Jeff de Wit took the unfamiliar walk through the Centrium, for the first time in his life to the visitors locker room.
The six-foot-three, 197-pound forward was originally drafted by the Red Deer Rebels 14th overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.
The 18-year-old Red Deer product, started with the Rebels even before that day, as his hockey journey began in a modest role as the team’s stick boy. His time in Red Deer ended abruptly when he was dealt to the Regina Pats in a trade deadline blockbuster earlier this month.
The deal sent de Wit, along with Josh Mahura to the Pats on Jan. 10. The duo joined arguably one of the best teams in the WHL, but for de Wit, leaving the team that drafted him and the one that he grew up watching, the return home Saturday night was equal parts special and another shot at two points.
“It was definitely really different. Kind of weird. I was really excited to coming here,” de Wit said.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another game. I have a new team now and all those guys in there – it’s a great group and I’m excited to be there. It’s fun to win too.”
With so many special hockey memories coming in Red Deer, de Wit insisted that most of the experience on Jan. 28 was about winning with his new team, something they have done a lot of since he’s joined the fold.
The Pats are 6-2-0-0 since de Wit stepped in, and he has enjoyed a bit of offensive surge too, even with the stacked roster of forwards that the Pats have. De Wit has three goals since his first game on Jan. 13, almost matching his four with the Rebels in 36 games.
“We love winning in that dressing room. Every time we come to a new rink, it’s time to put the game face on and we want two points,” he said.
The former Red Deer Optimist Chief played 174 games with the Rebels over the course of four WHL seasons, and also suited up for 19 playoff games.
Once the puck dropped Saturday, de Wit tried to treat the game like any other, but it was a moment before any action got underway that was the one he’ll remember most about his return.
“One thing that stuck out to me was when we were warming up I saw Mikel McIver, who’s a long time friend of mine,” de Wit said.
“He’s like a brother to me, he’s like family. It was awesome to give that guy a hug before the game, regardless of who’s team he’s on or who he’s working for. He’s a brother for life and that stuck out to me.”
While de Wit didn’t find the scoresheet Saturday, his new team did get a 4-1 win.