their habitats, using an ecosystem approach and adaptive strategies. Baydack will be focusing on how wolves and their prey, woodland caribou, are affected by northern development.

L. Dave Mech (tentative)

L. David Mech (pronounced “Meech”) is a Senior Research Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. Mech has studied wolves and their prey since 1958, as well as several other species of wildlife.

Marco Musiani

Marco Musiani is an Associate Professor, Tenured with the Faculties of Environmental Design and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary. He is currently analyzing ecological data on large carnivores (example, wolves) and their prey, which was gathered throughout Northern and Western Canada. He has published two books on wolves.

Nikita G. Ovsyanikov

Nikita G. Ovsyanikov is the Deputy Director for science and senior research scientist, Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve, Ministry of Nature Resources, Russian Federation and Senior Research Scientist, Severtzov’s Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences. Ovsyanikov has studied the population, condition, and behavior of polar bears on Russia’s Wrangel Island for more than 15 years. The remote island is one of the largest polar bear denning sites in the world and has seen significant changes in the sea ice in recent years. In addition to scientific papers, he is the author of “Polar Bears: Living with the White Bears.”

Paul Paquet

Paul Paquet, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor of Biology and Associate Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. He is also an Adjunct Professor at University of Saskatchewan College of Veterinary Medicine, Brandon University, University of Manitoba; and Faculty Associate at Guelph University and University of New Brunswick. Paquet, who has studied wolves and coyotes for more than 35 years, obtained his PhD degree from the University of Alberta, Canada. He is an internationally recognized authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves, with research experience in several regions of the world.

See Full Conference Bios Here

For more information on the first International Wolf & Carnivore Conference, including travel information, registration, themes, conference speakers, FAQ and Thompson area overview, please e-mail or visit: