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Opinion: How Penticton became the best hockey town

BCHL All Star weekend success yet another showcase of how much Penticton loves hockey
Penticton Vees forward Josh Nadeau at the skills competition at the BCHL All Star weekend held at the outdoor rink on Saturday, Jan. 21. Josh won in shooting accuracy while his brother Bradly won hardest shot. (Logan Lockhart Western News)

Penticton has long been known as a hockey town but after the overwhelming success of B.C. Hockey League’s 60th anniversary All-Star Weekend, we can truly say we are a hockey nation.

BCHL players from across the province participated in the top prospects game, all-star tournament and skills competition event while former NHL stars entertained a huge crowd for alumni shinny on downtown Penticton’s new outdoor rink. Even snow showed up to give it that truly Canadian experience.

The vibe was amazing, with both the players and the fans having a great time watching the best-of-the-best show their talents on the ice. Even the BCHL jersey designs and toques set the tone for true hockey greatness.

Penticton wasn’t always known for hockey, but that all changed in 1955 when a little-known team called the Penticton Vees travelled to West Germany to represent Canada in the World Championships.

The Vees handily beat the Soviets in the championship game 5-0. Over one million Canadians tuned into the game on the radio that day in March 1955, forever putting Penticton on the hockey map.

All of sudden, everyone wanted to know more about this dream team, this orchard Okanagan city with its two lakes that turns out gritty, talented hockey players.

READ MORE: 1955 VEES WERE Cinderella kids

Minor hockey began to flourish, with Memorial Arena turning into the place to be on weekends. The Penticton Vees played out of there too for a long time. Glass cases are adorned with minor hockey memories, newspaper clippings, trophies, medals and of course, an entire case dedicated to the 1955 World Champion Penticton Vees.

Penticton has produced some NHL players as well.

Duncan Keith played 17 NHL seasons, 16 of those with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

The Norris Trophy-winning defenceman played with the Penticton Panthers from 1999 to 2001 and was inducted into the Vees’ Ring of Honour last November. Stanley Cup winner Scott Niedermayer moved here so his sons could play with the Penticton Vees. Josh Niedermayer is currently having a great season with the winning team.

The current Penticton Vees are No. 1 in the league, heading for a second-in-a-row championship win.

They are thrilling to watch and whenever they play at home, the SOEC is filled with over 3,400 fans. The players are community-minded, going out to schools, and serving as true ambassadors of the sport.

We also have a world-class hockey school in the Okanagan Hockey Academy that draws young players from around the world.

We host the NHL Young Stars Classic too. There are plenty of reasons for young Penticton hockey players to dream big and enjoy the best game in the world because they get to see first-hand where it can take them.

READ MORE: Penticton Silver Bullets will host finals at Memorial Arena

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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