Penticton Vees working through a season of uncertainty

Troubling year for the Vees

Casey Richardson

After a Penticton Vees player tested positive on Nov. 27, the entire team moved into a 14 day quarantine, including coaches and staff.

The continued uncertainty with what's happening with the upcoming BCHL hockey season is weighing on the players.

“You take away the ability to go play right now, it obviously creates a negative environment for the guys. It makes it scary and it makes it real,“ Fred Harbinson, the Vees head coach, general manager and president said Tuesday. 

“They act a certain way and they try to be tough, big rough hockey players. But I'm sure deep down inside there’s some fear of what happened last year, getting things cut short and here we are again, on pause right now.”

For a lot of players, these games are how they showcase their skills and set themselves up to receive an athletic scholarship for college. 

“I love the people that say ‘Oh it’s just sports,' this or that,” Harbinson said. “Before anybody jumps on that statement—that there’s more to life—you’ve got to remember at that age that is their life.” 

And for some players, they haven’t gotten the chance to play for the Vees in what would be a regular season. 

“It kind of breaks your heart a little bit, for a guy like myself that's been here for so long. For our guys that are here that are one year guys, knowing what they’re missing out on. On a Friday night having 3,000 people in here cheering them on.”

That drop in attendees has hit the team as a business as well. 

“When you go from 3,100 to zero, nobody prepares for that,” Harbinson said.  

“It’s going to be tough, we’re working diligently to try and find different revenue streams to help push us through. I reached out to the alumni. And we've got a great alumni. Guys that have already been pitching help out.”

The team now runs 50/50 tickets, more online merchandise and is selling printable “Fan Faces" for in the stands when the season gets started again. 

“We’re gonna find a way to push through it and survive down the road, but is it going to have an impact that's going to last a few years, I'm sure it will.” 

One Vees supporter recently donated $3,000 anonymously to help out with player fees, a cost that is usually covered by the team. That act of generosity really added to the team's spirits, Harbinson said. 

“I think they know how much the community cares about them,” he said. 

A revised BCHL regular-season schedule has not been released yet.

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