A pair of first-year RDC students want the college to return to the Alberta Colleges Men’s Hockey League.
Leevi Fearey and Colton Sutter put together a petition to support the return of men’s hockey to the school and received 600 RDC student signatures in less than two weeks.
“In fact it was basically over two days,” explained Fearey.
“We had exams at the same time, so we didn’t have the time to spend with it as much as we would have liked. We hoped to have 2,000 signatures but considering the timeline, the response was good. Not one person turned us down.”
He was shocked by response of many students.
“I bet 70 per cent of the students we talked to didn’t realize we didn’t have a men’s hockey team,” he said. “I think they just thought hockey is so big in Central Alberta that there was a team.
“We have the women’s team, but it’s bizarre we don’t have a men’s team.”
The Kings hockey program, which began play in the ACAC in 1968, was dropped following the 2003-04 season for financial reasons.
College officials said at the time that they needed $100,000 more to return the program to prominence. At the time, they wanted a full-time, on-campus coach and extra funds to build a solid talent base.
“It’s not an easy decision to make, but we didn’t have the finances to run the program the way we wanted to run it,” Al Ferchuk, then-athletic director, said at the time.
The Queens hockey program started at the same time, eating up some of the money available.
But the women’s program filled a need.
“At the time, there were more women at the college and there was a definite need on the women’s side,” said Keith Hansen, who replaced Ferchuk as athletic director in 2007. “One of the reasons for the women’s program was that college hockey represents the next step for the girls after midget while there are a lot of other avenues for the men.
“But the bottom line is finances. Men’s hockey is the most expensive sport in the ACAC and if, and when, we get back into it we want to do it right. We’ve always taken a lot of pride in running our programs with excellence and we won’t add a program if it means taking away from others.
“It has to be done properly,” said Hansen.
Fearey and Sutter, who grew up playing minor hockey in Red Deer, understand that, but want to see if they can help restore the program.
“We began discussing it in January and decided we wanted to do something about it,” explained Fearey. “We started contacting a lot of people in the community and contacting a number of former players and coaches with the Kings to get their feedback.”
They contacted St. Louis Blues assistant coach and former Kings head coach Ray Bennett, as well as former RDC forward Mike Kadar, who is the strength and conditioning coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“If there was no interest, then we probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it, but everyone believed it was a good idea,” added Fearey. “I think one of the positives was that it was a petition involving the students.”
“We certainly would love to have hockey back and they talked to me about the petition, but the athletic department had nothing to do with it,” said Hansen. “It was led by the students, which is a positive. They were very professional about it.”
After they made the decision to do the petition, Fearey and Sutter needed the support of the college and permission from the president’s office, which they received.
“One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we got signatures from a number of departments, just not kinesiology,” added Fearey. “We received support from all departments with our biggest support from the trades.”
The growth of the trades department could go a long way in the return of the program, says Hansen.
“The fact trades people are eligible to play full-time is a positive,” he said. “As well now that we have a bigger trades area, it balances out the numbers between women and men.”
The petition was handed to RDC president Ron Woodward, who is retiring but will pass it on to the new president when they take over.
“Colton and I are looking forward to talking with the new president. Hopefully he’s a hockey fan,” concluded Fearey.
The addition of a new arena, which would be part of the proposed sport and wellness centre, would go a long way toward the return of men’s hockey, says Hansen.
“It would be a major step in that direction,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a given — it still comes down to finances — but it would make things easier.”
Contact Danny Rode at email@example.com