With a future NHL top prospect in Kelowna, B.C., to take on the Rockets on Tuesday, Rockets fans have completely sold out Prospera Place weeks in advance — marking the franchise’s first sellout since Dec. 29, 2018.
Connor Bedard is one of the Western Hockey League’s brightest stars. The 17-year-old Regina Pats forward is at the top of the overall points race, with 53 points in 24 games.
Prospera Place isn’t the only arena where fans have purchased every ticket just to catch a glimpse of the young phenom. So far, he’s sold out every arena in western Canada on the Pats’ 5-game British Columbia road trip.
“It’s a lot of fun. I mean, you can feel the energy in the building whenever you walk out, and you can see every seat taken, you kind of get up and it’s a lot of fun,” described Bedard.
The impact Bedard has on the WHL and their fans may not be something he’s aware of. Humble in his answer, he’s just soaking up the moment.
“There’s a lot of guys in this league that people are coming to watch. You know, for me, I haven’t really thought about that too much,” explained Bedard.
“I’m just playing and I’m just one of the guys in the room. I’m just playing and having fun.”
Bedard grew up watching the Vancouver Canucks, while his favourite player was Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The product of North Vancouver is draft-eligible to the big leagues in the fall of 2023, but he has already gotten taste of what life could be like at the highest level.
“I mean it’s pretty weird if a kid comes up to you a fan, or you see someone wearing your jersey, but you know I think it’s definitely an honour and its pretty cool,” Bedard expressed.
“Growing up being such a fan of the game and kind of having some of those experiences now is awesome.”
Prospera Place has a capacity for Rockets games of 6,007, but with Bedard and the Pats coming to Kelowna just one time all season, the Rockets are pulling out all the stops — adding over 400 standing-room-only spots for fans itching to witness an up-and-coming star.
“It’ll be a pretty cool environment, that these guys haven’t seen where we’ve had many times before, but you know we’ve got an opportunity here to see one of the great young players of this generation,” said Rockets president and general manager, Bruce Hamilton.
“I think it’ll be exciting for the fans more than anything.”
That energy from the crowd and the buzz being felt around Kelowna a day before the game is exactly what Rockets forward, and close childhood friend of Bedard, Andrew Cristall hopes to feed off of when the puck drops.
“You know, we haven’t really played in front of the sold-out crowd that maybe we used to have back in the day, so it’s going to be great, and I know we’re going to be really juiced for the game,” said Rockets forward Andrew Cristall.
Bedard, on the other hand, doesn’t plan on being friends with Cristall when they’re on the ice.
“I don’t think either of us hit too much, but if I’ve got him lined up, I’ll try and give him a run,” said Bedard.
Game time between the Pats and Rockets is schedule for 7:05 on Tuesday.