A hockey staple in the South Okanagan for the past eight years won’t be returning for 2019.
On Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks announced that they were putting the Young Stars Classic on ice this year due to a lack of participating NHL teams. That came after the Winnipeg Jets announced on Wednesday they were leaving Penticton for the Rookie Showcase in Belleville, Ont.
That reduced the Young Stars to just one NHL team: the Canucks. When the tournament began in 2010, it had five.
Yet, one Penticton resident is hopeful the tournament will return.
Andrew Jakubeit was the lead organizer in Penticton for the Young Stars Classic. Jakubeit also runs a record store in Penticton — Grooveyard — and was the city’s former mayor.
“It’s certainly disappointing it’s not taking place in 2019,” Jakubeit said on Saturday. “We’ve had eight years of great success and something to be proud of.”
The showcase’s economic impact to Penticton was approximately $2 million a year. Many current NHLers have played in the Okanagan tournament including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Mark Scheifele, Brock Boeser, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Johnny Gaudreau, Dillon Dube and Elias Pettersson.
“It was really a win-win for everyone,” said Jakubeit. “It was great for us as a host community. It was great for the teams to evaluate their players in real game environments.”
From its inception in 2010 to 2013, the rookie showcase was a five-team tournament. Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim and San Jose took part in the inaugural event, with Anaheim leaving in 2011 and Winnipeg taking the Ducks’ place.
From 2014 to 2017, it was a four-team tournament between Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
In 2018, though, the Flames and Oilers left — opting for Red Deer, Alta. — reducing the tournament to the Canucks and Jets plus two Canadian university teams.
The Rookie Showcase in Belleville, from Sept. 6 to 9, will also feature the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
Looking ahead, Jakubeit is hoping the Young Stars will rotate every two years between Albert and B.C., adding “we are certainly optimistic for the event to return.”
Notably, Seattle’s NHL team will commence play in 2021-22. That fits nicely with a Young Stars tournament in 2021, though that’s admittedly pure speculation from this journalist. Maybe Seattle will host its own rookie tournament or the Oilers and Flames host a popular, multi-team tournament in Alberta.
Still, it’s hard not to overlook the impact Seattle’s NHL team will have on southern British Columbia. For Vancouver residents, it’s roughly a two-hour drive to the Emerald City. For Okanagan residents, it’s around four hours to Vancouver or five hours to Seattle.
But if the Penticton tournament is revived, having Seattle in the mix would be fantastic for hockey fans in B.C. and Washington.
“With Seattle coming on, that would be a potential for a good draw,” said Jakubeit. “I think Seattle would be a natural and good rivalry for Vancouver, and that will draw a lot of interest in the Pacific Northwest.
“Hopefully in the future, there is an opportunity for teams to come back to Penticton and we can carry on with the Young Stars tradition.”