Vees coach expects tough choices during camp

Harbinson says 40 players vying for 22 rosters spots on what will be a fast club

Ryan Gropp

Ryan Gropp

The Vees wrap up their prep camp Wednesday and preparation for the 2013-14 season begins with training camp Thursday.

Vees head coach Fred Harbinson said the prep camp was very good.

“Our fitness level is outstanding for the players that have come in here,” said Harbinson. “You can see a lot of work has been done in the off-season. We’re going to have a lot of tough decisions come main training camp.”

Harbinson likes the goaltending, with duties likely to be shared by Olivier Mantha and Hunter Miska. The goalies will be guarded by big defenceman with the ability to move the puck to quick forwards.

“It should make for a fun team to put together and a fun team to coach,” said Harbinson.

The Vees have 40 players fighting to earn 22 roster spots and plays their first exhibition game Sunday against the Warriors in West Kelowna at 7 p.m. During the prep camp, Harbinson wanted to see his veteran players establish habits and take the new players under their wing.

“Show them what being a Penticton Vee is all about,” he said. “We have very good leadership.”

One of those veteran players is Ryan Gropp. The Kamloops minor hockey product expects the camp to be competitive.

“You have to lead by example,” said Gropp. “It’s a pretty intense camp so you have to show your stuff.”

Gropp has a slight advantage as he was invited to Hockey Canada’s under-18 selection camp for the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament earlier this summer. Despite not making the team, Gropp said that experience was huge for him.

“To do that and play with all the best players of your age group definitely readies you for the season,” he said. “It was a pretty high competitive camp. It really got me ready and gained some momentum throughout the summer. Just excited for the year to get going.”

Harbinson said expectations are always high during training camp and with the returning players, he said there is a hunger after losing to the Surrey Eagles in Game 6 of the Fred Page Cup final.

Harbinson wants to see his players compete hard and take nothing for granted.

“There is nothing ever given in life. It’s not going to be given here,” he said. “We want guys to get along with each other obviously in camp, but we also understand that they are fighting for jobs. Fighting to make this team the best it can be.”

Off the ice, the Vees season ticket drive that started with attracting minor hockey players has been a success with the inclusion of other associations. It ended on Aug.15. Then the club extended the offer to kids 17 and under until Aug. 26.

“Our goal was to have more families, more people being able to afford to more consistently come to our games,” said Harbinson, also the club’s president. “We probably tripled our season ticket base. I think that’s really exciting. A lot of people were happy the way it worked. We obviously marketed well.”

Harbinson didn’t have exact figures, but said they are likely in the 1,500 to 1,600 range for season ticket holders including club seats and suites, a total he said is outstanding.

Children and youth receive a free season’s pass if their parent/guardian(s) buys one of the three season ticket packages for the 2013-2014 season (single parent families only need to buy a season ticket. Children three and under are free).

The Vees have introduced three pricing levels, with fans having the option to buy a $149, $169 or a $199 package for the 2013-2014 season. After Aug.26, season ticket pricing reverts back to regular pricing levels from the 2012-2013 season.

The Vees also introduced a payment plan for would-be season ticket buyers. A 25 per cent deposit is required upon submitting your season ticket application. However, fans have the option to pay the remaining balance of their season ticket over three equal payments. For more information on this ticket program, contact the Vees season ticket hotline at 250-809-1390 or email

Fraser Rodgers, director of broadcasting and media relations for the Penticton Vees is joined by Carla Seddon of Global Spectrum and city council members Wesley Hopkin, Judy Sentes, Andrew Jakubeit, Annette Antoniak, John Vassalaki and Vees head coach-general manager and president Fred Harbinson gathered to promote the Vees season ticket drive.