Allan Cup going to be incredible
Dave Mousseau and company are confident that April of 2013 will be a month to remember for Central Alberta hockey fans.
Mousseau is chairman of the committee in charge of organizing and running next year’s Allan Cup tournament, hosted by the Bentley Generals and set for April 15-20 at the Red Deer Arena, a building that’s sure to be hopping all week.
“Anyone who has been to any of the McKenzie Cup (Alberta/B.C. senior AAA hockey championship series) games here in the past few years realizes that this place sells out and that there’s a special atmosphere when senior hockey is played in this rink,” Mousseau said on Wednesday during a press conference at the Arena.
“So the fact that this is going to be a national championship and with the calibre of hockey that’s going to be played, it’s going to be an incredible event for Red Deer fans and senior hockey fans in general.”
The 40-member committee will also have the newly-renovated Red Deer Curling Club at their disposal during the Allan Cup week.
“We’re really fortunate that they have a new facility next door,” said Mousseau. “We’ll use the side exit here to enter into the curling club. We’ll have a short-circuit TV feed to the games set up in the curling club and we’ll also have entertainment there in the evenings. The short-circuit TV will allow another 1,500 to 2,000 people (weekly total) to watch the games, especially the Bentley games in the evenings.”
Mousseau, then, is expecting the six-team, two-division tournament to sell out. Including standing room, the Red Deer Arena can hold in excess of 2,000 fans.
“When we did our bid we used a number of 1,900 per game, but knowing Central Alberta and the hockey tradition here, I would think that we’ll be sold out every game. I’m pretty confident that will be the case,” he said.
The chairman said the Generals’ on-ice success over the past eight to 10 years likely helped the club win the right to host the tournament. Generals manager Jeff McInnis wasn’t arguing with that suggestion.
“We’ve had a pretty good degree of success since about ‘04 and we had this opportunity fall into our lap in ‘06,” said McInnis. “We were asked if we wanted it that year, but Power River took it because they had the track record that we have now.
“It’s our turn now and it’s probably taken us two years to get to this point. It’s been kind of a gradual build-up, but when you think about next April you find yourself with sugar plums dancing in your head. But boy, there’s a lot of games to be played between now and then.”
McInnis, who labelled Red Deer as “hockey town” with the amount of fan interest and the large volunteer base over the years, said the Generals hit a rut last season and changes were needed, thus the May release of head coach Brian Sutter and assistants Brian Stephenson and Jason Lenz, all of whom have since signed on with the Innisfail Eagles.
“We had to make some changes. We were stagnant and we knew that,” said McInnis. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years. We’ve watched a lot of teams go stagnant and wondered why they didn’t make changes. But then you realize how hard it is to make changes. You’re dealing with people who have become friends.
“But you have to separate yourself from that. There were changes made this year and hard feelings were caused, but we’re moving forward. If you don’t change you’re moving backward because you have a target on your back and every team is trying to get you. We had to make changes and we did.”
With the Generals guaranteed of a berth in the Allan Cup, McInnis admitted that recruiting new players has been easier this year.
“I’d be lying if I said it has not been easier,” he said, adding that one player is willing to commute from St. Paul on a weekly basis, asking only that he be reimbursed for fuel.
“Being who we are and the fact that we’re hosting . . . yes, that has helped (with player recruitment),” added McInnis.
The Generals manager would not disclose the names of new players but fans can find out for themselves when the team stages its first practice session next Wednesday at Lacombe.
• Prospective Allan Cup volunteers can visit www.allancup2013.ca for information. Ticket packages can also be ordered via the website.