Hitmen 101: Hate the Rebels

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Freddie Pettersson is a quick study.

The Swedish import has only been in town for a month. But he already hates the Red Deer Rebels.

Earlier this summer, the fleet-footed Calgary Hitmen winger wouldn't have known what a Rebel was.

But, with the help of his teammates, he's come to understand nothing good lies north on Hwy. 2.

"Yeah, I know that now," Pettersson said after yesterday's final tuneup prior to tonight's season opener in Red Deer (7:30 p.m.).

"We have to beat them. We don't lose to them.

"I watched the last exhibition game and it was a tough fight. But I think this fight will be tougher."

With the rebuilding Central Division up for grabs, the 10 head-to-head meetings between the Rebels and Hitmen will be more significant than ever before.

After a few years of taking it on the chin from their northern rivals, the Hitmen have turned the tables as of late.

Calgary won the 10-game series 5-1-2-2 last season and outscored the Rebels 32-26 in the process. They went 5-3-2 against the Red Deer in 2003-04.

Pettersson is expected to play a large role with the Hitmen this year. He'll open the season skating on a line with fellow import Lukas Vantuch and veteran speedster Steve Covington.

"I think we can be good," Pettersson said. "It's new for everybody.

"But I think we can play the puck quick and I'm used to skating a lot."

While the rest of the WHL is still getting accustomed to the new rule changes sweeping hockey, the 5-ft. 10-in., 185-lb. Swede is ahead of the game. He has played without the red line his entire life and should benefit from the promised crackdown on obstruction.

"All the new rules are good for me," he said. "I like to skate and I'm not very big but they can't hold me."

Pettersson opened a few eyes during his 12-day stay at the Edmonton Oilers' training camp.

"It's my dream to be there so it was a lot of fun," the 18-year-old said, adding he learned a lot from the experience.

"Guys like Mike Peca and Steve Staios, they weren't on my line but they were on my team. You can see when they get the puck, they keep their legs moving all the time.

"I know I'm probably not going to go right up to the NHL so the AHL is my next goal. I'm going to practice hard every day because I want to get there."

Apparently no one has told him what Calgarians are supposed to think about the Oilers.

HIT PARADE: The Hitmen and Rebels return to the 'Dome for Calgary's home opener Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.).


Videos

Photos