(This article was originally published on July. 18, 2020.)
The South Okanagan region has a rich history of hockey. Dating back as early as in the 1950s, the city of Penticton has endeared its players and teams.
Like Alice in Wonderland struck the movie theatres across the world in 1951, fresh new sheets of ice hit rinks across the Okanagan, particularly Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to form the Okanagan Senior Hockey League that year. Throughout its short history, cities such as Kelowna and Merritt entered the league. In 1954, the Penticton Vees won the Allan Cup and followed up the next year with the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship with a 5-0 shutout against the Soviet Union.
In 1961, the owners of the Kamloops Rockets, Kelowna Buckaroos, Penticton Junior Vees, and Vernon Junior Canadians met to discuss a potential new league. That night, Canadians’ owner Bill Brown persuaded his three colleagues to create the province’s first-ever junior A hockey league called the Okanagan-Mainline Junior Hockey League, systematically disbanding the OSHL after a ten year run.
As Penticton entered the OMJHL, they kept the name Junior Vees. Team names are usually symbolic of the city they are from. Since Penticton is known for their peaches, the name Vees refers to types of peaches, from the Vedette, Valiant and Veteran came to the simple V, which has brought so much pride to the city. As the Beatles made hay in 1964, the Vees changed their team name to the Broncos.
The new name change brought in some silverware to the Peach City for the first time. During the eleven years under the Broncos name, the team won three Fred Page Cups, two Doyle Cups, and two Mowat Cups and finished the top two in the league seven times. However, Penticton wanted to return to its roots and changed the name back to the Vees in time for the 1975-76 season.
A Knights tale
The Vees 2.0 did not have the same success as the previous incarnation. The Vees went trophyless in four seasons under the name from 1975 to 1979.
The team did make three straight final appearances, losing in the finals the first two years and forfeiting the following season. 1978-79 saw the Vees finish 10th and not qualify for the postseason, but 1978-79 would only be a blip in what the next decade and team name brought.
The failure to launch the Vees 2.0 made changing the team name able to digest and Penticton was introduced to the Knights.
Much like Michael Jackson was the king of pop in the 80s, the Knights were the talk of the BCHL. From 1979 to 1982, the Knights won the Fred Page Cup and Mowat Cup each season and in 1985 and 1986, the team won back to back Fred Page Cups, Mowat Cups, Doyle Cups, and Abbott Cups.
The Knights made it to the Centennial Cup in the 1984-85 season but lost in the finals to Orillia Travelways. The team clawed back to form and won the Centennial Cup in 1986 by beating the Cole Harbour Colts to secure Penticton’s first national championship trophy. After a stellar decade, the team decided to change the name to the Panthers in 1990.
The Penticton franchise did not see a significant trophy under the Panthers, but they did win the division four times. After a lackluster decade of the 1990s and early 2000s, the organization went to their roots and renamed the team back to the Vees for the third time, and it was the charm.
In 2004, the hockey club once again returned to the Vees moniker, and the Peach City saw the greatest season in junior A history in 2012, but before then, the Vees ended a 22-year drought as league champions.
The Vees won the Fred Page Cup in 2008 for the first time since 1986. As mentioned, the 2012 team saw a whole lot of accolades come to Penticton for the team, a division title which started a run of nine straight (and counting), a Fred Page Cup, a Doyle Cup and the RBC Cup as national champions all sprinkled in with a 42 game win streak that may never be reached again.
Since the epic 2012 season, the Vees captured two more Fred Page Cup trophies and a Western Canada Cup trophy while racking up those nine straight division titles.
In the 65-plus years of hockey in Penticton, the Vees have been successful throughout their existence with major silverware and arguably one of the best junior A clubs in the country.
Now all the fans and city have to do is sit back and see what the next 65 years and beyond of Vees hockey holds. So far in 2021, the Vees are atop the league standings with a near-flawless record of 9-1.