The Red Deer Rebels are one big caring and classy family.
That much was proven at the team’s recent season kickoff barbecue when the players expressed a visible show of support for assistant coach Brad Flynn and especially his fiancee, Christine, who’s currently battling cancer.
Each and every player, along with dressing room assistant Mikel McIver, turned up with short brush cuts as a message of emotional assistance to Christine.
Flynn admitted he was caught off guard by the gesture, which he and his fiancee whole heartedly appreciated.
“I guess you can always read into things more than you need to, but when it comes to this . . . when the guys were talking about it in the gym I thought it was just a spur of the moment, let’s do a team thing,” said Flynn, in his second season on the Rebels bench.
“I didn’t put two and two together and when I talked to Barts (team captain Dawson Barteaux) and Sak (assistant captain Ethan Sakowich) they said that was the reason behind it.
“I was obviously touched. For a lot of people, it’s easy to forget that when you’re a teenage boy how important your hair is to you because it’s a lot about status and profile. Although it might seem like a small thing to a lot of people, I do know the sacrifices that kids at this age have to make to do that. That’s what meant the most to me and Christine.
“The funny thing is she wasn’t even going to come to the function because she’s a little self conscious. But then she had 25 players who wanted to make her feel included and really raised her spirits. It was very touching for me and for her.”
Barteaux insisted the players’ ‘sacrifice’ was minuscule, at best.
“That’s nothing. It’s going to grow back, right,?” he said. “Just to show her that little support and make her feel more welcome with us, I’d do it a hundred times over.
“It was kind of in the works for awhile and the night before we got serious about it and decided it was something we truly do believe in. It’s a family atmosphere here and Christine is part of the family.
“Obviously she’s battling through something and she has our full support. We’re willing to do anything that can help her.”
Flynn and his fiancee were floored when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.
“It was obviously a shock because Christine was 30,” he said. “Even when we saw the preliminary results the doctors were kind of skeptical because of her age. They thought the chances were very low but she ended up being diagnosed and we’ve just been dealing with it since then.
“But she’s on the road to recovery. She had surgery and now she’s going through chemotherapy and will have radiation coming up. But they think that as right now everything seems to be heading in the right direction so we’re just trying to stay positive.”
Perhaps the genuine show of support by the players will help with Christine’s recovery.
Flynn said the gesture is a true reflection of the Rebels organization as a whole.
“It just goes to show the character and the culture that Brent Sutter and the Red Deer Rebels have established here,” he said. “We produce really good people and the byproduct of that is good hockey players, and you see that with small acts of kindness.
“When I talked to Brent before he hired me the first thing he said was that he wants good people here, whether it’s with the staff or the players and I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the players.
“Not a lot of teenage boys would go out of their way to do that for someone they’ve never even talked to before.”
The Rebels head east Thursday for games Friday and Saturday in Swift Current and Medicine Hat.
Red Deer’s next home game is Oct. 11 versus the Portland Winter Hawks.