Canucks singer ready to energize Vees fans

PENTICTON VEES GOALIE Chad Katunar watches the play while Rob Mann, middle, battles with Jordan McCallum with Travis Blanleil in the back. The Vees take on the Merritt Centennials tonight in the South Okanagan Events Centre. - Mark Brett/Western News
PENTICTON VEES GOALIE Chad Katunar watches the play while Rob Mann, middle, battles with Jordan McCallum with Travis Blanleil in the back. The Vees take on the Merritt Centennials tonight in the South Okanagan Events Centre.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

If the crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre isn’t fired up before the anthem when the Penticton Vees host the Merritt Centennials today, it will be when Mark Donnelly is finished with them.

Underwriters Insurance has brought in the Vancouver Canucks anthem singer as part of the Hogs versus Hosers charity fundraising night in support of Feed the Valley and School District 67 Breakfast Program. Fans are encouraged to come to the SOEC early as Donnelly will be signing autographs on the concourse prior to puck drop. Doors open at 4 p.m.

Fans who bring a non-perishable food donation for the Feed the Valley program will receive discounted tickets, which are $10 for adults and seniors and $2 for children and students. The Penticton Vees will donate $1 from each adult and senior ticket purchased directly to School District 67’s Breakfast Program.

Donnelly, who is known for getting the crowd at Canucks games into a frenzy by offering up his mic to them to sing the Canadian national anthem with him, said he’s honoured to be singing for one of the most successful junior A hockey teams in Canada.

“When Neil Jamieson asked me to come up and sing for the game I was very excited,” said Donnelly in an email. “I’m a avid supporter of junior hockey. My son played four years of junior before getting a scholarship to Williams College in Massachusetts.”

Prior to singing for the Canucks, Donnelly began singing anthems for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey league, while working for a Scranton, Pennsylvania, Parish. The father of nine children will also be playing in the Hogs versus Hosers game. He will be between the pipes for the Penticton Fire Department during the first intermission.

“It doesn’t take much to get me to play hockey,” said Donnelly, who along with performing musical gigs to support his family, teaches singing, conducts three church choirs for the Latin Mass at Holy Family Parish in Vancouver, composes, arranges and edits music, and give talks on Gregorian chant and weight loss. “In fact, I sprained the medial collateral ligament in my right knee about a week and a half ago, so I’ve been diligently rehabbing it just so I could play in the game. However, if I didn’t lose 185 pounds over the last couple of years, I wouldn’t be able to get back between the pipes. It’s a thrill every time I get on the ice now.”

Vees captain Troy Stecher is excited about the weekend.

“I know a bunch of the guys are all pumped up,” said Stecher. “He’s going to pump up the crowd, pump us up.”

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the fundraiser is for a great cause.

“Whenever we can do these type of things in the community, we’re a community team, I think it’s great,” he said. “I’m sure there is going to be great fan support out. We have had some better crowds as of late. Our guys feed off it and gain energy from it.  Hopefully the building will be electric and it will be a fun atmosphere for all.”

On the ice, Stecher, who sits 25th in league scoring with 40 points in 42 games, second among defenceman, is also ready to face the Merritt Centennials.

“It’s a great opportunity to put some points in between us,” he said, adding they are aware the Centennials tied Vernon on Tuesday night. “I think we have to capitalize on that opportunity. The building is going to be packed and we will have a ton of fans so it’s going to be a great atmosphere. We have to use that to our advantage.”

Harbinson said his players are excited about the divisional battle. The have been working hard in practice with intensity picking up.

“They are right on the brink of almost fighting each other in practice,” said Harbinson. “They are going so hard. They are doing it in a way that you have to respect.”

During a battle drill, forward Cody DePourcq got roughed up by defenceman James de Haas, who took him down at the net. DePourcq then took a swing a de Haas’ leg.

“That’s what I mean. Guys are going so hard at each other. Not in a dirty way,” said Harbinson. “Just in a way to try to make each other better. That’s what playoff hockey is going to be like.”

Vees notes: The CIBC Wood Gundy branch has generously donated $5,000 to SD67’s Breakfast Program in support of the Hogs versus Hosers charity fundraising night. The Vees will look to extend their winning streak to eight games against the Centennials.


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