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Red Deer Rebels honour Arron Asham

The ninth alumni member to receive a bobblehead
Former Red Deer Rebels forward Arron Asham holds his own bobblehead which was handed out to the first 1,500 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Friday night. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

It’s been 26 years since he suited up for the Red Deer Rebels but when Arron Asham returned to the city on Friday it felt like old times.

As he had lunch at Bo’s Bar and Stage with the likes of other members of the Rebels alumni such as Pete Vandermeer and Lance Ward it brought up fond memories.

They couldn’t help but reminisce about their playing days with the Rebels.

“The memories there’s too many,” Asham said ahead of Friday’s game.

“That’s all we did for two hours was just tell stories about our Red Deer days… It’s true that the best time of your hockey career is your junior days. It’s always nice coming back and seeing everyone, talking, and catching up. Everyone’s getting old now.”

The 45-year-old became the ninth member of the Rebels to be awarded their own bobblehead on Friday night. The first 1,500 fans that came through the Centrium doors ahead of their tilt with the Swift Current received an Asham bobblehead.

The rare bobblehead featured the long hair he had from his playing days as well as the iconic vintage black and white Rebels uniform.

The most important thing was it got the nod of approval from the man of the hour himself.

“I’m very happy with it,” he said. “I never really expected to have one made but it’s an honour. I like the hair, the hair is on point. I had to grow up a little and cut it but I love it.”

Asham played his first season with the Rebels in 1994-95 and it didn’t take long before he made an impact. By his second season, he put up 77 points in 70 games.

By his final two seasons, he became an elite scorer notching 96 and 92 points from 1996 to 1998.

“This is a place I came to as a 16-year-old kid and kind of honed my skills and became the player I was… I have a lot of great ties here and I keep in contact with my billets every now and then,” he said.

“All the guys I played with it’s been close to 30 years but whenever we see each other it’s like we never left. My family is very excited and my sons are very excited to get [a bobblehead] so it’s definitely an honour.”

He sits first in Rebels franchise history as the all-time leading goal scorer with 131 goals and second in assists with 161. An accomplishment he still takes pride in.

“It’s nice but guys could have beaten my record if they had played more years here. I know that but it’s still nice to have your name in the record books and I’ll definitely take it.”

The Portage La Prairie, Man., native was drafted 71st overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play 789 NHL games over 15 seasons with the Canadiens, the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Rangers.

This included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 with the Flyers where they lost the Cup in Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“When I came to Red Deer I was 5’9” maybe 140-150 pounds I was always one of the goal scorers but I had to change my game… I became kind of an offensive fighter. I had 12-15 fights a year here and so everything came together here,” he said.

“I kind of found my way and found my game style and continued it into my pro years even though the scoring went down a bit.”

Asham admitted he went to the NHL thinking he’d become a scorer but realized quickly that the game was a lot faster and stronger.

He had to change his game to stay in the NHL and took on a more physical role.

“I put on some weight and I was playing against some bigger guys than I was used to but I had to do it to stay in the league. I ended up staying for a few years,” he added.

Asham now works for the New York Islanders where he helps put on youth programs, that help kids get the opportunity to play hockey as the director of amateur hockey.

He also started two charities back in his hometown that help local Manitoba youth get the chance to play the game.

His young son Cruze has started playing peewee hockey and Asham helps coach an U18 hockey team as part of his role with the Islanders.

“I’m a rink rat, which I’ve always been. It’s like I’m at home.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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