Day 8 – Okanagan Hockey School and Skaha Bluffs

By Tom F.

There were some tired eyes on the bus this morning after some hotel guests kept us awake the night before. The hour-long drive from Kelowna to Penticton had some nice scenery as we travelled along the Okanagan Lake and soon everyone was feeling fresh and ready for the day ahead. Our destination was the Okanagan Hockey School (OHS) in Penticton, which is a world-class hockey training facility for junior athletes aged from 5-20 years.

Blake Wesley, the Senior Director of Hockey Operations at OHS and a former professional hockey player spoke to the group about how the OHS operates. The talk was interesting, informative and it was clear that Blake and the other staff take great pride in the OHS and its development of juniors both as citizens and athletes. Most of our group had limited hockey knowledge and it was fascinating to gain an insight into how Northern America sports operate in comparison to Australia. Here are a few key points from the talk.
·         Players in the program live with families in the local region and attend local schools.
·         Total cost can be between $30,000-$40,000.
·         Education is a priority and the majority of students on some form of honour role.
·         Winning is not everything, many OHS teams are entered into above-age leagues to focus on overall development at the expense of winning matches.
·         The world-class facilities at OHS attract athletes from all over the world. 

We the toured the OHS facilities, including the strength and conditioning area, ice-rink and indoor arena. The Canadian National Women’s team was conducting a training camp while we were there but unfortunately we did not see them on the ice. Blake showed some equipment and explained the variation in sticks between different players and their roles.

After the OHS we headed to Skaha Bluffs for a quick lunch stop and followed by a hike. Thankfully, this was no Grouse Grind and the minimal incline was appreciated by most. Billy and Emma stepped up as tour guides and we made a few interesting ‘detours’ along the way. 

The scenery made for some great photos, especially after we climbed up to a lookout. From here we had a great view of Penticton and the surrounding lakes. We also took the chance to get a group photo and did our best effort to create a human ‘UC’ which you can decide how successful that was.

 Following a not-so-quick inspection from the Bus Police, we headed back to Kelowna for dinner, where most of the boys fell in love with our waitresses. The hotel was nice and quiet tonight and everyone had a great nights sleep before heading to Vancouver the following day, where the Cambie awaited us all!

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