Win or lose, the next week and a half will be a stretch of hockey that Matt Revel will remember for the rest of his life.
The tourney started Friday and ends May 26.
Revel, a 17-year-old rookie centre from Abbotsford, is one of the Blades’ most promising youngsters, and he’s thrilled at the opportunity to compete for a title.
“It’s been really exciting, especially this week,” Revel told The Abbotsford News via cellphone. “There’s been a lot of excitement around the rink.”
As recently as last fall, Revel wasn’t convinced that major junior hockey was the right road for him.
He was passed over in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft, partially because he also happened to be an outstanding baseball prospect. But he drew rave reviews in 2011-12 with the Fraser Valley Bruins of the B.C. Major Midget League, and the Blades added him to their protected player list.
Even so, Revel initially cast his lot with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, and was all set to work towards an NCAA scholarship.
But the Blades were persistent in their recruitment, and they dangled a carrot that no other junior franchise could boast – an automatic Memorial Cup berth by virtue of their host status.
After two games with the Chiefs, Revel departed for Saskatoon.
While the other three Memorial Cup participants – the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, the London Knights (Ontario) and Halifax Mooseheads(Quebec) – have all earned their way in by winning their respective leagues, Saskatoon has sat idle for nearly two months.
That’s led to criticism of the tourney format, and the suggestion that Revel and his Blades don’t belong.
“We had lots of criticism through the media, lots of guys blaming different people on our team,” noted Revel. “But we know what we have to do, and that’s come out and show everybody what we can do and what we’re capable of.”