Red Deer Rebels owner, general manager and head coach Brent Sutter coaches a group of players during the 2017 Prospect Camp at the Penhold Arena on Friday, June 2. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped down as head coach.

In an unexpected announcement Saturday morning, the long-time head coach and former NHLer said it was time for a new voice behind the bench.

“Put it this way, it is as tough a day as I’ve ever had in hockey,” Sutter said in a phone interview with the Advocate Saturday afternoon.

The Rebels lost 6-3 Friday to the Lethbridge Hurricanes and are 2-10-2-0 this season and in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

Sutter has been behind the bench either at the NHL or WHL level in some form or another for the last two decades.

With only 10 games left in the abbreviated WHL season, he said it was the right time to make the move because the team needed a new voice – and he believes the change is best for the mental health of the players.

“I just felt like from a mental standpoint, this is best for them to hear a new voice now. It was a long night thinking it through last night and through until the morning. Hopefully, this can help all the guys – when they leave here they can be in a different mindset and come back here in the right frame of mind,” he said.

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“The guys that are moving on can move in the right frame of mind too. Just a change, just from the mental health standpoint. That always comes first and foremost. It’s just not easy. Outside of two or three months for the last 22 years, this is what I’ve done.”

Sutter will hand the reins over to assistant GM Shaun Sutter, who will step behind the bench for the first time in the WHL. Shaun will share the coaching duties with Ryan Ryan Colville and Brad Flynn, who have been with the team for the past two seasons.

“For (assistant GM Shaun Sutter) it’s good to get a different perspective of it and see what we have here as far as individuals, as far as players and where we can improve and get better at. Just an overall perspective will be good for him,” Brent said.

“Ryan and Brad have been with me for two years, they know where we are at with things. Hopefully, it’s refreshing for our players.”

Sutter was in his 16th season as head coach of the Rebels and captured a Memorial Cup championship in 2001. After a stint in the NHL as a head coach, he returned to Red Deer and took over as head coach in 2012. In the last nine seasons behind the bench has made the playoffs in all but two of those years.

The former NHLer coached his 1000th career WHL game last February. He has been behind the bench for 1,025 games over his WHL coaching career and has a record of 526-385-111.

Sutter will maintain his role as president and GM of the team and noted that this move will help him take a better look at the organization as a whole.

“The hockey team comes first and there’s other areas inside our hockey club that we have to get better at and improve. I can now spend more time at that, on the management side of it. When you’re coaching, especially in today’s game, it’s a 24/7 job. You’re so focused on that, now I can help out in other areas that we can improve and get better at,” he said.

“The right time, when the season is over, we’ll re-evaluate the coaching side of it and start focusing on that, bring in the right person that will be the coach of this team moving forward.

“I’m still very much involved and I’ll still be overseeing the whole hockey operation side of it and you’re still president of the team. Change is good, as long as we handle it the right way and deal with it the right way.”