How could Red Deer not be awarded the Memorial Cup? Wait that was last month. I’m sorry, it still stings. And as what can only be considered a consolation prize, hockey Canada has awarded Red Deer not one but two World Junior Championship games.
Pre-tournament games yes, but they still allow hockey fans the chance to see the best junior hockey players in the world. Added bonus is Team Canada and Team USA will both be playing here. Albeit on two separate dates.
Red Deer will host two games. On Dec. 20th, USA and Russia will go toe to toe. And on Dec. 22 our very own Team Canada will face off against Switzerland in one of three Team Canada pre-competition games.
Rebels head coach and former Rebels player Jesse Wallin, who played at the World Junior Championships in 1997 says these games are nothing to sneeze at.
“For Red Deer it’s a very exciting time. It’s a huge event and going into the world juniors, they’re intense games. The caliber of play and the caliber of players of these games is at an elite level. So it’s going to be exciting hockey.”
And why would Red Deer be so privileged?
Al Coates, executive director of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship jokes, “I guess from a transportation standpoint when you’re going right by it, you might as well play a couple games, right?”
Coates says there were many factors but Red Deer’s hosting of the championship back in the mid 1990s is a good enough reason.
“The track record of the City of Red Deer and the Rebels Organization speaks for itself,” he says. “You can go back to ‘95, the first time this was really held in the province. If anybody is deserving most certainly Red Deer and the organizing committee from ’95 were, and they deserve to have a reunion here.”
Jesse Wallin thinks that the current crop of Canadian juniors are really lucky. “As a player myself who played in it two years both overseas, if I had a regret about it it’s that I didn’t get to experience it here in Canada”
Finally, Wallin will get his chance. As a fan.
And for the record, Red Deer still deserves the Memorial Cup.