Vees give future outlook

Colton Davies

The Penticton Vees held an end-of-season news conference on Tuesday where they gave an indication on the outlook of the team next year and beyond.

The Vees announced a contract extension for head coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson to the end of the 2023-24 season. Harbinson has been with team for 11 seasons and his contract was set to expire next spring.

The team also named Massimo Rizzo its captain for 2017-18. Rizzo, who turns 17 next month, just completed a rookie season where he totalled 13 goals and 38 points in 50 games, before adding four goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games. He joined the Vees late in 2016-17 as a 15-year-old, and played seven playoff games as well as every game of the Western Canada Cup and RBC Cup.

The Burnaby native Rizzo was a first round WHL draft pick to the Kamloops Blazers in 2016, and there was speculation he might pursue the WHL route after a season in the BCHL. He said the decision was one he thought long and hard about, and said there wasn't a bad choice.

"I had an amazing experience (last year) and definitely have gotten better and developed, so I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully to improve things. And that's kind of why I chose to come back," he said. 

Rizzo told the crowd at the news conference he's grateful to be named captain, and said he's "excited with the group of guys we have next season, and I'm looking forward to lead them to a championship."

The Vees also announced Cassidy Bowes and Ryan Sandelin, both 19-year-old forwards, will be two of the alternate captains next season. Two others will be named at a later date.

Having spent 11 years in Penticton, Harbinson is the longest-tenured coach by a long shot in the BCHL, the next closest being Rylan Ferster in West Kelowna at six years.

"I came here in 2007-08, probably thought it would be a one-year thing, and the job's grown into something pretty special, something I'm proud of, where the organization's at as a whole," Harbinson said.

"If it wasn't for the ownership, I would've been gone a long time ago probably," he continued, referring to majority owners Graham and Sue Fraser. "A lot of the times you have to continue to move on for different reasons, they've taken a lot of the different equations out of it.

"I'm not saying that I don't have aspirations, but it has to be the right thing. A lot of times I've talked to teams at so-called higher levels and maybe our philosophical ideas just don't line up. Graham and Sue have made this a good place to coach."

Director of corporate partnerships David Michaud also announced the team will continue its partnership with Peter's Bros Construction, which sponsors admission for all fans aged 18 and under. Michaud added ticket prices will remain the same next season.

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