With the Vees national championship win, Penticton’s hockey reputation is at one of the highest points ever, so the cancellation of the NHL Young Stars prospects tournament comes as a major disappointment.
“It was an incredible economic generator for the city and exposed a lot of great players, not only to the public, but to media and scouts,” said Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton.
The SOEC remains a phenomenal facility, he continues, and the Vees, now national champions, played with heart and soul and tenacity in it, raising Penticton’s hockey profile high.
“It would have been the crowning jewel to have hosted the Young Stars again this fall,” said Ashton. “Hopefully they will be back next year.”
Dean Clarke, general manager at the South Okanagan Events Centre, expects the tournament will be back next year, but the loss of this year’s tournament will definitely affect revenues both at the SOEC and in the community.
Penticton first hosted the round-robin tournament, which features high-profile prospects from the host Vancouver Canucks as well as the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks, in 2010 and again in 2011. In its first year in Penticton, the tournament produced an economic impact estimated at $1.8 million as well as huge exposure for the city.
“There was over 100 media personnel on hand and last year we had over 400,000 viewers online or on Sportsnet. This brought significant attention to our region, facilities, our community, our hockey history/passion, and beauty as a destination,” said Coun. Andrew Jakubeit
“The Canucks are committed to returning in 2013 and so are the other teams. We have the best facilities all in one area, beautiful location, great fan support; it’s been a win-win situation for the teams and the city.”
The cause of the cancellation may be related to the upcoming summer of negotiations between the NHL and the players’ union, including facing the possibility of a delayed start to the season — or cancellation, as it was in 2004 — the prospects camp and tourney would be superfluous.
Earlier this year, the NHL also cancelled their season opening games at European venues, which they have featured since 2007. And another prospects tournament, hosted by Detroit is also reportedly on hold.
“But these are unforeseen circumstances,” said Clarke, who doesn’t expect difficulties luring the Young Stars back for a 2013 camp. “We are already in the process of planning for next year, for 2013. It’s just unfortunate, that’s all.”
Clarke lists several factors, like the size of the facilities, the training facility, the on-site gym and other factors making a unique package, ideally suited to the needs of the Young Stars.
“It is not like we have to sell them on this tournament again and sell them to come back. They like the tournament, it ticks off all the boxes for them when it comes to how they want to start the season,” said Clarke. “The Canucks, all the other NHL teams, they really love the facility. They really want to be here and it is the same for us. We really want them here. We understand it is a huge impact for our community.”
Clarke, however, isn’t giving up on 2012 completely, even to the extent of keeping the planned tournament dates on hold.
“I am not going to release them just yet in case something small can happen,” he said, suggesting the possibility of the negotiations being resolved or perhaps just a couple of teams coming to town. “Maybe we can do something small. That’s very optimistic.”