The B.C. Hockey League is going the extra mile to make a Penticton-hosted, first of its kind event one to remember, from recognizing its storied past to looking ahead at a bright future.
From Jan. 20 to 22, the league brings its 60th-anniversary all-star game festivities to the city’s new outdoor rink, as well as to the South Okanagan Events Centre, home of the Penticton Vees.
Never in the history of the BCHL has such an event been hosted at an outdoor facility, according to the league’s deputy commissioner Steven Cocker.
“There are not many outdoor facilities in this province that have the proper chiller system,” Cocker told Black Press. “So, we looked at Penticton as a great spot and we thought it was the perfect time to bring the event to a community that could hold it.”
The weekend is headlined by a three-on-three all-star tournament featuring the league’s brightest stars of today and an alumni game, featuring four-time Stanley Cup champion Scott Niedermayer and former Vancouver Canucks forward Brendan Morrison.
Cocker cited the Canucks’ annual Young Stars pre-season tournament — an event hosted yearly by Penticton since 2010 — as evidence the South Okanagan community can play host to the high-profile BCHL gatherings with ease.
“Penticton has been a destination for events throughout the year, hockey specific,” he said. “We know the city has the ability to hold these events, so it was all just about making sure we had the infrastructure for an outdoor facility.
“We know the locals are going to come out in full force just like they do for (the Vees) and on top of that, we know that there is an incredible volunteer base in Penticton, too.”
Along with those across the South Okanagan who are downtown Penticton-bound next weekend, the deputy commissioner also anticipates a strong tourism boost to the city, thanks to the 60th-anniversary festivities.
“Whether you’re coming from (Vancouver) Island, the Lower Mainland, or even right in your backyard in Penticton, I think it’s going to turn out to be an excellent family event and I know our teams have been doing a great job at promoting everything about it,” Cocker said. “We’ve made a hard push to relay the message to all of our 18 communities because we’d love to see fans in jerseys teams across the league next weekend.”
The only ticketed event during the weekend will be the BCHL Top Prospects Game on Friday night, Jan. 20, at the SOEC. Penticton’s outdoor rink will host the aforementioned all-star tournament and alumni game, as well as a skills competition and community skates on Saturday and Sunday, free of admission.
“We want to make sure it’s exciting and accessible for young families,” Cocker said.
The deputy commissioner acknowledged Alex Waddington, the BCHL’s coordinator of events and the league’s manager of communication and events, Jesse Adamson, for their work in making sure the Penticton-hosted event became a reality after a slew of previous cancellations amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and early 2022.
“This event is going to be one for the books for the BCHL and a kick-off to bigger and brighter events for the league in the future,” Cocker added.