Local hockey focus of doc

A filmmaker who grew up playing minor hockey in Kelowna came back to his hometown to investigate how the sport he loves has changed.

Sam Finlay's six-part series follows a 13-year-old Kelowna hockey player in his lead-up to the 2017 WHL Bantam draft.

“I'm a big hockey fan, I grew up playing and kind of just found it interesting how much money it takes nowadays and what kind of politics are involved and how it's different from when I was growing up,” Finlay said.

Finlay partnered with Tyler Hinds, a Kelowna bantam hockey coach who's well connected in the local hockey community.

For a year and a half, Finlay's cameras followed Jack Finley, a 13-year-old, 6-foot-3, 185-pound hockey player whose dad is a former NHL player and current scout for the Detroit Red Wings.

Finley plays on the Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep team, an academy team that plays separately from the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association.

While making the documentary, Finlay found the majority of WHL draft picks now come from academy teams rather than minor hockey associations. In the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, nine of the top 10 picks came from academy teams.

Finlay says these academy leagues, where teams charge tens of thousands of dollars for annual tuition, are a relatively new phenomena that have some interesting implications.

“What does it mean to play our game? Is it more of a fairness and local community thing that we should be taking pride in playing for our local team or is it more of a win at all costs, develop at all costs and play with some of the best players around and go play some of the best teams around,” Finlay said.

“That kind of became the main issue of the documentary.”

Finlay says the Okanagan is particularly impacted by academies taking the cream of the crop, with two academies in the region: Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna and the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.

“From a Canadian perspective, we want to win, we want our World Junior team to win every year, we want to have the top draft picks in the NHL," Finlay said. "We take a lot of pride in producing great players, but you have to be so rich now for your kid to really get that development.

“Who does get left out, and what makes it our game?”

Our Game debuted online and on Telus Optik TV On Demand in B.C. and Alberta last week. 

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