Way back in August, the Red Deer Rebels made a minor transaction that could have big ramifications in two leagues: they traded for the rights to Calgary Flames prospect Brandon Hickey.
You see, the Rebels are hosting the Mastercard Memorial Cup next May and are guaranteed an automatic berth in that tournament. But no host team wants to be the weak link competing against the champions from the Ontario, Quebec and Western Hockey Leagues, so you often see host teams going all-out.
With the eyes of the hockey-playing world about to be fixated on the World Junior Championship in Helsinki and the college season (and semester) in its winter break, the question remains: Will Brandon Hickey leave Boston University for the Red Deer Rebels?
WHY: THE MEMORIAL CUP
Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino was on Hockey Central at noon on Dec. 22 with our pal Pat Steinberg. He is a Canadian and calls the Memorial Cup games for Sportsnet, so obviously he holds the biggest Canadian tournament in high regard. Cosentino shared with Steinberg and the radio audience that he “suspects” that Hickey ends up in Red Deer, explaining that he felt that way because of the allure of the Memorial Cup tournament and the prospect of playing games until late May.
WHY NOT: CHASING THE NCAA CROWN
On the other hand, Hickey has already come agonizingly close to a championship at Boston University. His team lost to Mark Jankowski’s Providence College Friars by a single goal at last year’s Frozen Four. I don’t doubt that the loss haunts Hickey to some degree, and he’s motivated to help get his team back to the championship game once again.
WHY: GOING HOME
Hickey’s from Leduc, a suburb of that city up north that we don’t like, and played most of the hockey in his life in that general area. Coming to Red Deer would mean he gets to play regularly in front of friends and family, and would provide the Flames with a lot more opportunities for live viewings.
WHY NOT: BEANTOWN
On the other hand, and no disrespect to Red Deer, but I don’t know many people that would give up the chance to get paid to go to school at a good college and get to live in Boston to live in Red Deer. I like Red Deer, but Boston’s fantastic and close to a lot of cool stuff on the east coast.
WHY: THE WHL ARMS RACE
Hickey paired with Rebels’ Fleury (shutdown duo) … says Haydn keeps (half-jokingly) asking him if he’ll bolt BU for Red Deer
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 22, 2015
Here’s the Eastern Conference standings in the WHL right now.
There isn’t a ton of separation right now in the East. And there’s that rumour that won’t go away about Jake Virtanen potentially returning to the Hitmen, so all of a sudden the Rebels must be pretty nervous. If the Virtanen rumours materialize and Vancouver assigns him back to Calgary, the Rebels will have to make a corresponding splash, and going all-out to grab Hickey would count as a major splash.
WHY: CHAOS IN BOSTON
The Boston University Terriers haven’t had an easy start to the season. First off, they have a good (but uneven) 9-6-3 record, which is a far cry from how great their Jack Eichel-powered team was last season. Second, they’ve had a series of blows to their team dynamic. AJ Greer left the program for the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Finnish forward Ahti Oksanen suffered an injury on December 12 against Quinnipiac and his status for the rest of the season is in question. And junior Nick Roberto has recently been suspended for “gambling activities.”
So maybe Hickey might want a change of scenery? And more importantly, maybe the Flames might want to get him in a different, less chaotic environment?
MY GUT SAYS HE STAYS
As much as I’d love to see Hickey play in the Memorial Cup, I think he stays at Boston University. He’s a year and a half into a free college degree. He’s living in Boston and gets to enjoy being a young person in one of America’s coolest cities. And I think he wants to get the most out of the Boston University experience, and I don’t think he can do that by cashing out and going home after 18 months.