A celebration will hit the plaza at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the Penticton Vees B.C. Hockey League home opener against the West Kelowna Warriors as there will be festivities that include face painting and activities for kids starting at 5:30 p.m.
“Just making it a family atmosphere and then getting a chance to see the real team,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson.
Getting the buzz going for Friday was a season ticket holders pick up event Wednesday that at the SOEC. That event gave fans a chance to meet the new players and reaquaint themselves with returnees. Vees rookie Jack Barnes said it was great.
“I love meeting the fans. Seeing who it is that is up in the stands watching us and cheering us on,” said Barnes, with a bandage on his chin after getting cut when he blocked a shot during the Bauer BCHL Showcase last weekend.
Cassidy Bowes, who played games as an affiliate player last season and was part of the Vees RBC Cup push, said it was awesome being around the fans, seeing how much they are supported. He said how much the fans love being around them is pretty cool.
Playing in a home opener will be a new experience for Bowes.
“What I have heard from past guys is it’s unbelievable,” he said. “The crowds have been great. All the games that I have played. I don’t now how much better they can get. Maybe they will raise the bar a little bit.”
Barnes is looking forward to playing in front a packed SOEC.
“To get in front of the fans for the first time is going to be a great experience, see what its all about here at home,” said Barnes, whose father Stu played 1,136 games in the NHL with Winnipeg, Florida, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and ended his career with Dallas in 2007-08. “I’m really excited about it.”
Once the puck drops, Barnes said it will be important for them to play strong defensively and to be hard on the forecheck, while getting pucks deep. Heading into Friday’s game, the Vees are 4-0-0, while the Warriors are 4-2-0.
“We’ve been playing really good, talking a lot,” said Barnes. “We’re zipping the puck around too.”
The Vees managed to get off to a good start without rookie sensation Massimo Rizzo, who made his season debut in Chilliwack, and co-captain Grant Cruikshank, who will make his season debut Friday. Taylor Ward and Greg Brydon are out with injuries.
“I know our guys are excited about playing in front of our home fans, playing on our home ice,” said Harbinson.