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Brent Sutter has strong ties to Rustlers legacy

Red Deer Rebels owner/GM/head coach Brent Sutter played a major role in the history of the Red Deer Rustlers.

He was one of six Sutter brothers to play with the Alberta Junior Hockey League team and was the captain of the Rustlers’ second Centennial Cup championship run, in 1979-80. That season — his third with the Rustlers — he scored 70 goals and 101 assists in 59 games and was a finalist for the national player of the year (the award went to a player from the Maritimes).

The Rustlers, under coach John Chapman, beat North York 3-2 in the nationally televised final. Sutter was the tournament most valuable player.

A month later ,Sutter became the first junior A player to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. He as selected 17th overall to the New York Islanders.

“That year we had four players who were eventually picked in the first round of the draft and others who signed with NHL teams,” said Sutter. (Randy Moller was selected 11th overall the next year, Ron Sutter was fourth overall in 1982 and his twin, Rich, was 10th overall that year.)

“That team lost only nine games during the regular season and only a couple in the playoffs . . . we were good enough that we could competed with any major junior team.”

The 1979-80 season was one of best in Red Deer hockey history. The RDC Kings were similarly dominant in winning the national college championship.

“They had a very good college team that year, in fact hockey was flourishing in Red Deer,” said Sutter, who is proud of his days with the Rustlers — it’s one of the reasons that the Rebels will hold the Rustlers Heritage Night tonight.

The Rebels will wear replica Rustlers jerseys from the 1980 championship team when they host the Prince Albert Raiders.

“Everyone in the area wanted to be part of the Rustlers hockey community at that time,” Sutter said. “And to be part of it, and win a national championship, was amazing. It’s very close to me. It’s where it all started for me as far as developing into an NHL player.

“Red Deer has been home to me since I was 17 and now to be able to come back and have a night like this is dear to me. I really hope we have a great response from players and management. I feel great in being able to honour them by wearing their jerseys.”

Sutter retired from the NHL in 1998 and purchased the Rebels from Wayne and Terry Simpson in 1999. He was approached to change the name to the Rustlers.

“In my own heart I felt the Rustlers belonged to the Rustlers and that era,” he said. “They were what junior A hockey was in Red Deer. Major junior is different and has its own identity.

“I still love the old Rustlers uniform and logo and they were what Red Deer was and always will be back then.”

Former Rustler player and coach Wynne Dempster originally thought the Rebels should be called the Rustlers.

“Looking back at it, the Rebels needed to make their own way, create their own identity,” said Dempster. “They had to be separate from the Rustlers.”

Brent Sutter was one of 20 former Rustlers who played in the NHL, including all six Sutter brothers who played with the Rustlers.



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