Vees want to win fans back with open arms and lower ticket prices

The door is always open.

The door is always open.

That’s the approach the Penticton Vees are stressing to its fans.

During a press conference in The Vault at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Wednesday to announce a new two-year deal in principle with the City of Penticton and Global Spectrum, the Vees told season ticket holders in attendance they are always willing to talk. Not happy with the Vees roster? Harbinson is all ears. Not happy with getting tickets, Will Russell, director of ticket sales is all ears.

Allowing people to speak to them on any topic regarding the team is an interesting approach to take and should help with trying to reconnect fans with the players and organization. While I’m sure fans will take advantage, it’s unlikely there will be a lineup that would make the Vees reconsider that offer.

It’s a step they are taking to get the community feeling back and reconnecting with fans. While doing that they are dropping ticket prices and hope the move of reducing seating capacity in the SOEC helps improve the atmosphere.

Reducing ticket prices and seating capacity is a good move. It’s quite possible that if they didn’t reduce ticket prices, the attendance situation would continue. With the way times are right now, charging less should help them get more fans in the stands. It will also help if Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson ices an exciting team.

Newly minted captain Logan Johnston likes the move of reducing the seating capacity because it reminds him of when he watched junior A hockey in Memorial Arena.

“The nice thing about the old rink was that it was so compact,” he said. “Having the atmosphere would be really awesome.”

With the focus of the announcement being on the new lease, tickets and the Vees overseeing more of their operations, I liked that Harbinson used that stage to announce Johnston being his next captain. He’s the perfect choice. It’s hard not to like Johnston with the way he plays. Yes, finesse players are eye candy for fans, but there is definitely an appreciation for power forwards, or as Harbinson described Johnston, a two-way player. He seems to keep getting better each year.

Shifting to off-ice issues, next season brings change to the BCHL. Aiming to improve costs and player development for teams, the league has decided to start its season later (Sept. 23) and reduce playoff teams and rosters. During that schedule, teams in opposite conferences will only face each other once. One round of playoffs has been eliminated leaving three and rosters are being trimmed from 23 to 21 with one spot mandatory for 16 and 17-year-old players.

The best move that should strengthen the league is reducing the number of playoff teams. I’ve always had the belief that teams with losing records shouldn’t be in the post-season. Having 14 of 16 teams qualify was too much. If this format was in place last year, the Nanaimo Clippers and Trail Smoke Eaters would have been the only two teams with winning records left out of the dance. What this move should also do is improve the quality of the game on the ice.

“It should make the regular season more exciting for fans for sure based on the fact that you have really good teams that are making the playoffs,” said Andy Oakes, who is on the BCHL executive and strategic planning committee as well as president and governor of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. “Everybody is going to be fighting hard to do that.

“You look at teams making the playoffs who were under .500, is that what you want?” he asked. “You have an under .500 team playing against a team that might have been .700 in the first round. First round last year, you saw the other series …  the top seeds won pretty handily.”




Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor for the Penticton Western News.