Red Deer is becoming a serious player in sports event hosting circles.
WHL commissioner Ron Robison officially announced the league will holds its Bantam Draft and WHL Awards banquet in Red Deer for the next three years starting this May.
As well, Hockey Alberta said it is looking at Red Deer as host for the 2019 Alberta Cup — which brings together 160 of the province’s most talented Bantam hockey players.
Red Deer Rebels owner and head coach Brent Sutter said Wednesday’s draft and awards ceremony announcement will be a big boost to the community and shows that the city has made a name for itself as a sports event host.
Sutter said he firmly believes “if you build it right people will come and events will come to your city.”
The success the Rebels and the city had in hosting the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup did not go unnoticed.
“When you knock it out of the park like it was here (the city) becomes a destination that is very intriguing for events ….”
The WHL Awards on May 2 and Bantam Draft the following day are the first of a long list of major events coming to Red Deer, he said. Following in August will be the Ivan Hlinka/Gretzky International Ice Hockey Federation U-18 tournament, the Canadian Finals Rodeo in October, the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January and the Canada Winter Games in February.
WHL commissioner Ron Robison said the “community deserves these type of events based on the tremendous success of the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup.”
Robison said Red Deer has a “tremendous passion” for the WHL and the Red Deer Rebels is a well-supported franchise that deserves to host big events.
Mayor Tara Veer said Wednesday’s announcement “really marks another significant emergence of Red Deer on the national and the international sporting stage.
“Certainly to attract this calibre of an event to our community speaks to the quality of the amenities that we offer here.”
However, Red Deer’s drawing power goes beyond its good facilities, she said.
“Above all, the message we’re hearing is that it is our community spirit and community pride and willingness to get it done that is attracting these major events.”
Hockey Alberta CEO Rob Litwinski said the Alberta Cup would be a good fit with the Bantam Draft, which occurs a few days later.
“That’s an excellent opportunity, an excellent synergy and we look forward to kind of piecing that together with the Western Hockey League.”