Bentley Generals inspire

To the Bentley Generals, for continued excellence despite long odds.

Bouquet…

To the Bentley Generals, for continued excellence despite long odds.

The senior hockey team is the best in Alberta — again — after beating the Stony Plain Eagles this week. The Game 7 victory came before 2,000 raucous fans at the Red Deer Arena.

Now they meet the Fort St. John Flyers, starting on Thursday, with a berth in the Allan Cup on the line. The best-of-five series will be played in its entirety at the Arena, and no doubt Red Deer fans starved for some playoff hockey will continue to embrace the team from tiny Bentley.

But the real credit belongs to the people of Bentley, who year after year support their team with a remarkable devotion (and financial support) far beyond the size of their community. Passion helps encourage and maintain excellence.

The players, led by coach Brian Sutter, come from other communities across Alberta to represent Bentley with pride — one more thing the community’s passion encourages.

And hockey fans throughout Central Alberta get to climb on board the Bentley bandwagon once again. Small-town pride rendered large.

Bouquet…

To the four Central Albertans whose quick thinking and brave actions helped save a family from a house fire.

Last week, John Brown, 47, of Rocky Mountain House, his friend Sheldon Friesen, 31, of Leslieville, and Eckville brothers Chris, 19, and Steven Rowe, 16, mounted a rescue effort that should inspire us all.

The young brothers and Brown and Friesen were travelling home along Hwy 11 from evening events in Edmonton and Calgary when they saw a house burning west of Sylvan Lake.

The brothers quickly stopped and called 911. Brown and Friesen, seeing them stop, recognized the emergency and rushed to the scene.

The older men banged on the door, then kicked it in to alert the sleeping family inside. “You don’t think about it. I don’t think of it as a real big thing. It’s something you had to do,” said Friesen.

Their actions likely saved the lives of Greg and Shana Nicholls, both 34, son Aden, 14, and Shana’s mother Valerie Gunning, 60, who were all sleeping at the time.

All four escaped harm, but the home was destroyed.

“It’s a miracle they saw it and stopped,” said Shana Nicholls. “We wouldn’t have made it another 20 minutes in that house asleep.”

Too often, we turn away from people in trouble. These four men should inspire us all to do better.

Bouquet…

To trail riders Bob and Doreen Henderson, for their compassionate campaign to save and protect the wild horses of Alberta.

The Hendersons have received the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s prestigious 2008 Wildlife Protection Award. Past winners include Farley Mowat and Jane Goodall.

The Hendersons created the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, with almost 400 members, after discovering the plight of the herds of wild horses that roam the hills along the Red Deer River, southwest of Sundre.

The animals have been hunted, trapped for slaughter, shot and defiled. Since 2002, the group has found 24 dead horses.

The Hendersons have helped rescue some of the animals and have been instrumental in a major lobby effort that has pressed the provincial government to protect the horses.

The campaign has drawn international attention.

The provincial government, to this point, has refused to bend. The horses are officially considered feral rather than wild.

But the Hendersons continue to press their cause. And the more attention they gain, the stronger their voice will become.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

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