Peters Brothers Paving hopes they are paving the way to getting more Penticton Vees fans into the South Okanagan Events Centre.
When the Penticton Vees host the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday, they hope the announced attendance will be a high four-figure number. This month Peters Brothers Paving is supporting the Vees by sponsoring children and youth hockey tickets for all home games.
“We’re very excited about the program that Peters Brothers Paving has undertaken,” said general manager of the South Okanagan Events Centre and Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Dean Clarke. “It provides an excellent opportunity for young children and the youth of the South Okanagan to see hockey played at a high level. We anticipate great support for the Vees and look forward to chants of ‘Go Vees Go’ to be heard louder than ever.”
Joe Cuzzocrea, general manager of Peters Brothers Paving, said they have done this to help out the community and would like people to get used to coming to the events centre. Cuzzocrea has been disappointed by early attendance at Vees games. Prior to Friday’s 7-3 win against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the first game of this promotion, attracted 1,072 fans. Recent home games attracted crowds of 875, 830 and 905.
“It’s horrible,” said Cuzzocrea of attendance.
When mentioned that some people miss watching games at Memorial Arena, he offered this.
“If the arena (SOEC) was full or close to it, people wouldn’t miss that (Memorial Arena) because the atmosphere would be there,” he said.
Cuzzocrea said the idea was brought on by owner Dave Kampe as he and a few other employees kicked ideas around. Peters Brothers Paving considers themselves to be community-minded as they have sponsored the Snowbirds and Peach Fest.
“Once kids start coming to the arena and start watching, it will make a big difference I think,” he said, adding that some people just can’t afford to bring their entire family.
A complimentary ticket will be offered for all children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by a ticketed adult and to youth aged 13 to 18. Tickets must be collected in advance of the scheduled game at the SOEC Box Office. Doors open at 6 p.m. Any senior or adult who has already purchased a ticket for October games can bring the ticket to the box office to obtain their free children’s ticket, including season ticket holders, suite and club seat members and flex pass holders.
Vees captain Derik Johnson said that gesture shows how much dedication there is to get people in the building.
Johnson said the situation is disappointing, especially because the Vees are working hard this season, but added it’s something they try not to think about.
While playing for large crowds would energize the team, something else pushes them.
“Playing in this rink is motivating,” said Johnson, who added that the players energize themselves when the building lacks atmosphere. “We are not focused with attendance.”
On the ice, the Vees feel they are heading in the right direction with Joey Holka and Mark MacMillan watching from the stands due to injuries. MacMillan skated on Monday and said his wrist is feeling better but he’s still at least three weeks from returning. Rookie Joey Benik doubled his offensive totals against the Captials with a two-goal, four-point effort.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said that Benik made some great plays on Friday night and could have had six or seven points. Perhaps more importantly Harbinson liked that Benik is improving his defensive zone play and is controlling the puck better. Benik has the freedom to be creative in the offensive zone and now understands he has to play it safe defensively.
“The puck seems to find his stick,” said Harbinson. “He is putting pucks in safe areas and he jumps into holes to get pucks back.”
Johnson, who calls Benik one of his good buddies, said that the Andover, Minn., product is starting to figure things out and that along with having his first post-game interview is why he pulled the prank of giving Benik a shaving cream face wash during his interview.
“He had a good game, game’s first star,” said Johnson. “He has improved in playing in his defensive play. He was pretty lost in his zone and in certain situations. It’s nice to see him have some success tonight.”
Following their 7-3 loss to the Vees, Capitals coach Dale Purinton had this to say when asked about what happened to his teams’ jerseys.
“We should have went shirtless, no shoulder pads because we didn’t hit anyone.”
A laundry mixup in Trail forced the Capitals to wear Yellow Penticton Minor Hockey Association jerseys since the sweaters never arrived.