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SARATOGA SPRINGS/ RUSSIA — For the second year in a row the EuroChem Cup, one of the world’s leading ice hockey tournaments for 10 to 12-year-old players have invited coaches from the capital region to compile a team to represent the United States. Three players on the team – The Albany Capitols – are Saratoga Springs locals. 


“The experience was spectacular. I don’t think any kid can attend a tournament like that - it doesn’t happen,” said coach and parent Styles Bridges. “The show they put on, the experience that they have; even though we travel all around North America for hockey tournaments, you can’t pay to go to a tournament like this. They go above and beyond to make them feel like it’s the little kid Olympics for hockey.”


When first asked to participate in 2018, the coaches thought it was a spam e-mail; they couldn’t believe such an opportunity would land at their feet. After some research on the validity of the tournament, they placed a team together. This year, when the invitation presented again, they were ready to put a team together. 


“We were looking for kids that are gonna go hard, are great kids. When you’re there, these kids all come from hockey academies where they live away from home and they are used to being on the road, staying by themselves,” said Bridges.  “Whereas Americans we typically do not do that - parents are highly involved with all their traveling activities. It is a big change for them, so it has to be the right kid.” 


This experience was more than just a hockey tournament, it was an opportunity for kids to experience how other kids their ages live in other countries. 


“Our job is to get them ready to represent the country; we want to play at a high level, that’s why we’re here practicing harder, but really it’s about this kind of citizen to citizen type of relationships,” said Brad Chartrand, parent, coach and former player for the L.A. Kings. “We play hard on the ice, but off the ice, we’re there to develop hopefully lifelong friendships. Now with technology, some of the things kids are using - Google translate - there’s much more communication available to the kids over there.” 


This was the first time the team goalie Adam Sherman was participating in the EuroChem Cup, and before departure was prepared to say the least. 


“I’m feeling confident with my time because we’ve been working really hard over the past month. I’m excited,” said Sherman. 


For veteran EuroChem Players Hunter Bridges and Liam Chartrand, the pre-travel excitement didn’t diminish. 


“My favorite part is obviously playing with my teammates and especially ones that I play with my regular team. I can’t wait to represent our country again,” said Hunter.


 Cultural exchange is certainly a factor that not only parents were eager to see, but the kids were looking forward to experiencing as well. 


“I’m most excited about playing the new teams that are supposed to be coming like Italy and China. Getting to be able to represent my country - it’s just a great experience overall,” said Liam. “They teach us some words, we teach them. It’s just great to be able to meet people from other countries cause you get to know how they live and they get to know how we live.” 


The EuroChem tournament is another example of how sports unite, educates and presents influential opportunities beyond imagination. 
Published in Sports
Thursday, 16 May 2019 13:56

Kathy's Comeback

Photos provided.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A year after nearly losing her life to a rare cardiac condition, Saratoga Springs resident Kathy Yasenchak will run her fifteenth Freihofer 5K run. 
Kathy Yasenchak, 72, was in tip-top shape; a healthy active runner who kicked off her summer completing the annual Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K, in Albany. Just a short five days later, Yasenchak was overcome with unusual pain in the middle of the night. 
“It was just an ordinary day, I was getting ready for bed, all of a sudden my teeth ached, my jaw ached, my chest ached a very sharp deep pain and then a terrible pain across the top of my back - my shoulders, the back of my shoulders, and I just fell to the ground. I fell to the floor. It was horrific,” said Yasenchak. 
Earlier that night, Yasenchak devoured an entire pot of spaghetti and was certain the pain she was enduring was a bad case of indigestion. A few hours later, Yasenchak was rushed from the Malta Urgent Care and then was admitted into St. Peters Hospital where she underwent intensive surgery. Yasenchak suffered an aortic dissection, which is when the lining of the large blood vessel branching from the heart, tears. 
“The doctor that diagnosed me was the emergency room doctor and the test he ran showed the blood in my chest, so he knew it was an aortic dissection. That doctor said nothing about the prognoses, all he said was ‘you must be operated on immediately, or you’re not gonna make it until the morning.’”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, nearly 40% of patients die immediately after suffering a complete aortic dissection. 
The aortic repair surgery lasted seven hours, in which Kathy’s chest was cut open, her breastbone sawed in two, and her ribs split apart.
“The recuperation time was long and painful,” said Yasenchak. “Because of the severity of it, you’re in a lot of pain. That lengthens your recuperation time, and you have to move, but you don’t want to move because you hurt.” 
While her cardiac surgeon, Dr. Niloo Edwards was confident that Kathy would make a full recovery and will be able to resume her regular physical activity in time, her follow-up cardiologist had a more cautious approach and told her that she may never run again. 
Despite the doctor’s advisement, Yasenchak had pure confidence and most of all faith, that she will run again. 
“The fact that I had total faith that God had healed me. And when God heals you, he heals you! He doesn’t heal you half, he heals you.”
Through months of painful recovery, Yasenchak says she could not have done it without her family, the aid of her church friends, from Saratoga Abundant Life Church and trainer at the Saratoga Regional YMCA. 
“God healed me, I know it was God, I know it was a miracle that I’m still alive, but it was the community and how different people in the community gathered around me and helped,” said Yasenchak.
Yasenchak will be running in the Freihofer’s run alongside her two daughters, Tonya and Tara Yasenchak and their team, “Kathy’s Comeback,” on June 1, in Albany.
Published in Sports
Thursday, 16 May 2019 10:47

