The Red Deer Rebels commemorated their 25th season in the Western Hockey League in 2017, and they had plenty of things to celebrate. The Rebels kicked off their inaugural season on September 25, 1992, and set a WHL record for most wins by an expansion club. The team won the Memorial Cup in 2001 and the WHL Eastern Conference Championship in 2002 and 2003.
The Enmax Centrium has been the only home of the Rebels. It’s located on the Westerner Park grounds and is just a short drive from downtown. The Centrium has become a sports and events hub in Central Alberta. It has played host to many large sporting events including the 1995 World Junior Hockey Championship, 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (2004 and 2012).
Over the years, the Red Deer Rebels have had a number of well-known players come through their system. Many have continued their careers onto professional levels (including the NHL), universities and international leagues. Some of the most notable alumni include:
- Dion Phaneuf played for the Rebels from 2001 to 2005, where he amassed 146 career points. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 2003 and currently plays for the Ottawa Senators.
- Cam Ward is the starting goaltender with the Carolina Hurricanes and won his first ever Stanley Cup in 2006. Ward was the first goalie to win Stanley Cup as a rookie since Patrick Roy in 1986.
- Some say Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best player to ever wear a Red Deer Rebels jersey. Nugent-Hopkins was WHL Rookie of the Year during the 2009 – 2010 season and was drafted 1st overall in the NHL Entry Draft in 2011. He currently plays for the Edmonton Oilers.
The Red Deer Rebels have become a real family affair. General Manager and Coach Brett Sutter (former NHL player who played 18 seasons in the league) purchased the team in 1998. His son Merrick Sutter is the Sr. Vice President, his nephew Shaun Sutter is the Assistant GM and his wife Connie is also a part of the team as their merchandise manager.
We caught up with Merrick Sutter and talked about the upcoming season.
Q) Tell us a bit about the history of the team and your involvement in the community.
A) We are nothing without the support of the community. Our players are active in the schools, and we donate many items to hundreds of causes across Central Alberta each year. Financially, our foundation supports minor hockey, high school scholarships, and other health and wellness initiatives.
Q) Why do you think so many players end up drafted from this team in particular?
A) One of our founding principles is running the program first class, everything from our facilities, to our travel, to our staff. Our style of play, areas of discipline, and off ice regiment is designed around developing players for the next level.
Q) What types of events/activities are in store for the season, being the 25th-anniversary?
A) We profiled alumni on our season tickets, distributed an “all-time” players poster to our season ticket members, and plan to have a “vintage” night in the second half of the season.
This anniversary season promises lots of surprises for fans and plenty of exciting hockey. Don’t miss this amazing commemorative season – see the Rebels’ schedule and get your tickets to a game soon.
Photo thanks to Red Deer Rebels on Instagram.