One of the greatest players in Red Deer Rebels history was in town Wednesday lending his support to a great cause.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was part of a hot stove luncheon at the Holiday Inn along with Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, President Bob Nicholson and Rebels Owner/President Brent Sutter.
Proceeds from the event which drew about 150 people went to the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre (CACAC) and the Oilers Community Foundation.
“It’s definitely nice to able to especially come back to Red Deer and help out with something that’s becoming a big part of Red Deer and Edmonton and Calgary,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’s cool to be able to come down and support it, and see some familiar faces that I haven’t seen in a long time, back in a great city that was a lot of fun to play junior hockey in."
Though it’s been six years since he last wore a Rebels jersey, a big piece of Nugent-Hopkins’ heart remains in Red Deer. His fiancé is from here and he keeps in close touch with his former billets.
The warm feelings are mutual, according to Sutter.
“Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Nuge, and all Rebels fans are,” he surmised. “For him to be playing close to home here in Edmonton, and been a good player for the Oilers even though everybody’s expectations are always way up here. But reality is Nugent-Hopkins is just a real good hockey player, and I’m a huge supporter of Ryan.”
Having their players, both past and present, be involved in community causes is something Sutter says the Rebels take great pride in.
“[It] doesn’t matter what year they’ve been on the Rebels team, they’re heavily involved in the community, and people don’t forget that. And hopefully those players when they move on, like Nuge has, this time he had in Red Deer, he takes it in a very positive way, and uses that for him later on in life.
“It’s not just developing hockey players, it’s developing a human being, and we take a lot of pride in that,” Sutter added.
Both Nugent-Hopkins and Sutter agreed that the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre is an easy cause to get behind.
“It’s a great cause, it’s a great thing to be a part of and be able to support. So when you get a chance in my situation to support something like this, you’ve got to jump on it and try to help out anyway you can. I’m happy I could come today and just be a small part of it,” Nugent-Hopkins explained.
“It (abuse) happens way to often to people you can’t even imagine happening to,” Sutter lamented. “It’s something that has to certainly be addressed, and try to correct it as quick as you can if something does occur, making sure the right people get the help they need to have… Our life is our kids, and we have to protect our children.”
Mark Jones, CEO of the CACAC, is grateful for the support his organization has received in recent weeks from both the Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
“They have been absolutely fantastic. Both organizations have sent players in, have personnel behind the scenes to help us out, to try and bring to the forefront that it’s okay to talk about abuse by lending their name and lending the support of their organizations.”
Jones says plans for the new CACAC building to be located at RDC continue to move along. The first concept plans for what the building could look were to be presented during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Construction on the new advocacy centre is scheduled to begin in April.
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