Paul Kariya just smiled as he reflected on his two seasons as a Penticton Panther.
“They were amazing,” said Kariya, prior to the start of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony held July 26.
Under coach Gary Davidson, the North Vancouver product scored 91 goals and 244 points in 94 games.
Kariya said it was a great experience to be coached by Davidson and play with several great players. It gave him the chance to play for Canada’s under-18 team and the world junior squad. Davidson also helped Kariya earn a scholarship with the University of Maine Black Bears.
In his rookie season, 1990-91, the Panthers won just 13 games.
“The second year we were a really good team,” said Kariya, as they won 38 games. “Got some good players. I was able to play with a lot of friends that I played minor hockey with. Guys like Brian Barnes and Jeff Tory. A good group of guys.”
Helping make Kariya’s time as a Panther memorable were the fans.
“It’s a great hockey town,” said Kariya, who was inducted alongside retired NHLer Mark Recchi, former Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford, Colin Patterson and Nancy Wilson, the first female inductee, and the 1993-94 and 94-95 Kamloops Blazers Memorial Cup winning teams. “Obviously in the summer it’s amazing here. Kids going to the hockey school. It’s a great place to be, a great place to play. I certainly miss the people here.”
Kariya also enjoyed a 15-year NHL career that began with nine seasons in Anaheim. He then spent a season with the Colorado Avalanche, followed by two with the Nashville Predators and three seasons with the St.Louis Blues, where he played his final game in 2009-10. Kariya was forced to retire due to concussion problems.
“I had 15 great years and that’s a lot longer than the average person,” said Kariya, who resides in California. “I’m very thankful.”
Four BCHHF awards were also given out during the evening, one going to Vees forward Cody DePourcq. He was given the Patricia Carter Award, which honors the BCHHF Society’s first member. Past winners of the Patricia Carter Award have combined success in hockey with their educational goals.