Hundreds of spectators; possibly even more than 1,000, were on hand last Saturday afternoon to celebrate the Allan Cup championship with a parade, community barbeque and a dance while saluting the Bentley Generals.
Last month the Generals won the Allan Cup; emblematic of Canada’s best senior hockey team, by defeating the South East Prairie Thunder 4-3 in overtime at Steinbach, Manitoba, and their fans turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of their local heroes and even touch the Cup.
“You play it in your mind a thousand times, but you wonder after that many years and tries if you’re ever going to actually catch up to it and get to climb the mountain right to the summit,” team president Wes Gyori told reporters upon the realization that his team had finally reached the apex after three previous attempts. “We finally got there, but it wasn’t easy this year again. But that made it very worthwhile. When Diarmuid scored that goal, it was pretty sweet. And it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but this (parade) will really help.”
Of course, Gyori was speaking of the goal by Diarmuid Kelly that sealed the championship for the Generals that came in the second overtime period of the final.
“Everything went so fast in Steinbach. The evening (of the championship game) went so quick down there that we didn’t really get a chance (to celebrate properly) since we had to leave the next morning,” Gyori said. “So today is a great day, not only for the organization but all of central Alberta. We have players from a lot of communities, including Red Deer, come to our games. We had great support all around this season, just fantastic. I hope that everyone can come to (Bentley) and enjoy this day with us, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Not only were there plenty of Generals fans on hand for the celebration, but many media outlets also descended on the community including a number of television and radio stations, newspapers and a crew filming a documentary following the rise of the Generals.
“Sometimes you never know when that moment is going to come, especially when you’re in double overtime when anything can happen,” said Gyori who, along with assistant coach Jason Lenz, founded the Generals. “It was just so special when it finally happened, when the puck went in their net instead of ours. That was 11 years of time and effort all kind of rolled into one and that’s a long time to spend doing anything, although it was well worth it. We finally made it.”
Some closing notes on the 2009 Allan Cup include the naming of the All-Star team that included Generals forward Kurt Bensmiller and defensemen Joe Vandermeer and Don Morrison.
Also of note was former National Hockey League star Theoren Fleury who late last summer, announced his intentions of joining the Generals so he could have a chance of playing for the Allan Cup.
He did get his wish, however it was with the wrong team.
Instead, Fleury opted to join the host Steinbach North Stars who were eliminated in the semi-finals. Fleury played in four games and registered two goals and five assists to go along with 26 minutes in penalties, the highest of the tournament.