The rich get richer. Red Deer is once again going to be the home of a premier sporting event after securing the Western Hockey League (WHL) Draft and the WHL Awards for the next three years.
The Red Deer Rebels, working along with the City of Red Deer, were able to secure the event following the success of the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup, which was held at the Enmax Centrium.
“This community deserves these types of events based on the tremendous success of the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup where they really raised the bar,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said. “It told us at the Western Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League that this is a special community that has tremendous support for hockey.”
Robison said that Red Deer makes sense for the league due to it being a market that supports the WHL and the Rebels, and that they don’t share the market with the National Hockey League (NHL).
“We feel it is centrally located and a very well supported franchise,” Robison said. “They really deserve the opportunity to host national and international events like the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL prospects game and the Ivan Hlinka Gretzky Cup. That all reflects the fact we have great confidence in this community and this organization.”
Along with the draft, Hockey Alberta is also working to bring the Alberta Cup for at least 2019 to Red Deer, with the hope that it takes place the week before the WHL draft — creating a week long hockey festival.
“We are hoping that the Alberta Cup, which is the last event our scouts attend prior to the annual Bantam Draft, could happen in Red Deer,” Robison said.
While plans are not set in stone for the Alberta Cup, Hockey Alberta CEO Rob Litwinski said they look forward to piecing the event together in coordination with the WHL.
“We would look at 2019 as the earliest day,” he said. “We have plans for Spruce Grove in 2018 that are going very well. Obviously, we would try to host it in the new Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.”
He added there is potential to stay in Red Deer following 2019 in order to accommodate the three year commitment from the WHL for the draft.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the City has positioned itself well to host these events.
“It marks another significant emergence event for Red Deer on the national and international sporting stage,” she said. “To attract this calibre of event to our community speaks to the quality of the amenities we offer here.
“The message we are hearing is that it is our community spirit, community pride and willingness to get it done that is attracting these major events.”
More information regarding dates and locations of the Awards, Draft and the Alberta Cup will be made available in the coming months.