Penticton residents are being challenged again.
The Christmas Charity Challenge is back and if more than 4,000 fans bust through the turnstiles at the South Okanagan Events Centre when the Penticton Vees host the Salmon Arm SilverBacks on Friday, various charities stand to split a pot that is at $33,000, surpassing last year’s total of $31,500.
Christmas Charity Challenge organizer Duane Jordan, owner of the Pasta Factory and the Best Damn Sports Bar and Grill, got a late start with a release issued on Monday but he’s excited about the initiative. While a heavy work schedule didn’t allow him to get started earlier, between 80 and 90 per cent of the local business that gave money to the charities of their choice last year are back in.
What should help the Christmas Charity Challenge be a success again is the fact it’s Salvation Army night. Fans can get two-for-one tickets by bringing a non-perishable food item.
“That’s a great way for residents of Penticton to support the local community, right?” said Jordan. “Last year, we had the largest junior A crowd in Canada and this year I want to top it. We had 4,522 people in the arena last year. I don’t want an empty seat in the building. This is just a win-win situation. The Salmon Arm SilverBacks and Penticton are the top teams in the Interior Conference.”
The Vees are at 45 points with the SilverBacks at 42 entering today’s game against the Quesnel Millionaires.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson is excited about it for different reasons.
“Obviously the first is to raise money for the charities this time of year,” he said during last week’s Coach’s Corner segment. “It’s outstanding anything we can do.” See full story at www.pentictonwesternnews.com.
The Vees benefit from having a full building in the SOEC to play in with an electric atmosphere. Harbinson said his players always perform well with larger crowds and they feed off the energy making quick team harder to play against.
“A night like that maybe is the first time that somebody has been to one of our games or into that building and get catchy and come back in the future,” he said. “When it’s a dead atmosphere, we go through the motions and our guys almost wait for me to light a fire under them. That gets old after a while. It gets old for the players having to listen to that.”
Vees captain Derik Johnston has fond memories of the 3-2 double overtime win against Vernon on Dec.12.
“I’d have to say the one thing I remember is Matt Paltridge on both his knees doing the bow and arrow down the ice,” said Johnson. “I remember the national anthems, sold out, everyone singing. It’s a pretty cool feeling sitting on that blueline.”
Before the Vees can look forward to Dec. 10, they have to focus on the Millionaires who sit six points back of the Merritt Centennials for sixth place.
“They are obviously a hungry team trying to stay in the playoff hunt,” said Harbinson. “They have won two games in a row. They have made some changes so guys are playing with a little desperate feel. We need to be better defensively. We only gave up three goals on the weekend and one five-on-five goal. That’s what we need to continue.”
Garrett Milan and Joey Laleggia celebrate Milan’s goal on the power play which tied the game against the Merritt Centennials. The Vees won 3-2 as Joey Holka cashed in a rebound.