It’s a three-team race for the right to host the 2016 Memorial Cup.
The Red Deer Rebels recently threw their hat into the ring and the Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals submitted bids to the Western Hockey League head office this week.
The 2016 Memorial Cup will be played in a WHL city and Rebels owner/general manager/head coach Brent Sutter feels it’s high time an Alberta community hosted the major junior hockey championship tournament.
“When 2016 rolls around it will be 42 years since Alberta hosted the Memorial Cup,” said Sutter, in reference to the 1974 event staged in Calgary. “It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.
“To me, it’s time. We’ll have a good team. The things you need to be able to have a quality team . . . we’ll have them in place.”
The bids will first be reviewed by the WHL’s hockey operations people.
“They’ll review the teams’ rosters, lists and assets as far as draft picks are concerned,” said Sutter. “At that point the hockey operations side will rank the teams and will give that to the WHL office.
“From there we’ll be notified by the league office where we stand and I’d like to think we’ll be where we need to be.”
Sutter said the list of bids will be whittled from three to two.
“The league would like to narrow it down to two teams, and from there it would go to a vote by the governors,” he said. “And who knows? A team might drop out or two teams might drop out before it gets to that point.”
In the event that the Rebels are one of the two teams still standing, the financial aspect of their bid will come into play.
“At that point you have to have a business plan in place, and that’s huge,” said Sutter. “Hockey operations has to be first and foremost, but you have to have a proper business plan in place and it’s got to be something that’s very financially sound.
“That’s where you need your province, county and city on board. That’s just the reality of hosting the Memorial Cup.”
Sutter has bid for the tournament on two previous occasions, losing to Regina in 2001 and Saskatoon in 2013. The Rebels, of course, went on to capture the Memorial Cup in Regina.
“The first time we didn’t expect to win the bid. We thought it would be a long shot,” Sutter admitted. “And then the last time was a huge disappointment to a lot of different people in our area and our organization. But we’re going to give it one more shot here.”
• Rebels forward Conner Bleackley and defenceman Haydn Fleury recently attended development camps after being selected in the first round of the NHL entry draft in late June by the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes. Both played in Friday’s Sutter Fund charity golf tournament at River Bend.
Meanwhile, two undrafted Rebels — rearguard Kayle Doetzel, 19, and 18-year-old forward Evan Polei — were invited to and participated in the development camps of the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders.
“In Evan’s situation, here’s a kid who has come a long way in a short period of time since being in Red Deer,” said Sutter. “He’s going to be counted on to be a key part of our team moving forward. He’s trained like a dog this summer and for him to be invited to a pro camp is pretty darn good when you think of where he was when we traded (with the Saskatoon Blades) for his rights back in November.”
Doetzel was passed over in the NHL draft for a second straight year before getting a free agent look from the Maple Leafs. Last year, he attended the Nashville Predators development camp as a free agent.
“Kayle was disappointed that he wasn’t drafted this year, and yet I really thought that over the last two months of the (2013-14) season he really started coming as far as where our expectations are with him as a player and being a first-round (bantam draft) pick (in 2010),” said Sutter.
“He really started coming into his own and now we expect him to be a real solid, top-four guy for us. It’s going to be a big year for him.”