Fred Harbinson loves waking up every morning and seeing the lake from his home.
The Penticton Vees coach-general manager built a home with his family that they love. He also enjoys coaching highly skilled players.
When asked to compare Penticton to the other stops in his career, Harbinson said a lot of times coaches are in a spot because it’s part of their progression or because the program is great but the community isn’t. Harbinson said he gets both in Penticton and will continue to enjoy it after ownership tacked on five years to his existing deal that has two years remaining. That will keep him behind the Vees bench until the 2018-19 season.
“I can’t say enough that it always goes back to leadership and when you have an ownership group that … basically says here are the tools, you go do what you want with it. Whatever support you need you let us know. It’s pretty special,” said Harbinson.
In his fifth season as coach-GM, Harbinson led the team to their best season in franchise history. The Vees set a new BCHL record in wins (54), points (110) and winning percentage (.917). The Vees won the Interior Conference championship, the Fred Page Cup, the Doyle Cup and the national junior A championship, the RBC Cup. Harbinson sits second in both franchise wins (217) and winning percentage (.760). Since taking the helm, Harbinson has amassed a 217-61-5-17.
“I would like to thank the ownership group for the loyalty and commitment they have shown me over the past five years,” said Harbinson. “I also want to thank my assistant coaches who will be returning as well; Mike Hengen, Steve Cawley and Matt Sells. Without their tireless work ethic we would not be able to run our program at the level we currently do.”
Vees owner Graham Fraser said they asked Harbinson to produce the top junior A program in the country and said Harbinson did it. Their goal is to continue that success.
Vees president Frank Darin also applauded the work Harbinson has put into the team.
“We’re very proud of coach Harbinson’s amazing accomplishments over his five seasons in charge of our program. Fred has helped bring the Vees, the BCHL and junior A hockey unprecedented national exposure,” said Darin. “Along with guiding our program to the most successful season in franchise history, he continues to be a leader in player development for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Western Hockey League and the NHL. As an ownership group we were aware of the constant concern from our fan base and prospective recruits, as to if or when coach Harbinson would move on to another challenge. The investment we made in Fred not only made it easy for him to walk away from other offers but should speak to the community of Penticton as to how committed we are to bring forth the best junior hockey team in North America.”
Harbinson said since he arrived in Penticton he never talked about where he was going next. To him it seemed that others wanted to.
“I think, ownership and myself, we all kind of realized it was always a distraction with our incoming recruits and current players, especially this year it took itself to a whole other level,” said Harbinson. “I have coached at a higher level and I’ve seen a lot of other guys chasing around and end up in the same place. I’m not going to say that I never want to coach in pro hockey, but right now my ownership has made it where we don’t need to look at other things. My family loves it here.”
The contract Harbinson agreed to contains stipulations for specific situations and who can make him offers. Harbinson said if things continue the way they are, he only sees himself moving on when the contract expires. When asked, Harbinson said having a piece of ownership isn’t part of the deal.
“There was some talk about shares and stuff like that at one point,” said Harbinson. “It wasn’t something that I was interested in at this time. The financial terms of the contract we’re really happy with. My last contract we were certainly happy with. It’s more than fair on both sides.”