Local Idol Needs Your Vote

“Oh my goodness. thank you thank you THANK YOU. top 3. holy moly guacamole. I hope to make you proud next week. Thank you for believing in me. thank you for seeing something in me that I didn’t see myself.”

– Instagram post from Madison VanDenburg, after learning she is
one of three finalists on ABC’s “American Idol.”

ALBANY – Her greatest passion is singing.

Seventeen-year-old singer/songwriter Madison VanDenburg has played the piano and guitar most of her life. The classically trained 11th-grade student at Shaker High School first realized the promise of her talents performing karaoke as a 10-year-old alongside the sounds of Celine Dion – whom she calls one of her biggest musical inspirations.

VanDenburg recently released her debut single, is currently writing new songs for her first EP and performs live across the Capital Region. Sunday May 19 may prove to the biggest moment, if not the most memorable of the young singer’s career when she performs as a finalist on ABC’s “American Idol.” And like fellow “American Idol” contestants Laine Hardy – of Livingston, Louisiana, and Alejandro Aranda - of Pomona, California, returned to her native roots this week.

Her homecoming tour kicked off with a Pep Rally at Shaker High School and continued with a parade and performance at The Crossings of Colonie, where she and played guitar in front of a supportive Capital Region crowd who chanted her name. The Capital District Transportation Authority also got involved by providing transportation shuttle service to concert goers, and Stewart’s Shops introduced a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream flavor in her name.

“As a singer, your instrument is yourself. More important than being on ‘Idol,’ is being a whole, authentic person,” says Clifton Park’s Modern Day Music vocal coach Lesley O’Donnell, who has taught   VanDenburg and Moriah Formica - who appeared in 2017 on NBC’s “The Voice.”

“Both have been like the little sisters I never had,” says O’Donnell, whose interview appears in the Home & Garden edition of Simply Saratoga magazine, a Saratoga TODAY publication that is available May 16. “Keeping the whole self - healthy and grounded - is first and foremost.”

The national singing competition show “American idol” first broadcast in 2002. Some of the show’s previous winners have gone on to extensive show biz careers - Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, among them. Adam Lambert was a runner-up during the eighth season of American Idol in 2009.

The season finale airs 8 p.m. Sunday. A nationwide vote will be held during the live finale simulcast to determine who will be crowned the next American Idol. Weezer, Carrie Underwood, Kool + The Gang and all three Idol judges - Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, are expected to perform during the season finale, according to Billboard Magazine. Dan + Shay are slated to perform “All to Myself” and “Speechless” with VanDenburg.

Published in Entertainment

ALBANY – Greg Haymes flipped through the memories in his brain of the earliest days of the band Blotto. Their recording of the tongue-in-cheek song "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard" had been picked up by legendary DJ Vin Scelsa of WNEW-FM, was played on the Dr. Demento Show, and the song’s accompanying video was shown by MTV on its first day of broadcast in 1981.

“The Blotto concept was always about the party,” he remembered in the days preceding the band’s return to Saratoga Springs in 2015 for a New Year’s Eve gig at the City Center. 

“Back in our heyday we would have beach parties, pajama parties, and those Halloween parties which were called Blottoween.” He had performed onstage as everything from Dracula to Alfred E. Newman and a rhinestone-studded Elvis, to donning a blue dress with white polka dots and a blonde wig and taking the stage at a roller rink that would later become JB Scott’s Theater.

