Improving men’s hockey a must for Dalhousie

Rebuilding the Dalhousie men’s hockey team is proving to be more than a one year job for the team’s head coach.

By Sarah Mackey

Rebuilding the Dalhousie men’s hockey team is proving to be more than a one-year job for the team’s head coach.

After another losing season, and the upcoming loss of several veterans, the team is in a rut and Chris Donnelly knows it.

His cross country search for players is back on with seven of the 31 players graduating at the end of the season.

“I’m looking to find the best quality guys,” says Donnelly. “The most skilled players aren’t always the best fit for our team. Character can make a big difference in a hockey game.”

Donnelly says this is a good chance to get some new players on the team and more positive energy surrounding the organization.

“Every team goes through this. Losing those guys is challenging, but that’s part of the rebuilding process – it’s kind of fun. You never know what’s going to happen in September.”

Donnelly has been driving coast-to-coast to find Junior A players to join the Tigers.

He’s also trying to change the way the current players think about the game.

“We’ve been giving the guys more responsibility and clearly defined roles on the ice. They know if they’re on a goal scoring line or an offensive line or an energy line. That direction has translated into better hockey.”

Playoff blues


Two years ago, the the team made it to the playoffs for the first time in ten years. Players and fans alike were hoping that this signalled an improvement for the Tigers squad.

Unfortunately, there were multiple injuries in the first half of this season. The Tigers were left to scramble for a spot in the playoffs.

On January 26, the Tigers were a point behind the Université de Moncton – the team they had been chasing for the final playoff spot. Although the game ended with an overtime victory for Dalhousie, it also signified the second year in a row that the Tigers fell short of a playoff spot.

“It was a tough (game) because we have improved a lot over the last couple of years as a program,” graduating player Jacob Johnston told the Dalhousie Gazette.

Fan support

The dismal performance of the team means that fewer fans are heading out to the Forum to cheer them on.

Donnelly says this is something he and the players are working to change.

“Students can get in for free. I don’t see any reason for them not to come, especially if we start winning games. It’s part of the whole (university) experience.”

The team is organizing a food drive that will be led by the players as well as a competition to win season tickets for next year. Donnelly wants to make the team more involved in campus life.

He’s trying to make the hockey team something that contributes positively to Dalhousie. He recognizes that this starts with the team winning games.

“The goal is to leave the program in better shape than when I arrived.”

Jane’s moves next door

Jane Wright has switched careers. She used to run Jane’s on the Common. Now she’s in the catering business.

By Sarah Mackey

Seventeen days after locking the doors of Jane’s on the Common for the last time, Jane Wright was back working full time.

She’s gone from being a restaurateur to being a caterer.

Wright adjusts her electric blue glasses and finishes typing up an email before turning back to her executive chef, Paolo Colbertaldo.  They’re discussing an upcoming catering job. Even with the closure of her restaurant, Wright has refused to slow down.

“I feel like I’m back having a new-born baby again that just needs total attention and undivided care.”

Two years ago, Wright purchased a property on Gottingen Street that has since become the home of her catering and event venue, as well as a second take-away store called Jane’s Next Door. The kiosk stores sell ready-made sandwiches, Wright’s famous coffee, and a selection of frozen entrées and desserts.

Although the Jane’s brand will remain prominent in the Halifax culinary landscape, a lot of people still miss the restaurant.

Jane’s on the Common sourced from 22 local vendors during business operations. Those vendors will take a business hit. While it was open, Jane’s was ordering 1,320 free-range eggs a week from several farms in the Halifax area.

“Definitely our purchasing is going to be cut dramatically, but we are trying to build the catering business. With my undivided attention on that now, I’m hoping we will be able to build that back up.”

Ten years of Jane

Anytime a customer wrote her a note on a receipt or a napkin, Wright would save it in a file folder. She’s hoping to combine those with her experiences in the restaurant to create a book of recipes.

“I was hoping to get a bit of a cookbook done, maybe a decade of stories and recipes from a neighbourhood restaurant.”

Wright’s office is a testament to her passion for literature. The former librarian has an entire wall of books ranging from preserve recipes to a collection of Emily Dickinson’s love poems.

She says one of the hardest things about owning the restaurant was dealing with unsatisfied customers.

Learning that you can’t satisfy every customer was difficult for Wright. Her personal investment in the restaurant meant that any negative review hurt deeply.

“I actually had to go to counseling for a while, especially when all the online, anonymous (comments) started.”

Although the anonymity of the Internet limits her access to the customer, Wright still tries to respond to each grievance personally.

Now that Jane’s on the Common is closed, Wright says it’s the personal interaction with the customers she’s going to miss the most.

“Whenever I was feeling stressed or wondering why I do this, I just had to come back and work a service.”

When Wright made the announcement in September that she was closing Jane’s, her inbox was flooded with notes detailing how her restaurant had become a part of many Haligonians’ lives.

“I’ve never felt so affirmed with anything I’ve ever done than when I announced I was closing.”

With tears in her eyes, Wright reads a particularly moving letter from a man named Brian Powers. He details how his new family grew together at the tables of Jane’s on the Common.

“We love the Saturday brunch,” writes Powers, “and your outstanding staff has made us feel like family even when we’ve piled in with more than a dozen or so friends, with kids and scarves and hats and vegans.”

