2011-’12 Penticton Vees: A Team of Destiny

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Written by Habsterix, AllHabs.net

A wise man once said: “Losers quit when they’re tired. Winners quit when they’ve won”. Nothing can better describe the 2011-2012 season of the top team in the BCHL, the best of 133 Junior “A” teams in 10 leagues across the country, the Penticton Vees.

PENTICTON, BC. — While most serious hockey fans know about the BCHL, some Habs’ fans first discovered the Penticton Vees when one of the team’s prospects, Mark MacMillan, played there last season. However, hardcore western hockey fans know of the Vees’ rich history.

They know that this is the team who, in 1954, was National Senior Champions as winners of the Allan Cup. In 1955, the Vees represented Canada at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Krefeld, West Germany, beating the Soviet Union 5–0 for the gold medal.They know that in 1986, Penticton (then called the Knights) won the national championship and brought a pride which is still talked about in the Peach City. They also know that each year, Penticton forms one of the best teams in the BCHL and is a preferred destination for players wishing to get a NCAA scholarship and/or being scouted to the NHL.

Unless they’ve been living under a rock, most hockey fans however have heard of the Vees this season. After all, they just finished one of the best seasons a hockey team could ever dream off, a season where each and every player will share the memories and that, for the rest of their lives.

The City of Penticton is a relatively small town located in the B.C. interior, at the southern part of the Okanagan Valley. The area is known as the Canadian desert, the valley of the fruits, and where the wine industry is prominent. With a lake and sandy beaches at each end of town and with countless activities and sites to visit, Penticton has been a preferred tourist destination with people visiting from everywhere around the world.

The area’s hockey history is rich. Of course, the 1955 Vees put Canada on the map but since joining the BCHL, Penticton has been a model of consistency, by offering one of the best hockey programs and competitive teams year in, year out. For that reason, many U.S. Colleges and NHL scouts follow the team on a fairly regular basis and this year was no different.

The 2011-2012 Vees went 54-4-0-2 in the regular season. With seven of the league’s top nine scorers, they finished the season with 334 goals for (5.6 goals per game), making opposing goaltenders mark their schedule knowing they would be in for a rough night when facing them. That’s 89 more goals scored than second place Coquitlam, who finished the season with 245 goals. Because of that deadly offense, many underestimated their defensive game, something head coach and general manager Fred Harbinson has always taken great pride in. In the BCHL, only Powell River let in fewer goals against than Penticton, who allowed only 133 goals (2.2 goals per game). Their special teams were deadly as well, finishing first in the BCHL with a 31.36 per cent rate on the power play (nearly four per cent ahead of second place) and 85.77 per cent efficiency on the penalty-kill with an amazing 17 short-handed goals. With the team playing at the state of the art South Okanagan Event Centre (SOEC), the fans rewarded them with the best attendance in the BCHL, averaging over 2,100 per game, which is 1,000 more than the league average.

This year, the Vees set a North American record with 42 consecutive wins and that, during a 60-game season schedule. Penticton not only beat the old record belonging to the 1989-’90 New Westminster Royals, who had gone on a 29-game win streak, but they shattered it. From November 11 to March 9, a period of almost four full months, the Vees won every single game that they played. When the dust settled, Penticton finished their amazing 2011-2012 season with a ridiculous 74-10-2 record, en route to winning the Fred Page Cup, the Doyle Cup and the RBC Cup as national champions.

You don’t go through a season like that without getting some recognition and the Vees have been noticed and rewarded. In this year’s line-up, 16 players are committed to scholarships. Three players including Mario Lucia (Minnesota Wild), Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Steven Fogarty (New York Rangers) have been drafted by NHL teams. Also keep an eye on forward Wade Murphy and defenseman Troy Stecher at this year’s entry draft.

There were also two feel-good stories about the Vees this season, involving father and son, both pairs with roots in Penticton. Vees’ captain Logan Johnston is a second generation Penticton alumni as his father Lance played for the Penticton Knights back in 1979-’80 and 1980-’81. Last but not least, local product Cody Depourcq now shares the same dream, the same feat as his father John, who was a member of the 1986 Knights who also won the national championship, then known as the Centenial Cup. Part of this year’s team was forward Grant Nicholson, son of Hockey Canada’s President and CEO Bob Nicholson.

Those players will share the status of Penticton alumni along with Andy Moog, Ray Ferraro, Brett Hull, Joe Murphy, Tanner Glass, Mike Brown, Kyle Cumiskey, Paul Kariya, Duncan Keith, Chuck Kobasew, Brendan Morrison, Zac Dalpe and Ryan Johansen, just to name a few.

If you are curious to learn more, check out the websites of the Penticton Vees and the City of Penticton.

En français: Les Vees de Penticton: Une équipe de destin

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

7 COMMENTS

  1. The Vees season was remarkable, but they didn’t set a North American junior ‘A’ win record at 42. They tied the record set by the Flin Flon Bombers of the NJHL in 1981-82.

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