The Penticton Vees successfully co-hosted the BCHL Showcase Festival this past weekend.
While the Vees would like to host the entire Showcase at some point in the near future, they are hoping it won’t be in 2020-21.
And with good reason.
The Vees are expected to find out within the next 10 days if their bid to host the Centennial Cup national Junior-A hockey championship for the first time ever - in May of 2021 - is successful.
“Obviously we wouldn’t be able to host both events,” said Vees president, GM and head coach Fred Harbinson. “A lot will hinge on whether we’re hosting the (Centennial) Cup next season.”
Harbinson said Hockey Canada – the national governing body for hockey in the country – has promised the Vees and the other club(s) bidding to host the event an answer by next week.
Without knowing who else is in the running, the Vees and the city have to like their chances.
Penticton is arguably the flagship Junior-A franchise in Canada playing in one of the best facilities in the country in the South Okanagan Events Centre, which has a capacity of around 4,700 for hockey.
There is also the adjoining OHS Training Centre rink and venerable old Memorial Arena across the parking lot to accommodate any kind of requirements for additional games and ice times.
And, aside from the climate, the sheer beauty of the city and all it has to offer residents and visitors alike, there is another factor.
Next year will be the 60th anniversary of junior hockey in Penticton, with the Penticton Junior Vees having entered the Okanagan Junior Hockey League in 1961-62 and then joining the B.C. (Junior) Hockey League as the Penticton Broncos in 1966/67.
“We feel we’ve done a lot of good things as a franchise and we’ve got an amazing city and fan base here,” said Harbinson.
The Penticton team was known as the Junior Vees from 1961 to 1963 and the Broncos from 1964 to 1975. The team won the BCJHL championship in that first year in the league in 1966/67.
The team was known as the Penticton Vees again from 1975 to 1979, before becoming the Penticton Knights from 1979 to 1990. The Knights enjoyed remarkable success, winning five league championships and capturing Penticton’s first Centennial Cup in 1986, after losing in the final a year earlier.
The team was called the Penticton Panthers from 1990 to 2004 before becoming the Vees again from 2004 to present.
The Vees, of course, won the national championship (then known as the RBC Cup) in 2012.
They’ve also been to the national championship in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
But they’ve never hosted one. Hopefully that’s about to change.
SHOWCASE FESTIVAL: If the success of the Showcase Festival is any indication, the Vees are more than well equipped to host the Centennial Cup.
Eight games involving nine BCHL teams were played over two days at the SOEC.
“It was a lot of work but our staff did its usual professional job of working alongside BCHL staff to put on a great event that went off without a hitch,” said Harbinson.
Harbinson said attendance was solid and there were some close and exciting games that showcased players on all teams well.
“That’s what it’s all about, and we had a lot of scouts in the building the whole weekend to see players from all the participating teams,” said Harbinson. “All the events both on and off the ice for fans and players were a big success.”
David Crompton is a sports reporter at the Penticton Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.