From restaurant owner to mentor

On top of the responsibilities of her catering business, Wright is constantly asked to help mentor up-and-coming restaurateurs.

Most recently, Wright was asked to speak about customer service at a new restaurant in Dartmouth.  She’s also been asked to join a panel of experts as a part of The Fork Project. Katelyn Allen-Romkey, a Mount Allison graduate, formed the business in 2011 as a restaurant communications firm. Along with her panel of experts, Allen-Romkey helps new restaurant owners with everything from marketing to menu creation. Wright was brought aboard to offer advice with business plans, staff training and customer service advice.

Among the new restaurant owners seeking advice is Wright’s daughter, Jenna Moores.

Her new restaurant is being built in the same Gottingen Street building out of which Wright runs her catering business. Cardboard still covers the windows, and the smell of sawdust permeates all the way into Wright’s office.

Wright is reluctant to reveal anything about the new restaurant, although she’s clear that this is not a continuation of Jane’s on the Common.

“I know it takes your heart and soul to run a business, and I just didn’t want her (Moores) to have any baggage from mine.”

Moores has not released any information about the menu.

Moores was in Grade 10 when Wright opened Jane’s on the Common. She worked in her mother’s restaurant every weekend for several years before she moved to Montreal for university.  She holds two degrees, one of which is in business.

“She’ll be 26 in a few weeks,” says Wright, “and I feel like she is starting out with way more experience then I ever had. She understands hospitality, and she’s got the gene. I’m really excited for her.”

A new culinary frontier

Wright laughs when people suggest that closing her restaurant means she’s retiring.

“Catering is a much different business from the restaurant business.”

Not only is Wright concerned about the quality of the cuisine, now her staff has to contend with the complications of transporting vast amounts of food.

“With catering, it feels like its ten minutes away from a train wreck. You just never know!”

Cabbies say debit fee is costing them tips

Local taxi drivers say a dollar surcharge on debit is cutting into their tips. However, the cab companies say they’re looking out for the safety of their drivers.

By Mackenzie Scrimshaw

Local taxi drivers say a dollar surcharge tacked onto debit sales is cutting into their tips, but cab companies say it enhances safety and is needed to pay for all of the costs associated with providing the service.

The extra dollar is added to fares automatically when customers choose to pay with their bank cards.

“People can’t afford to pay a dollar plus give me money,” says John Oldham, a Casino Taxi driver. “That is the tip.”

Oldham, who has been driving taxis for 35 years, suggests that surcharge be cut in half to 50 cents – a rate he says is closer to what retail stores charge.

Brian Herman, operations manager of Casino Taxi, says the dollar “definitely has an impact” on a customer’s decision to tip their driver. He argues, however, that a driver’s quality of service has a greater effect on his or her gratuities.

Majid Latif, general manager of Yellow Cab, says while the surcharge can cause drivers to lose their tips, debit transactions are the safest method of payment as they reduce the amount of cash drivers have on hand. That makes them less vulnerable to theft or robbery.

Where Does the Dollar Go?

Still, some drivers aren’t buying it, and wonder what happens to the money.

Herman says it’s no big mystery. Drivers “have a tendency to think we’re getting rich off the dollar surcharge,” he said, adding that the money actually goes to pay costs involved in debit transactions. These include – in addition to the costs of paper and maintenance – charges by financial institutions, and terminal rental fees.

“It’s not that, ‘OK, somebody’s going to give that dollar to me,” Latif says.

The managers, whose companies rent their terminals from Moneris Solutions, declined to reveal exact figures. But, Herman says Casino Taxi pays more than $200,000 per year in terminal rental fees. He says the company has divided that cost into a surcharge for the customer – the $1 fee on all debit transactions – and a weekly $12 rental fee for the drivers that is built into the $138 weekly stand fee Casino Taxi charges its drivers to use its infrastructure and dispatching equipment.

Yellow Cab, says Latif, charges its drivers $7 per week – about $28 per month – to cover their share of the cost of renting terminals – a fee that has remained constant since Yellow Cab installed the machines in 2009. Latif says the one dollar surcharge on debit transactions accounts for the difference between the total rental fee per unit of $60 and each driver’s contribution. If the figures don’t match, then Yellow Cab accepts the difference as a business expense.

From Paper To Plastic

Though their opinions on the surcharge vary, the drivers and their managers agree on one thing: There’s a growing preference among customers for plastic over paper. Oldham says most of his customers no longer carry cash. This, says Herman, represents a shift towards a cash-less society – a trend Latif has also noticed.

Herman says Casino Taxi brings in up to $6 million per year in debit and credit card transactions alone. That figure accounts for 15 to 18 per cent of the company’s total annual business. In January 2013, says Herman, Casino Taxi made about $28,000 in debit and credit card transactions – roughly 19 per cent of the overall $149,000 for that month.

Meanwhile, says Latif, Yellow Cab earned about $15,000 in debit and credit transactions, representing about 17 per cent of the company’s total earnings in that same month. “That’s a huge chunk,” he says, adding that drivers whose cars don’t have the terminals face a disadvantage.  Latif says about 180 of the company’s 219 cars are equipped with the machines. Casino Taxi, in contrast, has a terminal surplus; the company floats 350 terminals through its 345 vehicles.