“That year we went dressed as the Go-Go’s and I went as Belinda Carlisle,” he said. “If you’re not enjoying yourself on stage, how can you expect anyone in the audience to have fun?”

Haymes will be remembered by some in the MTV video logs as Sarge Blotto – the stage name the adopted with the band Blotto in the 1980s, and recalled by many others - particularly those in this region’s music community - as Greg Haymes: writer, poet, musician, artist.

His bands included Blotto, the Star Spangled Washboard Band, Ramblin’ Jug Stompers, and others; His artwork was displayed across the Capital Region - Firlefanz Gallery, Albany Center Gallery and Spectrum 8 Theatres, among them, and for several decades his words graced the printed pages and websites of the Albany Times Union, the Daily Gazette, Metroland, and most recently Nippertown.com.  

Born in Buffalo in 1951, Haymes died April 10 from complications of metastatic lung cancer. He was 68.

A remembrance and celebration of his life will be held 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at The Egg, at Empire State Plaza. Those wishing to attend are requested to RSVP with name and the number of people attending at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Entertainment
Thursday, 14 March 2019 12:49

Rockin' Robotics

Photos by SuperSource Media, LLC.

SCHUYLERVILLE - Schuylerville students represented their independent robotics team at the regional FIRST Robotics Competition held at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute March 9 and 10.

FIRST, which stands for, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology was founded in 1989 with a mission to encourage students to enter STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) related fields. At the beginning of each season, the teams register to join the competitions where they are given a task, which the robot they design will be required to accomplish. The teams spend about six weeks programming, constructing, and marketing their design until their deadline, when they will bag and seal their creations until the day of the competitions.

The Schuylerville robotics team, the Steel Stallions began in 2011 by its founders Kevin and Betty Gifford. Kevin Gifford, the head mentor turned the reigns over to Todd Kehley, who has a nine-year Naval background working with nuclear power and, has a vested interest in the program.

“My son, when he was going to school at Schuylerville, decided that he wanted to get involved with the team…I decided that it was something I wanted to do with my son."

For students looking for a space where they can be a part of a team, many seek out sports such as football or hockey. But for some that void can be filled by joining another cultivating team activity; the robotics team.
“A lot of the kids that are involved in this program end up being kids that don’t typically end up with an interest in sports or anything like that,” said Kehley. “It does put them in that team situation they wouldn’t normally have that unless they were into sports.”
Each student has a different interest and different strengths regarding building, programming or promotions. The students are primarily driving their seasons and work, while Kehley oversees the processes and any upgrades.
This year, the Steel Stallions placed 32, out of 36 teams including teams from New Jersey, Brazil, and Canada. According to Kehley, their placement does not attest to their capabilities or how well they did. This year at the competition, some last-minute changes proved to be very costly in regard to their placement.
Unlike many other teams, Schuylerville’s robotics team is not embedded in the school extracurriculars beyond the recruitment of students and home school students in the district. Their practice facility is in the basement of the American Legion in Schuylerville.
“We operate independently of the school. We do have that school connection as far as recruiting…as far as facilities go, or event funding, we don’t really get anything from the school,” said Kehley.
In order to compete in this competition, the Steel Stallions had to raise $5,000. Without school funding, the team and their mentor earn funds to run the program through fundraisers such as their annual Spaghetti Dinner, which will be hosted at Schuylerville Elementary on April 12.
For more information on Schuylerville robotics, or how to get involved, you can visit their Facebook page, FRCTEAM4508.
Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 19:00

