After a day of speculation, the Red Deer Rebels responded to social media allegations of abuse.
Central to the complaint was Rebels owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter.
In a now-deleted Twitter post by former NHLer Daniel Carcillo, it was alleged that Sutter had emotionally abused a player to the point where that player couldn’t sleep and had developed anxiety from the experience.
It was also alleged that Sutter forced the player, who was not named in the post, to play while injured and for a month was called “names by Brent when asking for an MRI.”
The post claimed the player needed surgery for the injury.
Late Thursday afternoon, the post was deleted from Carcillo’s Twitter account.
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) November 29, 2019
A few hours later, Sutter issued a 388-word statement.
“Since our ownership of the Red Deer Rebels began in 1999, we have strived to provide a first-class experience for our players, our staff, and the families of all associated,” read the statement.
“We pride ourselves on preparing these players for the life ahead of them, whether that be a career in professional hockey or the business world. The accusations that have been made are disturbing. We don’t take them lightly.”
It went on to describe the Rebels journey as an organization, from a small staff to now being supported by a variety of different professionals, including doctors, surgeons and mental health professionals.
The final paragraph of the statement addressed the allegations directly.
“We understand not every player leaves our program happy and that not every player was a fan of my coaching or style. I am a direct and honest coach, at times I can be demanding, but I treat these players like they are my own kids, and I want them to succeed,” Sutter said in the statement.
“I am not perfect, and have worked tirelessly to surround our organization with people who want to grow, change, and provide an even better experience for our players. I know in my heart that the vast majority of Red Deer Rebels alumni and current players would speak positively of their time with the organization.”
— jeff dewit (@jdewit11) November 28, 2019
Wednesday, there was a photo of players in dresses and suggestions on twitter, that the Rebels were aware of a rookie party that featured underage drinking, sexual and physical abuse. The team said they were not any Rebels in the photo.
When the second tweet went out Thursday, several former players were quick to come to Sutter’s aid. Mason McCarty, Brandon Hagel and Jeff de Wit, all issued posts of their own describing their experience in Red Deer. De Wit, who was drafted by the Rebels in the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft, then traded as an 18-year-old, before returning for his final season, shared his perspective.
“Were days always easy? Not always. Brent always held us accountable for our on-ice play and always made sure we were striving to be the best young men we could be outside the rink,” de Wit wrote in a Twitter post.
“At times he yelled at me for my play, but it was never personal and furthermore, it was never abusive. I’m sure there were players along the way who didn’t appreciate it or couldn’t handle it, that is fine, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”