BENTLEY — When Diarmuid Kelly scored in double overtime to give the Bentley Generals a 4-3 win over the South East Prairie Thunder in this year’s Allan Cup final at Steinbach, Man., team president Wes Gyori admitted he had envisioned the championship goal “a thousand times”, with no particular names and/or conditions attached.
It was 11 years ago that Gyori and current assistant coach Jason Lenz founded the Generals, who have been one of Canada’s top senior AAA hockey teams over the past half decade and change. The Generals were competing in their fifth Allan Cup tournament this year and finally cashed in with their April 18 triumph.
Gyori admitted Saturday, prior to an Allan Cup parade for the team in Bentley, that he was starting to wonder if the Generals would ever realize their ultimate dream of capturing a Canadian title.
“You play it in your mind a thousand times, but you wonder after that many years and tries if you’re ever going to actually catch up to it and get to climb the mountain right to the summit,” he said.
“We finally got there, but it wasn’t easy this year again. But that made it very worthwhile. When Diarmuid scored that goal, it was pretty sweet. And it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but this (parade and Saturday evening dance/celebration at the Bentley Arena) will really help.”
Saturday’s events were all about honouring not only the players, coaches and support staff, but also the fans.
“Everything went so fast in Steinbach. The evening (of the championship game) went so quick down there that we didn’t really get a chance (to celebrate properly) since we had to leave the next morning,” said Gyori. “So today is a great day, not only for the organization but all of Central Alberta.
“We have players from a lot of communities, including Red Deer, come to our games. We had great support all around this season, just fantastic. I hope that everyone can come to (Bentley) and enjoy this day with us, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Gyori was so overcome with emotion at the conclusion of the Allan Cup final that he had to be comforted by Generals bench boss Brian Sutter.
“Sometimes you never know when that moment is going to come, especially when you’re in double overtime when anything can happen,” said Gyori. “It was just so special when it finally happened, when the puck went in their net instead of ours. That was 11 years of time and effort all kind of rolled into one and that’s a long time to spend doing anything, although it was well worth it. We finally made it.”
Sutter, a long-time NHL coach and winner of the Jack Adams Award for that league’s top bench boss in 1991, hinted that his second season at the helm of the Generals was one of his most satisfying ever.
“Winning is winning at any level and this was a long, tough road. We played five series, including a couple that went seven games, as well as (the Allan Cup tournament)” he said. “We went to war and when we got to Steinbach our goal was to win every period, and basically that’s what we did.
“Our goal was to win our last game of the season and it’s amazing because I told the guys a thousand times that if it takes every period we’ll use every period. If we run out of time, then we’ll use overtime, and that’s what we did. In our minds there was never any doubt.”
Sutter, like Gyori and other team personnel, was tickled to share Saturday’s celebration with the people of Bentley and the fans of the team, in general.
“When you win something like this you want to stand back and watch everybody and let them enjoy it and see the looks in their eyes,” said Sutter. “Of all the people who followed us to Steinbach, there was probably a thousand more who wanted to be there.
“But if you don’t have backing you don’t have support. This is unique because we don’t have the backing of Calgary or Edmonton, but a lot of people watched us this year and the support we got from Bentley and people all over Central Alberta was absolutely incredible. It’s just neat to be a part of it.”
Gyori is hoping that Sutter will return to the club next fall.
“It sure would be nice to get him back,” said the team president. “We’ll cut all his phones off and make sure no one else is trying to get him. We’ll just save him for the Bentley Generals, for sure.”
Would Sutter be interested in reprising his role?
“We’re putting everything on the back burner until after this weekend,” he said. “We just want to enjoy today.”
Contact Greg Meachem at email@example.com