Penticton Vees grad Joey Holka was back in the South Okanagan Events Centre earlier this month.
Having spent the past three years playing for the St. Could State University Huskies, the six-foot-three, 190-pound forward skated with the Vees as they got back into things following the Christmas break. Holka took advantage of the ice time to stay in shape as he was looking to catch on with a minor pro team in the East Coast Hockey League. While he had a great training camp with the Quad City Mallards after signing with them over the summer, Holka was released.
“It’s a little bit different then college and juniors,” said Holka of minor pro hockey, adding that his release had likely to do with numbers. “There is a lot of guys there battling for not a lot of spots. It was a really good experience going to a pro camp.”
Holka, who registered six goals and 14 points in 80 career games with the Huskies, is confident he can play at the level and felt comfortable during his camp. Holka said what makes it tough for rookies to break into the league is the merger between the ECHL and Central Hockey League. Teams only dress three forward lines with an extra forward. They also battle with experienced pros, some who come from the American Hockey League.
Holka, who won two National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship and went to the 2013 Frozen Four, hoped to get a second chance in the ECHL and it happened. He signed with the Utah Grizzlies just prior to their game against Stockton on Jan. 10.
— Joey Holka (@Holks17) January 11, 2015
In three games for the Grizzlies he registered three shots.
When asked what it was like to be back in Penticton, Holka, who is engaged to a Penticton woman, said it was kind of weird.
“Not a whole lot has changed,” said Holka, who still follows the Vees. “They seem to be in first every time I check. It’s nice to see.”
While with the Huskies, Holka, a finance major, was named to the 2014 All-NCHC Academic team and was also named to the All-WCHA Academic team during his sophomore season.