Sutter shares coaching search update, thoughts on ICE relocation
The Red Deer Rebels coaching search continues.
Rebels owner, president and general manager Brent Sutter started his hunt for a head coach shortly after Steve Konowalchuk, after two years behind the bench, resigned from the position in May.
So far, the search has unearthed some promising candidates, but Sutter is in no hurry to find the right fit for the post.
“We’re doing a very thorough search on everything and the individuals. The bottom line is not how long it takes, it’s just finding the right guy,” he said Tuesday.
“That’s the process we’re going through. It’s been good, we’ve had some really good candidates and some really good conversations with different individuals.”
As he stated, Sutter has not set a timeline for the hire.
“At the end of the day we want to hire the right person,” he said. “Everybody has been really good but certain guys want to see what’s going to happen at the NHL level and the American League level for coaches.
“And it’s not just North America, we’ve talked to individuals in Europe too. It’s been really good, there’s certainly interest in guys over there wanting to come over here. We’re just going through the process in doing all our research on them too.”
The task of hiring a head coach might be hurried along following the NHL Draft Wednesday and Thursday in Nashville.
“There’s the draft and all that stuff involved,” said Sutter. “Some things are going to sort themselves out with other teams and leagues and other levels as we go along.
“We’ll make sure that we’re doing our due diligence and doing the right thing here.”
Wild to make first visit in February
The Rebels revealed their 2023-24 WHL Regular Season schedule Tuesday and the newly minted Wenatchee Wild will take on the Rebels Feb. 24 at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Formerly the Winnipeg Ice, the franchise relocated to Wenatchee, Wash., this month when the Winnipeg group was unable to break ground for a new arena as was promised when the Ice moved from Cranbrook to the Manitoba capital in 2019.
The Ice played out of the antiquated 1,600-seat Wayne Fleming Arena at the University of Manitoba for four seasons.
The sale of the team was ratified by the league’s board of governors, of which Sutter is one of 22 members.
“It was just a situation where they (Ice owners) did everything they could to get a building in Winnipeg that would be suitable and up to WHL standards, and they just couldn’t get that done,” said Sutter. “They ran into different roadblocks along the way they couldn’t get through.
“At the end of the day a decision was made that was best for our league. Unfortunately the team had to be moved out of Winnipeg and on the other hand it’s moving to a really good place in Wenatchee.
“We’re disappointed it didn’t work out in Winnipeg but thrilled that Wenatchee has a franchise. We know the people there will do a great job and we’re exciting about bringing them and their management team into the league.”
The Washington State city boasts a population of just over 35,000, roughly the same as two other WHL cities in Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.
The city also has a solid hockey fan base with the Wild drawing well during their 10 seasons in the BCHL, while playing out of the 4,300-seat Town Toyota Centre.
The Wild will join the U.S. Division that includes the Seattle Thunderbirds, Portland Winter Hawks, Everett Silvertips, Spokane Chefs and Tri-City Americans.
“Wenatchee is a place that people may not know much about, but it thrives and really supported the BCHL team and will certainly support a WHL team with having five other teams in that division,” said Sutter. “It’s a good market.”
The relocation also evens out the Eastern and Western conferences, with each now having 11 teams.