Penticton celebrates banner year

Victory parade rolls into the SOEC Wednesday night to celebrate national champion Penticton Vees

The abundance of riches enjoyed by the South Okanagan grew a little bit larger on a sunny Mother’s Day afternoon.

Penticton, long renowned for its peaches and beaches, can now lay claim to Canada’s top Junior A hockey franchise.

The Penticton Vees won the 2012 RBC Cup in dramatic fashion Sunday, as Joey Benik scored with less than a minute to play to give the Vees a 4-3 win over the Woodstock Slammers.

The win capped off a season for the ages  for the Vees, who reeled off a record 42 straight wins on their way to a record of 54-4-0-2. The Vees then dispatched the Chilliwack Chiefs, Merritt Centennials and Powell River Kings to win the BCHL crown. The Game 5 Doyle Cup win over the Brooks Bandits in front of 4,700 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre earned the Vees their ticket to the RBC Cup.

But the five-team tournament in Humboldt, Sask. would be anything but a coronation for the Vees. Penticton opened the tournament with a pair of losses, before their blue-collar work ethic and never-say-die attitude helped them claw their way to Junior A Hockey’s ultimate prize.

And the community’s appreciation for “our boys” was clearly in evidence Monday night as hundreds turned out to the South Okanagan Events Centre to welcome the national champion Vees back to Penticton. The festivities continue Wednesday, with a victory parade leaving Pen High at 4 p.m. and winding its way to the SOEC for the Vees RBC Cup celebration and awards night starting at 5:30 p.m.

The sun is shining, the fruit trees are beginning to blossom and the lakes are beckoning those who walk along their shores.

Yes, there’s a lot to celebrate in the South Okanagan this year. But it’s the skill and hard work of a group of talented young men that has forever seared a place in the community’s heart.