Home is where the heart is and right now for Fred Harbinson, Penticton Vees head coach, general manager and president, his heart is in the Peach City for at least the next six years.
Harbinson and the Vees announced Tuesday a five-year extension to his current contract which has a year remaining.
The news came at the Vees year-end conference at The Vault restaurant at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
At the same time it was announced that 16-year-old Massimo Rizzo, who just completed his first full season with the team, would take on the role of team captain for the 2018/19 season.
He will be joined by Ryan Sandelin and Cassidy Bowes as assistant captains, along with two more assistants to be named at a later date.
Next year will be the 12th for Harbinson who has over 400 wins under his belt during that time.
His record includes four Fred Page Cups, one Doyle Cup, one Western Canada Cup, had three National Championship appearances and winning the 2012 RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask.
“For me it’s just the people (owners Sue and Graham Fraser) I’m working for. I had some teams that talked to me and stuff sometimes maybe the philosophies don’t line up exactly the same,” said Harbinson. “Financially I’m taken care of here. I get to coach really good players, you can go to college program and not coach guys of his (Rizzo) caliber, we’ve got a lot of those players the so -called higher levels and not have the lifestyle I have here.
“I’m not saying I’m never going to leave but Graham and Sue make it hard for us to leave. They treat us a certain way and it’s an exciting place to work.”
About the selection of Rizzo to fill the role Owen Sillinger and Grant Cruickshank Harbinson said: “One of the questions we always ask of the players who are leaving is who they think who could be a great leader, possibly the next captain, I’d say 99 per cent of them mentioned his name.
“I saw big growth in who he was outside of being a player especially the second half of the year. You’ve got to remember a lot of these guys are coming to us maybe as a 15 year old and he’s starting to develop as a man. I think this is sort of another piece of the puzzle in his overall development in trying to be a National Hockey League player.”
For Rizzo, he was hoping to get that call and is grateful for the team’s confidence in him to do the job, one he’s had with others in his junior career.
“I’m still young and I’ve been captain before and know what it takes to be a team leader, especially on a team like this. There’s a lot of resposibility that goes along with it but I’m definitely up for it,” he said. “You have to demand excellence from your team day in and day out in practice, training on the ice around the rink and do whatever it takes to win a championship.”
When asked what it takes to be a captain Rizzo said: “Someone who hates to lose more than me.”
The Vees also announced a few player recruitments for next season in Luke Loheit, Jack Lagerstrom, Henri Schreifels and Cole Shepard.
Loheit, 18, hails from Minnetonka, Minnesota and played high school hockey in his hometown last season. The 6’1,’’ 185-pound forward posted 12 goals and 18 assists in 24 games. He comes to Penticton with a commitment to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He was ranked 152nd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
Lagerstrom, 18, is from Edina, Minnesota and played at the illustrious Shattuck St. Mary’s program in Faribault, Minnesota. The 6’2,’’ 188-pound right-shot defenceman posted some eye-popping numbers, scoring 15 goals and 34 assists in 54 games. He has secured an NCAA scholarship to Cornell University.
Schreifels, from Agoura Hills, California, comes to Penticton fresh off leading his league in scoring. Schreifels played for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks U18 program in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, scoring 26 goals and 30 assists in 36 games.
Shepard, a 2002-born forward from West Vancouver, is familiar to Vees fans. He already has played in six games for Penticton last season. Shepard picked up an assist in his second career game against the Wenatchee Wild Jan. 6, before suiting up in four playoff games against the Trail Smoke Eaters. He recently announced his commitment to attend Harvard University in the future.
Vees confirmed the Peters Brothers Program, which sees free admission to fans under the age of 18 at Vees home games, has been extended multiple years.
The program has seen huge success and growth since its inception for the 2014-15 season, as the Vees averaged under 200 children per game before it’s implementation. This past season the Vees averaged nearly 600 children per game.
Vees unveiled the new Penticton Vees Community Heroes program. At each home game during the 2018-19 season, the Vees will be donating a minimum of $1,000 to a local charitable group to give back to the community.
The Vees on Tuesday also presented a cheque for $2,720 to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation (SOMF) as part of the Gateway Gives promotion, which sees $20 for each goal scored by the Vees during home games donated to SOMF courtesy of Gateway Casinos. The program has seen a three-year total of $8,600 donated.
There will be no change in season ticket prices for the 2018-19 season. Anyone interested in purchasing season tickets can call Laura Carleton, the Vees ticketing and merchandise director, at 250-493-8337 ext. 4.