Sunday, April 21, 2013

Generals: Oh, What a Relief It Is

2013 Allan Cup Champions
Jubilation.  Celebration.  Satisfaction.  These are words that usually come to mind when a team wins a championship.

But for the Bentley Generals, who won their second Allan Cup title on Saturday with a 3-0 win over the Clarenville Caribous, there are another words which are perhaps more fitting.

Relief.

You would be hard pressed to find another team facing as much pressure to win as this year's Bentley Generals.  They already knew they'd be playing in the 2013 Allan Cup as the host team.  But the Generals shocked the senior hockey world when they fired coach Brian Sutter. 

[It also prompted a blog entry by yours truly that, understandably, though quite unintentionally, burned a few bridges inside and outside of the organization.  Thankfully, those bridges have been rebuilt after this week.]

“Oh, absolutely.  How can there not be relief," Generals Manager Jeff McInnis admitted following the final game.  "Not everybody, but darn near everybody, questioned ‘What am I doing?’  Well, I had to do what I did.  Am I the first GM in the world to ever change coaches. You’d think I was.  The public thought I was the first guy ever.  It happens all the time.  It wasn’t his [Brian’s] fault.  It wasn’t hockey’s fault.  It’s just the way it is.”

Satisfaction.

For Brandin Cote, the former Generals player tasked with filling Sutter's shoes, Saturday's championship win is very much satisfying.

"There was a lot of questions going in about ‘Is it the right move to bring me in and replace Brian?’  But I had a belief in myself and my coaching staff [assistant coaches Ryan Tobler and Bob Rutz] and my team to put a plan in place and we just stuck with it no matter what anyone said and we got the job done.”

You can't help but feel good for Cote.  His situation was anything but enviable.  But it's clear now that he has the complete respect of his players and was the right man for the job.

“This is as good as it gets," said Cote, the all-time leader in games played for the Spokane Chiefs.  You win a championship with a great group of guys like that, doesn’t get any better.  Doesn’t matter if it’s the Allan Cup, Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup, Telus Cup.  It’s a cup.  It’s a championship.  It’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

How about Chris Neiszner?  The former Red Deer Rebels forward and assistant coach who joined the Generals after two years of not playing hockey.  Neiszner led the Chinook Hockey League in regular season scoring, scored what ended up being the Generals' Allan Cup winning goal, and was named as a tournament all-star.

“This is awesome.  It’s right up there anytime you can win a championship, and it’s been a long time since I’ve won a championship.  Was very, very close with the Rebels in my first two years.  After playing with them for four years I made the transition to move here and it’s become home.  To win it right here, this has been unbelievable.  It’s like winning it at home for me.”

McInnis talked about the safisfaction of winning the Allan Cup at home.

“It’s really special because of the families.  We had a lot of families in Steinbach [Manitoba, where the Generals won their first title in 2009] but it’s really special when the men can celebrate with their kids, wives, and parents because that’s what senior hockey is. It is a very family game. All of these people are somehow connected.  There’s about an eighth of a degree of separation between the fans and the players in senior.”

Execution.

The Generals played their best game of the tournament when it mattered most.  A lot of fans, as well as team personnel, had Bentley pegged as the underdogs heading into the final game.  After all, the Caribous had the tournament's most potent offence and easily disposed of the vaunted Rosetown Redwings in the semifinals.  How the game unfolded showed they were anything but underdogs.  This, without a doubt, was the Bentley Generals best ever performance in an Allan Cup final.

“The guys were determined," noted Cote.  "We prepared them as well as we could have.  They were prepared for anything and they just wanted it more [than Clarenville].  They out willed them and they got it done.”

“Boy, oh boy.  The cream rises to the top,” captain Sean Robertson proclaimed after taking his spin around the ice with the cup.  “We got our best effort from everybody, and everyone bought in for the full sixty minutes.  That’s as stingy as it gets for us.  That’s a good hockey team but we just forced our will on them.”

Redemption.

This one is somewhat debatable.  But there is an argument to be made that Saturday's dominant win over Clarenville brought redemption for those members of the Generals who were on the wrong end when the Caribous beat the in the 2011 final in Kenora, Ontario.  What does the captain think?

“I guess so, I don’t know.  We got the trophy, that’s what we wanted," Robertson said after taking his spin around the ice with the cup.  "There’s no ill will or hard feelings or anything like that.  They were better than us two years ago and we got the best of them tonight.  We got the trophy and that’s the important thing, didn’t matter who it was.”

Coach Cote added, “That was in the back our heads a little bit but we just wanted to come in and win this thing.  We put in a lot of time and effort.  We played a text book game tonight, just the way you want to go out.  It was unbelievable.  The guys were determined.  We prepared them as well as we could have.  They were prepared for anything and they just wanted it more [than Clarenville].  They out willed them and they got it done.”


I won't ramble on too much, but what Bentley Generals have accomplished is historic.  They are first ever Alberta team to win two Allan Cup titles.  Think about that for a moment.  In 105 years, no other team from this province has managed to scale the mountain twice.  Calgary, Edmonton, Drumheller, and Stony Plain stand as the other Alberta cities with Allan Cup titles to their name.

[You can hear the rest of the comments I gathered following Saturday's final by heading to my soundcloud page.]

Gotta give a huge shout out to all of the volunteers who, to the surprise of nobody, made the Allan Cup such an overwhelming success.  Bentley has raised the bar for future teams who will be hosting this tournament, starting with the Dundas Real McCoys next year and the Clarenville Caribous in 2015.  It's like Bentley took the Allan Cup and turned it into the Grey Cup.  The party really was that incredible.  Kudos to Organizing Committee Chair Dave Mousseau and the dozens of volunteers for a job very well done.

TG

TG

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