It’s been a different type of fall for Trevor Keeper.
After spending several years either coaching with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League or, as the case the last two years, with the Red Deer Optimist Rebels of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, Keeper has a bit more time to himself, but only a bit.
Keeper has made a two-year commitment to work with Hockey Alberta, starting this season.
He will coach Team Alberta for the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, which opens Thursday in Blackfalds. Next season he’ll coach the Alberta team at the Canada Winter Games.
“That’s one of the major reasons why I’m not with the midgets,” he explained.
“This isn’t a everyday thing but at the same time it’s still a time-consuming process, plus I’m teaching full time (at RDC) and coaching novice hockey.”
This year will be even more hectic with the Challenge Cup in his backyard.
“It just means I have to work and be with the team,” he said. “Still I’m excited.”
Keeper is excited about working with many of the top 15-year-old players in the province, including four Rebels prospects — defencemen Matt Dumba and Davin Stener and forwards Joel Hamilton and Mason Burr.
Dumba, who is with the Edge School of Calgary, was the Rebels No. 1 pick, and fourth overall, in the 2009 WHL bantam draft, while Burr was a second-round selection.
Hamilton is also with the Edge School, while Burr plays major midget with Strathmore’s UFA Bisons and Stener is with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers of the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
“We have a lot of very good athletes with ahigh skill level,” said Keeper. “On paper the other teams are also highly skilled, so it’s going to be an interesting four days.”
The tournament opens Thursday at 4 p.m. with Manitoba against Saskatchewan while Alberta meets B.C. at 7 p.m.
“On paper B.C. has to be considered one of the favourites,” added Keeper.
“They have one more first-round (WHL) draft pick than we do and one more second-round pick. But you never know how the teams will come together.
“I know we selected guys we felt would work as a team. We just didn’t go with strictly offence, but have a good balance of speed, size and skill.
“We have guys who have offensive talent and guys who are physical.”
The evaluation process to pick the team started last winter with 160 players on the list. The list was chopped to 80 during a summer camp in Camrose with the top 30 on the short list.
“We watched the kids with their midget programs and the team was picked Oct. 5,” said Keeper, who will get only one practice — today — with the final roster.
“Not much time, so it’s important we have the right ingredient of players, who are willing to be leaders and not let their egos get in the way. They have to be mature and realize they’re part of the group.”
Tournament play continues Friday with B.C. and Manitoba meeting at 4 p.m. and Alberta and Saskatchewan at 7 p.m. B.C. and Saskatchewan face off Saturday at 4 p.m. and Alberta and Manitoba at 7 p.m.
The third and fourth place teams, following round-robin play, clash in the bronze medal game Sunday at 4 p.m. with the top two teams meeting for the gold at 7 p.m.