The Red Deer Rebels will take their Western Hockey League preseason act south of the border this fall.
The Rebels, for the first time ever, will participate in an exhibition tournament Sept. 4-6 at Kennewick, Wash., a three-day event also involving the host Tri-City Americans, Kootenay Ice, Seattle Thunderbirds, Portland Winterhawks, Spokane Chiefs and Everett Silvertips.
Red Deer will use mostly prospects and younger players in a preseason-opening tournament Aug. 30-31 at St. Albert, and will journey to Kennewick the following week.
“We just thought we’d do something different this year,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday. “Our team doesn’t get to play against the American teams very much.
“It’s been the same old, same old for years and we just felt this would give us an opportunity to take all our veterans who aren’t still at pro camps, plus some younger players (to Kennewick). We’ll go down there and play two exhibition games. It will be a team-building thing, a chance to get away and spend some time together.”
The Rebels will face the host Americans Sept. 5 and will meet the Winterhawks the following day. The previous weekend at St. Albert — in the Edmonton Oil Kings tournament — Red Deer will take on the Prince George Cougars and Swift Current Broncos.
Red Deer’s final two of six preseason games are set for Sept. 12 versus the Oil Kings at the Centrium and 24 hours later at Stettler against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Sept. 12 game will be the first Rebels preseason outing ever played at the Centrium.
When the Rebels were unable last year to continue their tradition of staging an exhibition game at Innisfail due to a lack of ice in the town’s facility, they scheduled a contest against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Red Deer Arena.
“Red Deer minor hockey certainly did a good job with that, but we just felt that we could have a game at the Centrium,” said Sutter. “It’s an opportunity to help out minor hockey a bit more (with a donation) and it’s something that hasn’t been done since I’ve owned the team. The game is now a part of our season-ticket package.”
Concerning the Tri-City tournament, Sutter reiterated the importance of taking his club on a lengthy trip prior to the start of the regular season.
“Nowadays, players have so many opportunities to have their focus on something else away from the rink with what is available in society with all of the technical stuff,” he said. “I just feel that the more time we can have with one another and spend time together as a group, we’ll be much closer as a team.
“It might sound like something that’s not very important, but it is. In fact, it’s more important now than ever.”
The WHL 2014-15 regular-season schedule will be released today.