The best of the best in minor hockey will descend upon Vernon this weekend for their chance to be scouted to the next level.
Former NHLer and Vernon hockey graduate Jason Podollan is hosting the first ever Up My Hockey invitational tournament for players born in 2009.
“Right now, minor hockey and private hockey never get a chance to play together,” says Podollan, who is hoping to fill the gap in player’s opportunities.
Hockey players involved in leagues sanctioned by BC Hockey don’t compete during the season against players who play for private or unsanctioned teams.
“As an unbiased third party, I can bring these players together,” Podollan says.
The 68 young guns will be coached and evaluated by former NHLers Jerred Smithson, Tyler Shattock and Mark Ferner.
Along with exposure, the tournament will offer learning opportunities. Weekend guest speakers include the likes of NHL super agent Mike Barnett and former Vancouver Canuck Aaron Volpatti.
“I knew I was on the right track right away … players are willing to drive here from Prince George and Vancouver Island for this opportunity," says Podollan.
Western Hockey League scouts will also be on hand for the three-day tournament at Kal Tire Place North, and it's open to the public.
Podollan won gold with Team Canada, played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was a first round draft pick to the Florida Panthers in 1994.
“I’m super grateful for my experience growing up with minor hockey in Vernon,” says Podollan, who stills lives in Vernon with his family.
“I can see this tournament growing even more for next year.”