I had a rare experience last Saturday afternoon. I watched a hockey game on TV and got excited about the outcome. The Bentley Generals won a major national championship with their Allan Cup victory and even non-hockey fans like me were happy with their win.
The Allan Cup is 101 years old and it represents the best in senior men’s amateur hockey. The Bentley Generals join a long history of champions on the cup and they have brought a true sense of pride and accomplishment to Central Alberta.
I have a healthy respect for senior men’s sports because they play their sport for the purest of reasons- the love of the game. I was well acquainted with this philosophy through my association with the Red Deer Buccaneers football team.
Amateur men’s teams in either sport are filled with players who competed at high levels of pro and amateur competition. They have that fire in their bellies that has been there since the day they were born. They are natural born warriors who are used to the idea of competition as a reason for existence.
Maybe they got disconnected from the pro dream along the way, but they never got disconnected from the lure of competition and the camaraderie of a team. The Generals looked and played like true champions in the Allan Cup.
Somehow a small town like Bentley managed to convince a group of very talented hockey players and a legendary hockey name like Sutter to put on the home town colours and chase a national championship. I think that we can be grateful that Bentley shared their team with the rest of central Alberta.
Personally I feel good for the players who put their lives on hold and chased an elusive championship which amped up the pressure with two overtime periods of tough hockey in the big game.
I feel good for Brian Sutter who managed to add a major Canadian sports trophy to an impressive legacy of hockey achievements with not enough championships to reflect the superhuman work ethic that is a fundamental part of his family DNA.
This is a guy with a car-crusher handshake who knows only one speed- full out. He brought this honest work ethic to the Bentley Generals and the team bought into the concept. Maybe a team of proud Albertan sons with names like Vandermeer and Smyth just get it when it comes to hard work- Sutter style.
The net result was a place in the national sports spotlight for the town of Bentley where life typically moves at a slower pace because casual is a good fit in any small community.
Personally I’ve always had a soft spot for Bentley because it has managed to sustain that small town appeal and avoid the explosive growth of many of its central Alberta counterparts.
My family spent the summer of ’69 in a cabin at Gull Lake. It was a great summer which I still call ‘the last best summer’ because it was so much fun. Part of the appeal was the town of Bentley and I am glad that the team and the town will get to have their own great memories in 2009.
Jim Sutherland is a Red Deer freelance writer.