Jeff de Wit looked up from his team’s post game celebrations to survey the stands at the ENMAX Centrium.
The view from the ice was one that the Red Deer-born forward has become familiar with over the years. The green seats, the people ringing the concourse and the countless Red Deer Rebels jerseys staring back at him; everything was the same as it had always been.
That is, everything except for the jersey on his back.
“It was definitely really different, kind of weird. I was pretty excited coming here,” said the former Red Deer Rebel, who made his first return to the City last week since being traded to the Regina Pats as part of a blockbuster deal at the WHL Trade Deadline in early January.
Despite the excitement of returning to play in his hometown, though, the big centre man wasn’t about to let his focus wander away from the game at hand, which his Pats ended up winning 4-1.
“At the end of the day it’s another game. I have a new team now and all those guys in there; it’s a great group and I’m happy to be here and it’s fun to win here too, so it’s awesome. I didn’t think too much of it after.”
The 18-year-old hasn’t appeared to have much trouble adjusting to life on the prairies, either. He’s got three goals and an assist in just nine games with the Pats so far; nearly matching the number of goals he scored in a Rebels jersey over the first 36 games of the season.
He’s also had an opportunity to join the number one ranked team in the entire CHL in the Pats who at the time of writing have won their last five games in a row and are among the favourites to make a run at a WHL title this season.
“I kind of got a little taste of it last year, being (in Red Deer) with a (Memorial Cup) calibre team and I think this team is quite similar. We love winning in that dressing room. Every time you come to a new rink it’s time to put the game face on and we want two points,” he said.
Still, de Wit said it was a special feeling to be able to return to his hometown and play in front of his family and friends.
One moment in particular that stood out for the hometown boy was being able to say see long-time Rebels dressing room attendant Michael McIver.
When de Wit was growing up he helped McIver out as a stick boy for the team and the friendship only grew while he played for the team.
“He’s like a brother to me and like family. It was awesome to give that guy a hug before the game regardless of whose team he’s on or who he’s working for. He’s a brother for life and that kind of stuck out to me.”
De Wit and the Pats will be back in town on Feb. 11th for a rematch with the Rebels. Puck drop on that game is at 7 p.m.