Blue Streaks Head to the Mat for State Championships

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two wrestlers from Saratoga Springs High will compete in the state championships in Albany this weekend.
This 2018-19 Season has been rewarding for the Saratoga Blue Streaks wrestling team, with an overall standing score of 0.826.
Each season a coach is presented with a new team, and not only is it their job to get each wrestler to compete at their best ability, but to utilize each member of the team to help each other achieve their personal best.
“This year coming in I knew we had a good group of seniors that were gonna lead our team. They held up their end of the bargain,” said Coach Kris West.
The key to success for this team was the coaches’ focus on maintaining their intensity throughout the season despite the mental and physical grind of the sport. Finding a balance to avoid burn out tends to revolve around the team’s tournament schedules.
“During the middle of the year, we have some tough individual tournaments that we gear up for… We kind of ramp up the intensity and then we kind of dial back and let the kids recover a little bit,” said West.
Two of the team’s leading wrestlers this season include senior Brant Robinson, weight class 195 and junior Eric Griskowitz, weight class 138 will take to the mat this Friday, Feb 23. Should the two place they will compete the following day.
In order to prepare his athletes for championships, Coach West sought out notably tough competition for the meets preceding states. This past year Robinson has wrestled at least five sectional champions, and Griskowitz went to the mat against multiple state qualifiers.
Wresting Bart 
Bart Robinson (right). Photo provided.
“I think they’re (Griskowitz and Robinson) in good shape and I think they’re ready to have a good tournament,” said Coach West. “They each are in good positions where if they wrestle good, and wrestle to their abilities they can have a good tournament.”
The 2019 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Wrestling Championships will be held at the Times Union Center in Albany (Section 2) on Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23.
Published in Sports
Thursday, 01 March 2018 12:45

Little Steven Coming to Capital Region

ALBANY - Steven Van Zandt - aka Little Steven, aka Miami Steve - best known as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, will perform with the Disciples of Soul on May 4 at the Palace Theatre.

Renowned for both his own substantial body of work and for his ongoing role as a touring and recording member of Springsteen’s band, Van Zandt has also worked as an actor on “The Sopranos” as well as serving as host, historian and rock’n’roll advocate on Sirius XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage – where he showcases the work of everyone from the New York Dolls to the Raveonettes.

His latest album, “Soulfire,” Van Zandt’s first solo record in close to two decades, “hearkens back to Van Zandt’s classic first album of gritty, greasy, horn-accented ‘60s-style rock and soul,” notes Billboard magazine.

Tickets go on sale Friday and are $74.50, $59.50, $49.50, $39.50 & $29.50 and available at the Palace Theatre Box Office, 19 Clinton Ave., via Ticketmaster Charge-by-Phone at 800-745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com.

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 23 December 2016 10:00

First Night ‘17

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Center was three years old, and First Night Saratoga not yet born when Pete Donnelly, Mike Gent, and Guy Lyons comingled their daytime studies at Saratoga Springs High School with their music at night to create The Figgs. On New Year’s Eve, members of the band present and past are headed on a collision course with the future to ring in the new year and celebrate the start of the group’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary milestone. We’re coming in on 30 years and we’re very aware of it,” Donnelly explained. “There’s been plenty of ups and downs, but our relationship is pretty solid, and we’re still able to function as a band, and as friends.”

While the three current band members – Gent, Donnelly, and drummer Pete Hayes make their respective residences in different states, Saratoga Springs remains a special place to the band. “All of us have a warm spot in our hearts for Saratoga. My parents are there and it still pretty much feels like home. Every time we come to Saratoga it feels like a mini-reunion and we don’t do it that often anymore,” Donnelly said. “New Year’s Eve is special and this time Guy Lyons is joining us - he’s an original member- so there is a culmination of 30 years and New Year’s Eve in Saratoga. It’s representative of a lot of history.”

On a night to usher in the New Year that features more than 70 regional groups performing in 30 different venues, The Figgs stand at the top of the list, with performances at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the big stage at the Saratoga Springs City Center, which sits less than two miles from the school where they played one of their earliest shows on a December night in 1987. In between, there have been more than a dozen albums - their 13th studio record, “On the Slide,” was released earlier this year – and some 1,500 shows staged at hallowed venues like the QE2, CBGB’s, and the Whisky A Go Go, various solo releases, side projects, and a 2013 TV commercial for a luxury car that featured the catchy post-new wave riffs of their song “Je T’adore.”

“As a kid I loved jazz music, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, and I think a lot of people are surprised by that. Those were my idols, but with The Figgs, we love all music of all eras,” Donnelly said. “Our main influences coming up were the ‘80s underground bands coming out of Minneapolis like Hüsker Dü, and Black Flag out of California. When we began, we felt we were counter to the cheesy, schmaltzy ‘80s pop world we grew up in during the Reagan Era. Our music was an affront to that. It was an expression of searching for an identity in a banal world. It almost feels like it’s a return to that now.”

