Earthquake hits Esterhazy area

It’s not exactly the “run of the mill” news item for the Esterhazy area, and maybe that’s why it’s already getting out there across the internet with amazing speed. From local newspapers, to provincial radio stations, and even US Geological sites, the web is buzzing with the report of an earthquake tonight to the east of Esterhazy.

It was recorded at 8:30 p.m. and had its epicenter around 17km to the east of town. In terms of depth, reports say it was 5km beneath the surface, and had a magnitude of 4.1 on the Richter scale. While it might not be an earth-shattering number, it is an earth shaker to a certain degree. Indeed, some people are already reporting that they felt something. One person said their hotel bed shook, and no doubt other personal anecdotes and experiences will be shared online and offline over the next few days.

It’s not the first minor quake to hit Esterhazy. Global News reported one in 2016, and back then some people wondered if mining operations were connected to it in some way, but experts quickly pointed out that natural tectonic activity is far more likely a culprit in such events. Tremors occur all over the world where there are no mining operations within thousands of kilometers. We live on a dynamic planet, and geological stresses, plate movements, fault lines, and the like do create noticeable and measurable results. Tonight’s event probably falls into those categories.

Reports also show that power outages have been experienced in Esterhazy, Rocanville, and Moosomin. While nobody is making a direct link to the earthquake yet, the timing is pretty convenient or at least co-incidental. It will be interesting to see what the utility companies say as time goes on.

For now, we’re all still learning, still watching. And once more grateful that to this point there are no reports of casualties.

Esterhazy’s Russ Sheppard is the real-life teacher from the movie “The Grizzlies”

A movie had its local premier on Friday night in Esterhazy’s Maple Leaf Theatre. It didn’t attract a full house on that evening, but it was still well-attended, with an audience comprising all ages from schoolkids to seniors. During the movie it was obvious that some people were moved by what they saw, and as the end credits rolled, a man took to the stage.

The house lights came back on, and the man stood before the audience in a relaxed pose. His humble manner reflected the casual attire he wore. You could walk by him in the street and see just an ordinary guy, for that’s what he is. And yet, he’s an ordinary man who became the catalyst for extraordinary change, a man who shows us what a difference any of us can make if we encourage others. He’s the man in the real-life back story to the sensational movie “The Grizzlies.” He is Esterhazy’s own Russ Sheppard.

Russ is humble, and is very quick to lessen his personal role in changing a community, but that’s what he did, albeit indirectly. After graduating as a teacher, Russ found himself in the remote and desolate Inuit town of Kugluktuk, located north of the Arctic Circle in Nunavut. He was there to teach history, there to explore his new career for the first time, and yet it was he who received an education.

Kugluktuk had one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and the young people were demotivated and despairing. While being a whole generation apart from the hideous mistreatment of residential schools, they were still carrying the generational memories and scars passed on by parents who lived that disgusting blot on Canada’s history. After decades of false hopes and broken promises, the sense of hopelessness was pervasive. Russ saw this malaise reflected in his students. They were generally disinterested in education, given to the temptations of drugs and alcohol, and all-too-often ripped apart emotionally by yet another suicide from their own numbers.

The movie portrays this aspect of the story in a way that pulls no punches. It begins with a suicide, and it’s not the last one depicted. It also shows the emotional impact of these tragic events, and adds to the mix the parental abuse, extreme poverty, and starvation sometimes experienced in northern communities that have been forgotten by southern society. It’s not a feel-good movie, it doesn’t even have a fairy-tale ending, and yet it is powerful, emotional, and hauntingly-encouraging.

In real-life, and in the movie, Russ introduced the students to the sport of Lacrosse. It was an uphill battle to begin with, where he fought both student disinterest, and resistance from within the academic administration. He also had to contend with community pressure, as the after-school activity could conflict with the domestic responsibilities some students were expected to undertake. Never-the-less, Russ and his fellow teachers persisted, and the students began to rally to the activities. As more of them became involved, they discovered emotions they hadn’t felt for a long time… genuine fun, purpose, camaraderie, and a sense of hope. The sports activity was drawing these qualities out from within the young people, and Russ became the champion and cheerleader for what these young people were becoming.

Additionally, academic attendance was growing. It was made a condition for playing the sport. Of this Russ says, “When we saw attendance in the school on the rise, we realized as a group that we had some energy and culture change happening. We needed to keep working hard for these kids who were working for themselves. The catalyst was the commitment of the kids to change themselves, and a group of adults who believed that the kids deserved more.”

Eventually, through great perseverance on the part of all concerned, the team (now known as The Grizzlies), went to Toronto and played in the Lacrosse nationals. No, they did not become the champions of the event, but they were already winners, each and every one of them, because of how far they had come. And then the story of the team began to get out in the media, and to cut a long story short, more than a decade later the movie was in the works. It would eventually feature people from Kugluktuk itself, with scenes being filmed on location, and the genuine raw emotions of the actors being captured on film.

