The Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebels will have a new look to them this season.
That much is known.
What they will look like is not.
The only safe thing to say is they will look nothing like last year’s club.
The Rebels’ makeover began on the bench this summer as former U16 midget coach Doug Quinn takes over from Trevor Keeper.
Doug Quinn led the U16 midgets to back-to-back league championships in three years of coaching them, before guiding his son’s peewee AA team the last couple of years.
“When I was coaching the 15-year-olds a couple of years ago, I always wanted to coach at the highest level, but it seemed like they had a coach in place and the timing didn’t work,” Quinn explained. “Then when minor hockey wanted me to coach a couple of years ago it didn’t work for me personally . . . and then the opportunity came back up and I thought I better jump at it, because if I didn’t do it now I may never get the opportunity again.”
While coaching the U16 midgets Quinn got used to a complete turnover in players every year, which will benefit him greatly this year as their is the potential that there may not be a single returning player — currently only forward Nathan Dennis is still in camp.
Most of the would-be veterans are off trying to make junior A or major junior clubs and Quinn does not expect any of them to return.
“There’s some good players and I think that we’re going to do pretty good,” said Quinn. “One disadvantage I have right now, because I have coached the lower levels the last few years, is I’ve heard about some of the players but I haven’t really seen them play. So I’m kind of out of the loop. I’m still trying to learn what some of these kids can do.”
There are still 30 players in camp, a number Quinn wants to trim down to 25 following the team’s intersquad game on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. at the Arena. Quinn hopes to make his roster official following a tournament in Strathmore next week.
The Rebels’ strength will come up front, with a surplus of capable options that Quinn hopes will separate itself in the next few days.
“I’ve got a lot of good forwards and there are going to be some kids that are going to be released that I know can play in the league,” said Quinn. “It makes it hard on a coach, but I’m going to have to make some hard choices.”
For now all he can do is envision a style and hope his team fits the mould.
“We’re going to be a physical, aggressive team,” said Quinn. “We’re going to have some big strong forwards, and right now it looks like I’m going to have a pretty mobile defence. And the goaltending looks pretty solid right now.”
Quinn will draw on his vast well of hockey experience that includes four years of playing defence in the WHL, five seasons of university and even a stint with the Canadian National team. He was drafted in the fifth round, 90th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft but never made it to the show.
“I played for the University of Calgary Dinos for five years and I had some of the best coaches around,” said Quinn, listing off a who’s who of top developers of talent including George Kingston, current Medicine Hat Tigers coach Willie Desjardins and current Portland Winter Hawks coach Mike Johnston who coached Quinn with the national team. “Even my old midget coach Dave Manning, he and I talk hockey all of the time — he actually coached this midget AAA team for about 10 years back in the ’70s and ’80s.”
He will also be flanked on the bench by some of Red Deer’s top hockey minds, including Ted Jardine, Rob Hammel, Al Prada, and Peter Freistadt.
It’s a long list of resources he will depend on to help steer this team towards an Alberta Major Midget Hockey League title.
“We’re looking at the mind set that we want to be one of the top teams in the league,” said Quinn. “That’s the attitude we’re starting with and that’s the attitude we are pushing on these kids — we want to be the best.”
l Other head coaches for the major programs are — Doug Young, Sutter Fund midget AAA female Chiefs; Rob Wallator, midget 15-year-old North Star Sports Chiefs; Gary Mahura, midget 15-year-old IROC Chiefs; Joey Engert, bantam AAA Rebels White; Myron Feser, bantam AAA Rebels Black; Mickey Girard, Sutter Fund Bantam AAA female Chiefs.