The Okanagan is best known for its wines, weather, lakes and Ogopogo.
Hockey could soon be added to that list. With scores of former and current professional players now calling the area home, it seems to be only a matter of time before the region is saturated with hockey knowledge.
To underscore that point, former NHL great Jarome Iginla was hired this week to coach a Kelowna youth team.
On Friday, Rink Hockey Academy announced the former captain of the Calgary Flames will lead its U15 prep team for the 2021-22 season.
“His role will begin immediately with the organization to allow ample time for scouting, recruiting, and building out his roster for the upcoming season,” Rink Hockey Academy said in a press release.
According to the hockey academy, Iginla is moving to Kelowna from Boston, where he spent the past four years coaching his two sons through minor hockey.
However, Iginla is no stranger to Kelowna, having spent his off-seasons here and owning property.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in retirement, getting to coach our boys and their teams in competitive hockey out in Boston,” Iginla said in the press release.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Canada and having the opportunity to continue to work with the kids, helping them to get better, work towards their goals, and continuing to develop a passion for the game.”
The list is long of former NHLers living in the Okanagan who have either coached, are coaching or are involved with youth, academy or junior teams.
Examples include Brent Gilchrist, Dixon Ward, Robert Dirk, Jeff Finley, Josh Gorges, Dixon Ward, Wade Redden and Byron Ritchie.
Now Iginla is a part of that list.
A former member of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Iginla wound up playing 20 seasons in the NHL, with his first 17 in Calgary with the Flames. The 6-foot-1 forward also played with Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and the L.A. Kings.
His first pro season was 1996-97, with his last being 2016-17. He announced his retirement in July 2018, with the Flames retiring his No. 12 jersey in 2019.
Rink Hockey Academy says it is thrilled to have Iginla coaching the U15 squad, adding he will also be helping out the U18 prep team as well.
The academy competes in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
“I’m excited to be joining the organization as they have made some great additions to an already strong program,” Iginla said.
“To me, it gives young hockey players that are committed to working hard and competing every chance to excel and enjoy the game.”
“He’s a winner and leader. Those are two things you can’t have enough of,” said Glen Naka, director of hockey operations at RHA Kelowna.
“Jarome will bring invaluable experience to our organization from both a coaching perspective of similarly aged teams and a player perspective from the NHL which is almost every student-athletes end goal.”