Ryan Gropp has left the Penticton Vees for the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Gropp, a Kamloops product, said it was a tough decision to leave a firstclass organization with which he spent parts of three season.
“It’s tough to leave, but I think this is just a personal decision. Just what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Gropp, who didn’t get into any specifics. “I have had a lot of time to think about it.”
In a release issued by the Thunderbirds, Gropp added:
“It is better to make this decision sooner rather than later,” he said. “The team is off to a good start and it is good to come and be a part of that. I am looking forward to getting started and joining the team.”
The Vees issued a statement early Tuesday afternoon regarding the decision.
“Ryan’s mindset last summer when he committed to UND (University of North Dakota) and
decided to return to Penticton, was that he would enter the NCAA as a true freshman which coincides with his draft year,” said Vees general manager Fred Harbinson, who couldn’t be reached for further comment. “Unfortunately Ryan did not get off to the start everyone expected this season, hence possibly affecting his long-term goals. After a few discussions with Ryan and his family, we came to the conclusion it would be best for Ryan to change directions and move on to the WHL.”
The Vees, who would not make players available for comment on Gropp’s decision to leave, said in their release that Gropp was a great teammate during his time in Penticton and wished him well. The newest Thunderbird said his time in Penticton was great.
“Nothing but good memories,” said Gropp, who played 62 games and finished with 16 goals and 40 points. “I can’t say enough about how good the hockey program is, the city, the fans. I’m just just really going to miss everyone.” Thunderbirds GM Russ Farwell said he was contacted by Gropp’s agent just over a week ago and that is what started talks that had ended in the summer.
Farwell is excited to have Gropp, who missed the weekend for the Vees with a lower body injury, join his team and said he believes the BCHL’s Interior Conference rookie of the year in 2013 will fit in great.
Along with Gropp, the Vees also played without forward Cam Amantea, who is recovering from an upper body injury. The Vees shutout the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday 2-0 in front of a crowd of 1,839. On Saturday they needed double-overtime to complete a comeback to defeat the Powell River Kings 4-3. The winner was scored by captain Brad McClure, who said the team is happy with their wins.
“It was a great feeling,” said McClure of his winner in front of 1,526 fans. “It was kind of like a playoff atmosphere on Saturday night here. Those games are good to win. Powell River is the top team in the league and we want to be the top team in the league so it was kind of a good test for us.”
Moving forward, McClure said it’s a good team win and he hopes they can keep it going. The Vees’ next home game is Oct. 18 when they host the Merritt Centennials at 7 p.m. in the SOEC, then Friday against the West Kelowna Warriors at 7 p.m.
Vees notes: It was announced Tuesday morning that forward Cam Amantea has committed to the University of Anchorage-Alaska Seawolves. Amantea is the third Vees to commit to UAA, joining Olivier Mantha and Anthony Conti.