Dozens of family members, friends and fans gathered last week at the Red Deer Arena to play tribute to the conquering heroes.
The Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebel Chiefs, fresh off of winning the Telus Cup in Ontario, were able to show off the hardware to those who couldn’t make the trip out east.
“Nothing was really easy for this group. We really grew throughout the year and we went into the playoffs on a roll,” said head coach Doug Quinn.
A rash of injuries to some players forced Quinn to piece together a competitive lineup with players out of position but they took on the challenge and the end result was hoisting the cup once again.
“I was impressed how hard and how well the kids played. I am really, really proud of them,” he said after watching a replay of the 5-0 dismantling of Ottawa in the final.
Three players, Matt Zentner, Rory Davidson and Captain Quinn Brown were on the team which grabbed the title last year with a dramatic overtime win versus Quebec.
“Truly amazing,” said Brown. “Not many guys get to play in one and to win two is awesome.”
Brown says the double OT win was exciting but this one has a somewhat sweeter taste to it given the road he and his team mates traveled to get it done.
“We faced a lot more adversity coming through the playoffs, which makes it a little more special because we had to work so hard.”
Brown says the last game was probably one of their best the entire year as everybody was at the top of their game and doing what was required of them in order to dominate Ottawa like they did.
It’s a familiar trait it seems of players within the Red Deer Minor Hockey system in general and the midget AAA program in particular.
“We have some of the best coaches around and we’ve created a group that works well together,” said Quinn, explaining how the RDMH system is the source of developing young, talented players from around the region early in their careers.
“But when they come here (to the AAA program) we’re expecting a certain commitment, a work ethic and all that together has helped us develop good teams the last few years,” he said.
One of those players came a long way to be a part of the system and the culture of winning.
“This is a great hockey program,” said forward Jacob Schofield who came to Red Deer from Yellowknife to be a part of this group. “Matt Zentner (Chiefs goalie) is a friend of the family. He used to live in Yellowknife so we knew them and it all factored in and it worked out great.”
It was a decision he claims had to be made but one which he has no regret in making, especially when his midget career comes to a close with a national championship.
Red Deer became only the fourth team in the decades long history of the national championship to win back-to-back titles.
Prince Albert, Notre Dame and Ste.Foy, Quebec are the others but we’ll have to wait until next year to see if Red Deer can become the first to nail the three-peat.
Seeing as Quinn and his coaching staff are back next year I wouldn’t bet against them at this point.