The Red Deer Rebels are confident a first-hand taste of army life will be a valuable experience moving forward.
The team headed to Wainwright a couple days early leading up to their Saturday night WHL preseason game versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes to spend time at CFB Wainwright.
The Rebels were put through the grinder by their army drillmasters as they ran the same obstacle course as new recruits.
“I think it was a good experience for everyone,” said veteran forward Jeff de Wit. “I know a lot of people don’t get a chance to do that, and act like soldiers for a few days. [It’s] definitely an eye opener to the lifestyle they live.
“We did the repel tower which was a pretty neat experience, pretty high up. We have some guys who are afraid of heights so it was kind of neat to see them go down it.”
“It was amazing,” said forward Zak Smith. “You see how the army does it, all the sacrifices they have to make. It really puts a perspective into your head on how our team has to work together and what you can do as a team.”
In addition to taking part in training, the Rebels stayed overnight at the barracks – eight to a room – giving them even more time to get know each other.
“It was really good, actually. At one point we had almost all of the guys in one room and we chatted about pretty much everything for an hour and a bit,” recalled de Wit.
Smith added, “As the days went on our team [became] more closer. Every night we were all hanging out together in the room, having fun, talking, no one was left out. It was a great experience for our team.”
Rebels assistant coach Brad Flynn says the experience was meant to be about more than just team building.
“I thought was a real eye opener for some guys to get to know that there’s more to life than just hockey,” he noted. “When you’re not prepared, not focused on your details like the guys and women in the military – it’s life or death for those guys. Obviously, we’re fortunate enough that we’re playing a game, but those concepts still apply to us.”
When it comes to team building, Flynn feels the CFB Wainwright experience was “Mission Accomplished.”
“There was really no technology, no wi-fi, no TV, so it was all about bonding and it was a great experience. The guys had a lot of laughs, they worked hard together, but at the end you could tell even in the game they were a pretty tight knit group.”
The Rebels fell to the Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime in front of a packed crowd of over 2,100 Saturday night in Wainwright.
Two more preseason games remain for the Rebels – Friday night in St. Albert versus the Edmonton Oil Kings and Saturday at the Enmax Centrium versus Medicine Hat (7 p.m.)
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