The Red Deer Rebels will make a fashion statement Saturday while at the same time supporting a life-saving cause.
The Canadian-based Western Hockey League teams, 17 in all, agreed to wear Don Cherry-themed uniforms once this season and on Saturday — versus the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers — the Rebels will take their turn.
A trio of Rebels gave the concept — a partnership between the WHL and Remax — a thumbs-up Thursday, noting it is promoting organ donations across Canada.
Cherry, the loudly opinionated Hockey Night in Canada sidekick of Ron MacLean, has been a proponent of organ donation since his daughter Cindy donated a kidney to his son Tim more than 30 years ago.
“It’s obviously for an awesome cause. Lots of teams around the league are doing it and it’s good to see,” said Red Deer forward Reese Johnson. “The fans enjoy seeing the different coloured jerseys, and that’s good.”
That being said . . .
“It’s going to be weird, even just looking around the ice and seeing the guys in them . . . it’s going to be different,” said Johnson. “But after warm-ups I’m sure we’ll be a little more used to them.”
The Rebels got a look at the Cherry jerseys last weekend when the Tigers were sporting them in a 6-1 win over their guest.
“It was pretty different. Starting the game back checking on someone with a pretty flashy jersey is a little different that what you’re used to,” said Johnson. “But it’s good and we got used to them pretty quick.”
Netminder Riley Lamb and defenceman Ethan Sakowich were in agreement with their teammate.
“It was kind of cool seeing them in the warm-up but once the game started it didn’t really affect me,” said Lamb.
“It was a little different. It was pretty cool and now we get to wear them against them (Tigers),” said Sakowich. “Their jersey was nice and I think ours is pretty nice too.
“Their jersey was pretty similar to ours. Theirs was orangish-brownish and ours is more like red and black.”
Lamb is a fans of the colours as well as the plaid design.
“I like them,” said the second-year Rebels goaltender. “I like the plaid ones Medicine Hat wore but the ones with the logos all over, I’m not a fan of those.”
The one aspect that all three Rebels veterans agree on is that the jerseys reflect not only Cherry’s fashion preference, but also his personality.
“Exactly. Don Cherry is always know for the crazy looking suits. Just having those cool designs on the jersey shows what he’s about,” said Johnson.
“He’s definitely an individual,” said Lamb. “I love hearing what he has to say and the jerseys are a good reflection of him.
“We wore ‘90s jerseys last year and I guess these are our special jerseys this year. It’s always cool wearing those.”
Added Sakowich: “He’s pretty flamboyant. I always get a good laugh out of his suits. That’s what he’s known for and it’s pretty cool to be able to wear them on the ice.”
While the Rebels will gladly slip on the colourful and somewhat eccentric jerseys Saturday, Sakowich noted that it will be business as usual.
“We have to treat it like a normal game, but it will be cool getting on the ice and playing for a good cause,” he said.
The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a special-edition Don Cherry bobblehead, while other fans will receive a limited-edition Don Cherry trading card, produced by Upper Deck.
Fans will also have the opportunity to take a selfie with a life-size stand-up cutout of Cherry.
Notable: The Rebels have recalled Zak Smith from the junior A Neepawa Natives. Smith, who turns 17 in May, has appeared in six games with the Rebels this season and scored 11 goals and collected 22 points — along with 52 minutes in penalties — in 46 games with the Natives, who failed to quality for the Manitoba Junior League playoffs. Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter did not indicate whether or not the six-foot-two, 181-pound forward will be in the lineup for Friday’s game in Lethbridge.