Donnelly’s first instrument was the bass, an Ibanez Roadstar II, purchased at Drome Sound in Albany on his 13th birthday. The family piano and his two brothers’ guitars and drums also received a lot of attention. When the band scored a major record deal with BMG’s Imago in 1994, the first thing Donnelly did was secure a classic 1965 Fender Jazz Bass from Lark Street Music – a classic instrument which he still plays today. It is a far different world than when The Figgs first started, and the band has rolled with the changes.

“With the Internet, I feel that the music industry has been castrated. People treat music like it’s something on the side, an accessory. Some people claim that it’s leveled the field, that everyone can play, but I think you have a much lesser pool of quality. The bar has been lowered. It’s like there’s an ocean of mediocre work and it’s hard to find your way through it,” Donnelly said. “But, I’m not one of those people who are angry, or resentful. It is what it is.

“Where the Internet is great is that it allows a band like us to maintain contact with our fans, and what’s the same is what’s been true forever: that there is a percentage of quality work, too. Musicians have to play. It’s their desire. And we play for the exact same reasons,” Donnelly said. “I know for me and for many of my dear friends and family, music is so precious that they couldn’t live without it - and I couldn’t live without making it.”

Published in Entertainment
Thursday, 09 July 2015 14:29

24 Years of Dance: A Ballerina Story

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Tiler Peck is living her dream. Principal dancer in the New York City Ballet, Peck will be performing at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this month. She is excited to share her hard work, and her story, with the community.

Born in Bakersfield, California, Peck started dancing at the age of 2 with her mother, a dance teacher. She originally was more interested in jazz, but her mother stressed the importance of practicing and studying ballet in order to become a well-rounded dancer. After being in commercials and on TV as a child, her turning point was playing Gracie in Broadway’s “Music Man” when she was 11. After that, she entered the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of the New York City Ballet, when she was 12.

“I loved the way SAB teaches dance. It just seemed jazzier to me. I felt by studying here, I could get it all,” Peck said.

At 15, Peck became an apprentice with the NYC Ballet and the next year she joined the company as a member of the cour de ballet, where she was jokingly referred to as a “baby ballerina” because of her age. By 20, she worked her way up to principal dancer.

“As a principal dancer, we have to carry the entire ballet, so you can feel that weight at times. Our job is to set the standards so everyone else can rise to the occasion,” said Peck. “When the whole ballet is dependent on you, it’s a lot of pressure. We work very hard.”

The average day for Peck starts with a 10:30 a.m. class with the company and then from noon to 6 p.m., she rehearses for that evening’s show, which usually starts around 8 p.m. With around five evening shows each week, there is not much room for down time, but Peck has learned to pace herself.

“It’s important to find balance between rehearsal and the performance itself,” said Peck. “I feel the older you get, the more you learn that giving 110 percent isn’t always possible. You have to find the perfect balance.”

Although the work is hard, Peck finds happiness in loving what she does every day.

“’Theme of Variations’ is probably one of the hardest dances to perform, but I love it. I’m not afraid of it like other dancers are,” said Peck. She also loves being able to dance with her husband, principal dancer Robbie Fairchild, in Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” Fittingly, the dance they perform together is called “The Man I Love.”

Now 26, Peck has performed at SPAC with the NYC ballet for nearly a decade and really enjoys coming to Saratoga for the event.

“The best part is that you can tell the audience really looks forward to it. But also, it’s a fun getaway for us to come up here. It’s kind of like a little vacation,” Peck explains. “The company gets to live together, so we barbecue and hang out. We love the little town, all the eating places and shopping along Broadway.”

At SPAC, Peck can be seen in Justin Peck’s “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes,” Alexei Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “Mercurial Manoeuvres,” and Balanchine classics like “Tarantella,” “Symphony in C” and “Symphony in Three Movements.”

The New York City Ballet will be at SPAC from July 7 to 18. Tickets are available at SPAC.org. 


Published in News


  • Saratoga  County Court Lorenzo J. Parker, 28, of Schenectady, was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in a state correction facility and 1 year post-release supervision, after pleading to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth-degree, charged February 2022 in Clifton Park.  Annmarie Balzano, 54, of Ballston Spa, pleaded to felony DWI, charged June 2023 in Malta. Sentencing Sept. 19.  Cedric D. Sanchez, 28, of Yonkers, N.Y., pleaded to attempted burglary in the second-degree, charged in Milton. Sentencing Aug. 2.  Matthew G. Peck, 46, of Saratoga Springs, pleaded to felony DWI, charged November 2023 in Milton. Sentencing Aug. 16.  Lacey C.…

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