The Red Deer Rebels will be ‘treated’ to their own boot camp experience prior to their WHL preseason game versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes Saturday in Wainwright.
The players were to check into Canadian Forces Base Wainwright — located just outside town — Thursday evening and will stay at the base until departing for Saturday’s contest.
“They bring the players and some of the staff in and it’s like they’ll be part of the army,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “It will be regimented and disciplined and will run through tonight and tomorrow up until they go into town for the game.
“It’s going to be neat. I know the guys are a little apprehensive. They’re going to find out how the army does things.”
The Hurricanes will also be involved in the unique activities.
The two-day series of events resulted from talks between Sutter and former WHL and minor pro player Adam Huxley last spring. Huxley is the head coach/GM of the Wainwright junior B Bisons and also helps out with hockey clinics in the area.
“I brought it up to him to see if it was something that could be worked out,” said Sutter. “Medicine Hat (Tigers) and Regina (Pats) did it three years ago and they said it was a great experience.
‘Adam thought it was a good idea but we had to find another team. It was originally going to be Prince Albert (Raiders) but they couldn’t make it so I approached Lethbridge and they agreed.”
Players on both teams as well as the assistant coaches and the medical trainers will stay at the base for two nights while the remainder of the team staffs will be housed in hotels.
“It’s going to be something for these kids,” said Sutter. “They’ll be taught how to make their beds (army style), how to fold their clothes. They’ll be marched to the mess hall and marched out following meals.
“It’s something different. It’s about team, structure and discipline, which are all parts of being a hockey team.”
The players will also visit schools in Wainwright and engage the students in floor hockey games.
° Defenceman Nic Draffin, 17, will play at the junior A level — in the AJHL — this season after being reassigned by the Rebels earlier this week.
Which team he’ll join has yet to be determined, although at least four clubs — Okotoks Oilers, Canmore Eagles, Lloydminster Bobcats and Calgary Mustangs — have shown interest in the Lethbridge native, who was selected by the Rebels’ in the third round of the 2016 WHL bantam draft.
The other reassigned players — forward Jayden Grubbe, goalie Carter Serhyenko and defencemen Jace Isley, Kyle Masters and Trey Patterson — are 15 and 16 years of age and will play midget AAA hockey this season.
With five veterans — Reese Johnson (NY Rangers), Jacob Herauf (Pittsburgh), Alex Alexeyev (Washington), Dawson Barteaux (Dallas) and Brandon Hagel (Montreal) — the Rebels roster sits at 27 players.
Red Deer will take on the Edmonton Oil Kings Sept. 14 at St. Albert and will close out their exhibition schedule the following night at the Centrium versus the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Rebels will open the regular season Sept. 21 in Edmonton and will host the Oil Kings in their home-opener 24 hours later.