Red Deer to host the 2016 Memorial Cup

The drought is over.

After four decades, The Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament will make an appearance in Alberta following the announcement of the Red Deer Rebels being named the host team for the 2016 tournament.

“Congratulations to the community, congratulations to the Red Deer Rebel organization and to this great province that has waited far too long for the opportunity to host this prestigious event,” said Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison during a press conference at Westerner Park. “As everyone is aware The Mastercard Memorial Cup is the most difficult trophy in hockey to win and I can’t think of a more ideal location to host this event in 2016 than right here in Red Deer, in the heart of this province.”

Robison made mention of how hard the bid committee had to work in order to get the board to award Red Deer the tournament over the Vancouver Giants, but there is some history to be made when the tournament rolls around.

The year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Rebels franchise and it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Western Hockey League, he said.

“It’s going to be a tremendous event, a great party and I know everyone in the Canadian Hockey League and throughout the Western Hockey League can’t wait for 2016.”

It was a significant moment as well for Rebels Owner, Governor, President, General Manager and Head Coach Brent Sutter.

“Back in 1999 was the last time I was in this room (the Lookout Room) and we were holding a press conference at the time announcing that I had bought the Rebels,” he said. “It’s amazing. I get to stand here 15 years later and get to be a part of this and part of this great community.”

Sutter told the crowd gathered in the room, which included the current members of the Rebels hockey team, that this was a great day, not only for the Rebels organization but for the City and for the County.

He also directed some kudos to Westerner Park, home to the ENMAX Centrium, which will be the site of the 10-day tourney.

“We have a fantastic facility here and that was a big part of our bid too – the fact that we’ve got an elite building. We have the surroundings around here to do a lot of the events right here on these grounds.”

Ron LaRiviere, a co-chair with Merrick Sutter on the organizing committee, said in the next month or so the process will start to get the pieces in place along with the volunteers to host what he boldly claims will be the best Memorial Cup ever because of the support he feels is out there in the community to make it so.

“There’s more than just the hockey tournament,” he said. “There’s the awards banquet, the golf tournament. There’s a fan fest that involves different aspects of involving the community. Putting on displays that the community participates in, getting schools involved. All those are part of the event that’s associated with the Memorial Cup.”

LaRiviere has somewhat of a template to work from as he was at the 2011 tournament in Mississauga and will be in attendance when the puck drops at this year’s tournament in Quebec City.

Sutter made a point of thanking the WHL league governors for giving Red Deer a chance to shine. “This event will be the event in the town in May of 2016 and the other thing that’s great about it is that it leads up to 2019 for the Canadian Winter Games coming too.”

When it rains it pours but that’s how you end a drought.