Fresh from a tasty afternoon appetizer of defeating their rivals Stony Plain in overtime, the Bentley Generals and their army of supporters settled into comfortable chairs in the evening at the Red Deer Memorial Centre to savour the main course of the day.
A season of Blood Sweat and Beers culminating in capturing the holy grail of senior hockey the Allan Cup was served to more than 450 fans and players.
The 50-minute documentary, produced and directed by Eppo Eerkes, was an instant favourite for the fans streaming out of the public premiere.
“What a great story line and so true to the way senior hockey is,” said John Jensen, who farms near Bentley and sees “as many games as possible.”
The carefully crafted work takes you inside the sometimes tense Generals’ dressing room with famed coach Brian Sutter extolling the virtues of hard work and sacrifice which was a trademark of his long playing and coaching career in the National Hockey League.
You get an idea of how Sutter reached into the souls and hearts of his players when he says “I’d run over my mother, her, boyfriend and my aunt to win a game,” Sutter says to much audience laughter.
Sutter isn’t the focal point of the film, but he’s integral to how the team has been shaped.
The Beagle brothers – Kent and Chad, along with Scott Hood and their young families – are strongly woven into the film and give you a glimpse of the sacrifices made by Beagle wives Michelle and Kathleen and their children.
Kent suffers a serious knee injury, makes a comeback and is injured again during the playoffs – forcing him to the sidelines for the final.
The audience senses his pain and longing to be with his mates as he chokes back his emotion outside the Steinbach, Man., arena, watching the Generals head in the door for the final.
“This type of hockey is what every kid playing street hockey dreams of at one time or another when they score a winning goal or win a championship,” said Kim Marsh, chairman of senior amateur hockey with the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association.
The hockey consumes much of their time and they play it for nothing because they love the game, said fan Marian Jones, following the screening.
Bentley had been to the Allan Cup four times before finally winning it in overtime last year in Manitoba.
Sutter said the Stanley Cup and Allan Cup are the two most prized hockey championships in Canada.
Eerkes was humble about his role in the film.
He said he’s been so welcomed by the town, the team and the players that he feels like it’s his home town too.
“I love Bentley. I feel like it’s my home town in a way.”
The town loves him in turn judging by their applause.
He said the film just isn’t about the team but the undying support the town and surrounding community pours into the club’s efforts on a yearly basis.
“You have to look at the sacrifices off the ice,” Eppes said.
Ray Marsh, who has been president of the Chinook Hockey League for more than 35 years, said the film is a real boon to not only Bentley but senior hockey in general.
“It’s been drying up in the last few years, but stories like Bentley are what hockey is all about in small towns and it’s importance to the people in them,” Ray Marsh said.
Tickets were $20 each but half the proceeds were destined for the planned Ronald McDonald House to be built soon in Red Deer.
The film is expected to be picked up by networks including TV Ontario and Access Alberta, among others.
It’s not expected to run until this summer or next fall.