The bus fired up Thursday for the Red Deer Rebels loaded up for one of the junior hockey rites of passage.
By distance, it’s not the furthest trip a team will travel this season, but Red Deer will sure put the rubber to the road for the next two weeks.
It all started with a modest 727-kilometre jaunt to Moose Jaw, where I was told the Rebels’ many rookies with participating in some form of entertainment for the veterans (a version of Canadian idol or telling jokes were the leading candidates). Beyond that, movies and music help pass the time.
It’s just 70 KM to Regina for a Sunday road date against the Pats, who knocked off the Rebels 6-5 in a shootout on Oct. 19.
Tuesday and Wednesday the Rebels cross over into Manitoba for dates with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg ICE.
A mere 365 KM separate Regina and Westoba Place in Brandon, and another 224 to Winnipeg to play the ICE, who moved there from Cranbrook at the beginning of the season. After being a central division rival for a couple of decades, Red Deer will only face the ICE four times this season.
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) October 20, 2019
Red Deer then heads 797 KM back west from Winnipeg, to square off with the Saskatoon Blades on Nov. 8. The Blades were favourite of some people (including me) for a spot in the 2020 WHL Final, but it looks like they won’t have Kirby Dach back from the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. That’s a significant hit, but they’re still a good club that’s off to an 8-6-1-1 start. Red Deer did knock off the Blades 2-1 on Oct. 1.
The following night, after staying in Saskatoon, Red Deer will make the quick 134 KM journey north to Prince Albert. It will be the Rebels first time playing the defending WHL champs, who are red hot to start the year. The Raiders are 9-2-3 to start the year and have scored 46 goals while allowing just 29 goals, third-best in the league.
The trip home from Saskatoon is an easy 548 KM and the Rebels get a week off before they hit the ice again, on Nov. 15 at home against the Medicine Hat Tigers. That’s the start of a four-game mini homestand.
All in all, Red Deer will travel nearly 3,000 KM by bus over the next 11 days. Oh, the joys of junior hockey in the west.