On the verge of hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup, one of the biggest weeks in franchise history, Red Deer Rebels owner/president/general manager/head coach Brent Sutter caught wind of some unsettling rumours around town.
“Dean Williams (Rebels VP of marketing and sales) was in the grocery store… he was just in there for a short period of time and he said he had three people come up wanting to know if (I) had sold the team,” Sutter said.
Sutter said he’s heard the rumours before, but never as bad as the last four to six weeks. This time they’ve taken on a life of their own.
“Final straw for me was actually some of the (Memorial Cup) committee members were coming up and saying, ‘Geez Brent, you know, in the business sector people are wanting to know have you sold the team? Are you selling it? Or has it been sold?'” said Sutter, who has owned the Rebels since 1999.
“That bothered me because there’s no truth to that whatsoever.”
Sutter still isn’t sure where these most recent rumours came from, but wanted to make sure he “squashed” them as quickly as possible.
“It was somewhat disappointing to hear people talking like that out there,” he said. “It’s all rumours, it’s all false.”
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Sutter admits he has had people inquire about purchasing the team, but has he approached anyone else?
“Never once have I said, ‘Hey, the Rebels are out there for sale.’ It’s not the case,” Sutter said. “I’ve had people approach me, ask me if I was interested in selling and I simply said no.”
The Rebels have been a fixture in central Alberta since Sutter purchased the team in 1999. Since then they’ve invested a lot of time and money into the team and the building they play in, the Enmax Centrium at Westerner Park.
“We’ve built this program, this organization, to where it is. I’ve put a lot back into this community, I’ve put a lot back into this facility to make sure it’s a top-notch facility for our fans that come here and our sponsors,” Sutter said.
In the meantime, Sutter and company are focused on trying to win the second Memorial Cup title in franchise history. The last one came in 2001 in Regina.
The Rebels open the tournament Friday night against the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights.