‘Twas the night before training camp and all through the rink…
Nah, who am I kidding. I suck at poetry. Some think I also suck at writing, for that matter, but here it comes anyway.
Welcome to the 2014-15 season, Red Deer Rebels fans. After another much longer than hoped for off-season, the boys are back in town and ready to hit the ice starting Thursday.
While the off-season was indeed a long one, it was not completely uneventful for the Rebels. Here is a recap of some of the bigger happenings…
1. BANTAM DRAFT – As they’ve done before (Brandon Sutter, Adam Musil) the Rebels used the 6th overall selection on a player with NHL bloodlines, Jake Leschyshyn. They snapped up hometown goalie Dawson Weatherill in round two. Also among their 11 selections were a couple of guys with great hockey names, Grant Mismash and Benjamin “Boo” Grist.
2. NHL DRAFT – Not only did the Rebels have their streak of having at least one of their players selected in the NHL Draft in every year of their existence extended, they had two of their stars selected in the first round. Haydn Fleury (7th overall, Carolina) and Conner Bleackley (23rd, Colorado) are both perfect fits with their new NHL clubs.
3. IMPORT DRAFT – With a clear emphasis on strengthening their core of blueliners, the Rebels took two of them in this year’s Import Draft: Eduards Jansons (6’2” 176 lbs. 1997-09-07) and Mario Grman (6’0” 176 lbs. 1997-04-11). Two big bodies that will be counted on to make an impact.
4. NEW SOUND SYSTEM – Ok, this one is more of a selfish inclusion for yours truly. As the former PA Announcer at Rebels games, nothing frustrated more than getting complaints from fans constantly saying “the speakers in here suck!” Thankfully, Westerner Park has finally come around and upgraded the system. Can’t wait to hear it!
5. MEMORIAL CUP BID – Quite frankly, it’s time. The Rebels were passed over the last time they bid to host the Memorial Cup. It would be an outrageous travesty of justice to have that happen again and have Alberta’s 40-plus year Memorial Cup hosting drought extended.
There are a number of players from last year’s team who, for various reasons, are no longer with the Rebels. A few of whom I will miss dealing with in my particular line of work, most notable Patrik Bartosak, Vukie Mpofu, Brady Gaudet and Rhyse Dieno. On-ice results aside, these guys were absolute beauties to work with when it came to interviews and their contributions to Rebels broadcasts will most definitely be missed. Mooner and I will have to work that much harder to fill the void they are leaving.
Needless to say, there are some intriguing things to watch during training camp, the preseason and beyond, including...
- The competition for the three roster spots for overage players will likely come down to fan favorite Devan Fafard and newcomer Brett Cote on defense.
- Who will take over between the pipes from Bartosak? Taz Burman, Rylan Toth and Grant Naherniak are familiar names but will someone else also enter the mix? (EDIT: Grant Naherniak is no longer in the mix and will not be at camp. Burman and Toth are the only two goalies on the main camp roster)
- Is Jeff de Wit ready for a full-time role playing for his hometown club?
- The Rebels are excited for Josh Mahura, can the youngster help solidify the defense corps?
All in all, especially with a whole lot of rain in the forecast, it’s a good time to be talking hockey and to head back to the rink.
P.S. If you want to help me finish my poem, leave your suggestions in the comments section.