As if lacing up the skates for the team they grew up watching wasn’t special enough.
Among the 28 Red Deer Rebels on the roster for the Western Hockey League playoffs, three grew up in the city they now play for.
Jeff de Wit, Colton Bobyk and Dawson Weatherill have the unique opportunity to play for the Memorial Cup in their hometown.
“It’s special, being from Red Deer,” said de Wit. “People I’ve grown up with my whole life get to watch me play at a national level here and hopefully win the title.
“That first game on Friday, I’m going to be full of energy and full of mixed emotions, but everyone in the room is gunning for that title. We have a good chance here at winning a championship. We’re going to lay it all on the line.”
Admitting a mixture of excitement, anxious and nervous energy, de Wit believes he’ll be ready to go for the Rebels, and tournament, opening game against the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
The 2016 NHL draft eligible de Wit said the team has taken advantage of the break as best they could, with the team now in top shape, healthy and rested.
As a kid, de Wit went to numerous Rebels games. He has fond memories of the 2010-11 team that made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals
“I remember the team when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was on it and how packed the barn was during the playoffs,” said de Wit. “It’s unfortunate their season ended early that time, but that’s one year I remember.”
Long before that season, de Wit helped out in the dressing room and during spring training camps.
“I helped out in the dressing room cleaning up stuff and putting things away,” said de Wit. “It was good to be here, being around hockey players I looked up to.”
The centre had three goals and four assists in 17 playoff games, as well as seven goals and 16 assists in the regular season.
Bobyk, a top-four defenceman for the Rebels, scored 20 regular season goals and added 27 assists. He had two goals and six assists in the playoffs.
Weatherill, who spent most of his season with the Red Deer Midget Chiefs, played in five games with the Rebels. He was named to the second all star team in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. As a Rebel, he had a 0.881 save percentage and a 3.69 goals against average.