Another year, another success — on and off the ice.
The more than 15-year-old vision of Penticton reaping economic benefits from the Vancouver Canucks’ Young Stars Classic played out again last weekend, Sept. 15 to 18, and those who helped organize it couldn’t be more pleased.
“For us to host four NHL teams comfortably and then for our community to see the benefits of it is why the original people, councillors, mayor and city manager, first put this thing together in 2006, 2007 and 2008,” said Dean Clarke, general manager of the South Okanagan Events Centre where top prospects from the Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets played.
“This was their vision and it’s just an incredible pleasure to put something on like this for the community.”
Around 12,000 people attended the tournament over the course of the weekend, according to Clarke.
He added that Saturday night’s Flames and Oilers showdown, as well as Canucks games on Friday and Sunday, were particularly hot tickets.
Vancouver has brought the pre-season showcase to Penticton since 2010 but in the wake of wildfires and rockslide-related closures in the area at the end of August, Clarke says it was important that the tournament this year went on without a hitch.
“It was a much-needed event for Penticton,” he said.
“September is an incredibly important month for our community. The Canucks understand the need for this in our community and they’re incredible partners.”
Clarke also spoke about the importance of the other recent events in the city that moved forward, like the Bryan Adams concert at the SOEC and the Pentastic Jazz and Music Festival.
“What an incredible 13 days, to rebound from what was a bit of a fizzle at the end of August,” Clarke stated. “What we do is directed to economic impact…we want to make sure our hotel partners, restaurants and community are healthy, happy and vibrant.”
For this past weekend, Clarke said he was also pleased to see facilities like the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre being used by the NHL clubs.
All of the Western Canadian squads played three games over the course of the weekend, with a Penticton Vees’ pre-season contest sandwiched in between.
Some version of the tournament is played across the NHL, featuring other teams and their geographic neighbours, but Clarke says he’s confident Penticton does it best.
“We host all the players like it’s an NHL game,” he said. “The Canucks have made a commitment to the tournament and so has Penticton…they want to host it first-class and that’s why it keeps coming back every year.”