There is of course a degree of creative license in the movie, as with all theatrical productions. Having said that, it does accurately represent the essence of the experience. Thankfully, it stays away from the temptation to present Russ as a “white savior”, and does not show sports activity as being the catch-all solution for societal change. Instead it reflects some basic truths that movie-goers would be wise to think about.

1. Russ is an ordinary man who became a catalyst for extraordinary change. Put it another way, Russ did not change anyone, rather he created an environment in which change was encouraged.

2. The sport did not change anyone. It was but a tool within the environment that was being created.

3. The change came from within the students. The environment of encouragement, combined with the use of the tools, led those young people to find the hidden qualities that were already resident within them. As they themselves expressed those qualities, they changed their lives.

As those young people grew into adulthood, they took those changes and brought them back to the community, with some of them now holding responsible positions in local government, and in the education system in the north.

This is the essential message of the movie, as well as the underlying message of the real experience. While the specific locational/historical experience may not be transportable, the essential human experience is.

Russ is not a super hero, he is an example of what anyone can do if they are willing to do it. He found a way to encourage others to find their own greatness within, and if Russ could do it, so can you and I.

Creating an environment for growth does not begin with massive change. It can be as simple as giving an encouraging word, or reaching out a helping hand. And once received, that moment of human kindness can become a spark that leads to a fire, and that fire can set a whole community ablaze with life-changing potential.

This is why the movie is hauntingly powerful. Its message is not about Russ or even the students of Kugluktuk, it’s about all of us, in every community. It is a reminder of the good we can all do, and the greatness we can all express, if we make the decision to do it.

Of the experience, Russ says, “It was a very life changing experience working with some of the kids, and characters I did. And if I could summarize it, things happened the way they were supposed to happen. I was able to learn a lot of good lessons, and create some good relationships and skills through that adventure. It allowed me to understand that the human spirit is a pretty amazing thing, and there’s a whole world out there of perseverance that will allow people to reach a new target and goal.”

The movie will continue to play at Maple Leaf Theatre on June 2nd and 4th at 7:15pm. You can watch the official trailer below. Russ is now a corporate lawyer in Cranbrook, BC, and he still coaches Lacrosse.

EsterhazyOnline and North Valley Credit Union create “NVCU Community Announcer”

We have hinted on facebook, and when meeting people in town, that EsterhazyOnline is coming back. Today, we are proud to announce the opening of the re-branded, re-conceptualized site, complete with a new name… “NVCU COMMUNITY ANNOUNCER – In Conjunction with EsterhazyOnline.”

North Valley Credit Union is underwriting this new incarnation of EsterhazyOnline, and if it were not for them, this development would not be taking place. So let’s talk about what this revised version of EsterhazyOnline will be, and what it won’t be.

This re-vamped site is not setting out to be an all-out news reporting service like before. There are three reasons for this.

  1. Kenneth J. Kerr (owner of EsterhazyOnline) now lives 125km away from town and will not be attending every event like before.
  2. Kenneth is also heavily involved in advancing his career as the author of a new book and as a public speaker.
  3. The Miner-Journal newspaper is an essential community amenity, and we want to encourage and support its continued success, not compete against it.

Having said that, here is what this new site WILL be.

  1. The go-to place for public announcements and upcoming events in Esterhazy, Stockholm, and the immediate surrounding area.
  2. A brand-new information portal through which North Valley Credit Union can tell the public about who they are, what they offer, and how they interact with the community.

Both Roy Spence (CEO/GM of North Valley Credit Union – And also Mayor of Esterhazy), and Kenneth J. Kerr (Owner and operator of EsterhazyOnline) are excited to see this new venture launch, and they share the vision of this becoming a valuable service for the community.

So, who can submit press releases and announcements to be placed on this site and promoted by it?

  • Town of Esterhazy
  • RM of Fertile Belt
  • Village of Stockholm
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Esterhazy Community Daycare
  • Sports teams
  • Charities
  • Service organizations
  • Youth groups (like the Scouts)
  • Community theatre groups
  • The museum
  • The library
  • Fundraisers for town amenities

And what will the cost of these announcements be?

  • ZERO, NADA, FREE – Because North Valley Credit Union is paying for YOU to use this service! (Three cheers for NVCU!)

So, what are you waiting for? If your school, church, service organization, sports team, or youth group has an event to announce, then get in touch with us and tell us about it. Use the contact form in the menu and fire us off a request to be announced to the EsterhazyOnline audience. Your event will be included in the page headlines, added to the community calendar, and mentioned on the EsterhazyOnline Facebook.

And one more question we’ve already had… What about commercial adverts? We’re looking into that possibility, but nothing has been decided yet. If you do want to place commercial ads for your business, again, reach us through the contact form, and if there’s enough interest we’ll consider adding that feature to the site, at a cost to the advertiser of course.

Let’s make this thing ROCK people. If it’s happening out there, it should be announced on here…. GET IN TOUCH and tell everyone you know about this new public service!

Best Regards,


(ps… The old URL, still brings you here!)