NEWSMAKERS

‘I DON’T HAVE A LOT OF TALENT OR THE SAME SKILLS AS SOME GUYS, BUT I TRY TO DO MY JOB’ —COLORADO AVALANCHE DEFENCEMAN KARLIS SKRASTINS ON BEATING TIM HORTON’S RECORD

February 26 2007
NEWSMAKERS

‘I DON’T HAVE A LOT OF TALENT OR THE SAME SKILLS AS SOME GUYS, BUT I TRY TO DO MY JOB’ —COLORADO AVALANCHE DEFENCEMAN KARLIS SKRASTINS ON BEATING TIM HORTON’S RECORD

February 26 2007

‘I DON’T HAVE A LOT OF TALENT OR THE SAME SKILLS AS SOME GUYS, BUT I TRY TO DO MY JOB’ —COLORADO AVALANCHE DEFENCEMAN KARLIS SKRASTINS ON BEATING TIM HORTON’S RECORD

NEWSMAKERS

KUMAR

MANGALAM BIRLA

THE RISE OF INDIA INC.

With his Aditya Birla Group’s takeover of Novelis, the world’s leading producer of rolledaluminum products, Kumar Mangalam Birla greatly extends his company’s—and his country’s—influence in global business. Monday’s announcement that Birla-owned Hindalco Industries had purchased Novelis, a spinoff of Montreal’s Alcan Inc., for US$6 billion, also marked Birla’s conglomerate arrival in the ranks of Fortune 500 companies. The goal was achieved two years ahead of a target date Birla had set. The deal comes two weeks after another Indian conglomerate, Tata, bought the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group for US$ 12 billion, making Tata one of the world’s largest steel producers. Although investors fretted that both groups paid too much for their foreign acquisitions, the audacity of the deals prompted the financial press to note that the latest Asian economic tiger has tasted blood and it likes it. Noted BusinessWeek: “Indian companies are on the prowl.”

KARLIS SKRASTINS

MR. DEPENDABILITY NEVER MISSES A GAME

The Colorado Avalanche player hasn’t missed an NHL game in seven years—a remarkable feat given the 32-year-old Latvian makes his living blocking 160 km/h slapshots. On Feb. 8, Karlis Skrastins played his 487th consecutive regular season game, breaking the record for a defenceman previously set by Tim Horton in 1968. “I don’t have a lot of talent or the same skills as some guys, but I try to do my job,” said Skrastins, who last year blocked 207 >ts, second in the NHL. His only glitch was a shoulder injury that kept him out one game back in February 2000. Skrastins hasn’t missed a start since, even when he broke a bone in his wrist, or when he had a wonky knee. He’s known for not complaining and thus his coaches never think of pulling him. Not bad for a guy nicknamed “Scratch.”

ELLEN PAGE

HER AGE OF INNOCENCE HAS ALREADY PASSED

The same week it was almost shut out of the Genies—four of five best picture nominees were in French—English Canadian cinema showed signs of life in Europe. The Berlin film festival showcased movies by Sarah Polley and Guy Maddin, plus world premieres from Bruce McDonald and Clement Virgo. McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments stars Ellen Page as a troubled 15-year-old who first appears naked under a shower curtain at the back of a bus. The Halifaxborn actress, who played Kitty Pryde in the lastX-Men movie, is growing up fast. In Hard Candy (2005), she terrorized a pedophile with surgical implements. And in An American Crime, which just premiered at Sundance, she tackles the real-life role of Sylvia Likens, an Indiana teen imprisoned in the basement by her mother (Catherine Keener). Next week Page turns 20, but already her child-actor innocence

