BY ZACHARY CORMIER
It’s official. After 17 years, 11 Chinook Hockey League Championships and three Allan Cups as the Bentley Generals, the 2016 Allan Cup champions are on the move.
Last week, the City of Lacombe announced that the Senior Men’s AAA hockey club has entered into an agreement to relocate to Lacombe for the 2016-17 season.
“It kind of feels like you’ve got a whole new look on life. It’s just different. It’s exciting, it’s strange, it’s a little bit sad that you’re changing your name and who you are and where you play out of. But we’re still the Generals. We’re just in a new place that has formally accepted us and embraced us,” said Jeff McInnis, the general manager of the Lacombe Generals.
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie added he is excited for the move as well.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome the Lacombe Generals to their new home. I have no doubt that this celebrated Chinook Hockey League franchise will continue to entertain and delight fans with their brand of elite-level hockey for years to come,” he said.
The move, which has been in the works for the past year and a half, was initially proposed by the Generals after Lacombe City council approved the addition of a dedicated 2,067 sq ft. dressing room for the team as part of a two year $13.6 million renovation and expansion of the Lacombe Sports and Leisure Complex at their Dec. 14th meeting.
“We had a town council meeting when the vote went ahead and that was a game changer. We had been working on it about a year and a half prior to that because we knew that, financially, we couldn’t stay in Bentley. So finally when the ball started to roll it was a wonderful feeling,” said McInnis.
“You genuinely felt that the City was looking for something. The City wanted a team to call their own.”
That feeling came true during this year’s Chinook Hockey League playoffs, as the Generals played their home games at the Lacombe Sports and Leisure Complex in front of near sellout crowds on the way to the Chinook Hockey League championship and, eventually, their third Allan Cup.
“The fans came out in droves and we were winning. There was just a really good energy around, so it couldn’t have been better as far as showing what it’s going to be,” McInnis said, adding that having a dedicated dressing room to work out of will be a huge boost for the team.
“I think it’s going to be better because our training staff and players will have their own dressing room to work out of because we were like a travelling band of gypsies before. This year was tough at some times but great in others because it gave us an appreciation of what Lacombe’s going to be.”
While the move to Lacombe is exciting for the Generals, McInnis noted that it is a little bit sad to be leaving Bentley.
“To think that our little team that we started 17 years ago would grow and have this success, I don’t think we would have had this success had we had the team anywhere else. It was a match made in heaven,” he said.
The Generals’ time in Bentley closed with a bang, though, as they won one last Allan Cup championship banner for the town that supported them for so many years.
“It’s great closure. We had a wonderful celebration there last weekend, in Bentley. It’s a wonderful way to go out and it’s also a wonderful way to come into Lacombe, as the defending Champions,” McInnis said.