Veteran Vees reflect on careers

As the Penticton Vees packed their bags and cleaned their locker room stalls on Wednesday, Garrett Milan summed it up best.

As the Penticton Vees packed their bags and cleaned their locker room stalls on Wednesday, Garrett Milan summed it up best.

“It sucks, I’m not going to lie,” he said . “This might be the last time I’m in this locker room. It’s just disappointing it didn’t go further.”

On Monday, the Vees fell 4-2 to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks during the second round of the BCHL playoffs, losing the series in five games. Milan, captain Derik Johnson and Joey Holka are the longest tenured graduating players on the Vees.

“For me it was kind of a wild junior career,” said Johnson, who has replaced his playoff beard with a mustache. “It didn’t start out here but I’m glad this is the place that I have been able to finish it.”

Johnson grew as a person and player and became a part of a community. Growing up in Minnesota, a hockey-crazed state, Johnson loved his time playing in the Peach City.

“I have been extremely satisfied with my time here,” said Johnson, wearing a maroon Bulldogs baseball cap as he will play for the Division 1 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. “It won’t be a place that I will soon forget.”

Johnson has been sharing laughs with his soon-to-be former teammates and said packing your bags is never easy to do, but with the great group they have, it’s easier.

“It’s fun to see all the guys,” said Johnson, who will meet his father Jim to catch NCAA Frozen Four action.

Milan, called Millsy by teammates and Waterbug by some fans, attended the same rookie camp as Johnson and Holka. The Whistler minor hockey product described his career as “amazing.” Milan wanted to play for the Vees so bad, he played an extra season of major midget even though he had opportunities as a 16-year-old to play for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Burnaby Express and Victoria. He was targeting teams such as the Vees and Vernon Vipers.

“This was my first option from the get go,” said Milan.

The community sold him on playing here, the passion people have and the fact media covers the Vees like a professional team. In 174 career games, he scored 67 goals and 154 points, missing just six games.

Milan, who turns 20 on April 5, became a fan favourite as he buzzed the ice, was relentless on the puck and didn’t shy away from hits. That style won him the Fan Favourite award every season he has been a Vee.

“It’s kind of cool,” said Milan, who will resume his career with St. Cloud State along with Holka next fall. “It’s not the MVP, it’s not that kind of thing. It’s definitely appreciation from the community. You always want to play hockey to the best of your ability. If fans love that, then that’s great.”

Holka described his three seasons as a “roller coaster” to start. He came as an 18-year-old from Phoenix and played on the same midget team as Johnson. Like Johnson, Holka feels he has grown. He accomplished one of his goals in securing a scholarship. The other, winning a championship, eluded him.  He relished earning a leadership role and playing in every situation. Holka joined the Vees after Harbinson offered him a card following rookie camp. In playing for Penticton, something else happened to Holka.


“I fell in love with the town right away,” he said, adding that living in Canada is a lot different. “Just the overall atmosphere. Everyone is so into hockey up here.  On Sportscentre, hockey is always the one that leads it off. Instead of baseball or basketball like it is in the States. The culture of hockey up here is definitely something that I

really enjoyed.”


Other graduating Vees include Paul Bezzo, Tyler Hlookoff, Mark Hall and Kyle Mountain.


Just Posted

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Black smoke can be seen rising from the mountain

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Rob and Anthony are the city’s new parking ambassadors who are sharing information with businesses and the public about the new pay parking. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Penticton hires team to inform people on city’s new pay parking system

The pair will spend at least a month helping businesses and residents navigate new pay parking system

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read