FREDERICK VON ANHALT

[EE MEN AND A BABY

It was only a matter of time before another man joined lawyer Howard K. Stern and photographer Larry Birkhead in claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s five-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. The day after Smith, 39, died in a Miami hotel room, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, 63, stepped forward, alleging he’d had a decade-long affair with the celebrity. He claimed that when the baby was conceived “she wasn’t with one of those guys, she was with me.” Husband to screen siren Zsa Zsa Gabor, 90, von Anhalt might have a fancy title, but he wasn’t born with it. Originally named Hans Robert Lichtenberg, he was an adult when he purchased his title by being “adopted” by Marie Auguste of Anhalt. In 1986 he married Gabor, becoming the Hungarian-born eternal sex symbol’s eighth husband. As for little Dannielynn, von Anhalt says he’ll file a lawsuit if either of her other two purported dads

THE DIXIE CHICKS AFTER A LONG CHILL, READY TO MAKE NICE

With five Grammys last Sunday, the Dixie Chicks thumbed their noses at the controversy that threatened their future nearly four years ago. In March 2003, as the U.S. was invading Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines announced to a London audience: “We’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” Next thing they knew, they were banned from U.S. radio stations, dropped by their sponsor, Lipton, and saw their CDs burned.

When she issued a public apology to George W.

Bush, Maines was criticized for caving in. Their 2006 release Taking the Long Way, and its single Not Ready to Make Nice, tell of the band’s hardships and the Chicks’ unrelenting commitment to each other and their music. Accepting the award for best album, Maines speculated that the win was a political statement. “I think people are using their freedom of speech with all these awards,” she said. And on a lighter note: “I’m ready to make nice!”

SURAYUD CHULANONT NOT SO EASY TO FIX

Thailand’s “interim prime minister” has had a rough six months. Appointed by military coup leaders to lead the country last September, Surayud Chulanont launched an inquiry into allegations of corruption under deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but it’s being blocked by uncooperative senior bureaucrats. Thaksin has kept himself in the public eye by meeting with a senior Singaporean politician, aggravating bilateral relations. Muslim insurgency in the south continues. And Bangkok’s showcase new airport, which the generals hurried into service to show it was business as usual in Thailand, is on the verge of breaking down. Surayud promises elections to return the kingdom to democracy quickly, and for a man with his hands full, that can’t come soon enough.

JAN HUDEC, JR. CRAZINESS RUNS IN THE FAMILY

Three seasons of knee injuries would dishearten the toughest of athletes, but not Jan Hudec ,Jr., who walked away with Canada’s first-ever silver medal in the Alpine World Ski Championships last weekend. Despite a lack of funds from so much time away from lucrative competition, Hudec says, “I never could think of a reason why I should stop.” It took just one minute, 45-40 seconds for the 25-year-old Calgarian to make history in the men’s downhill, just behind Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. A fierce desire to beat the odds runs in the family. The champion skier was only 10 months old when his father, Jan Sr., led the family on a daring escape from Czechoslovakia, at one point traversing the Adriatic in a leaky sailboat. The family spent years in Germany awaiting Canadian visas, finally settling in Alberta. “I guess he was crazy,” Jan Jr. says of his father’s exploits. “But I’m glad he was crazy because we ended up in Canada.”

BERNARD DRAINVILLE BOTH SIDES NOW

After two decades as a TV reporter, Bernard Drainville learned last week how it feels to be thrown to a pack of media hounds who’ve smelled blood. On Feb. 7, Radio-Canada’s chief political correspondent in Quebec’s National Assembly announced that he’ll run for the Parti Québécois in the next election. Radio-Canada was not amused and neither were the province’s opposition parties. They said that Drainville had grilled them on their campaign strategies all the while he was negotiating with the PQ. Drainville claimed he’d declined an initial offer to run and felt free to conduct a major on-air interview with PQ Leader André Boisclair. Afterward, he said, he changed his mind and opted to join the separatist party after all. But that didn’t cut much ice with his former colleagues. “How long have you been a Péquiste?” asked one reporter, as if hinting at some undisclosed disease. Drainville’s erstwhile fellow journalists were surprised personal politics. “I would have bet money he was a federalist,” said one bemused colleague.