Amongst dozens of former members of the Kelowna Rockets, the Western Hockey League franchise honoured two of its highest profile alumni to kick off the Rockets Annual Alumni Weekend Wednesday night.
The Rockets announced the first honourees on a new President's Award are Olympic gold medalist Shea Weber and Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith.
The President's Award, to be handed out to Kelowna Rockets players who have gained extraordinary recognition in the hockey world, was created this year.
"I felt it was time that we created something that acknowledged the guys that gain things for our country or our city that are very important," said Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, who talked of the importance of Team Canada's gold medal at the 2010 Olympics of which Weber and Keith played key roles.
"Probably the greatest accomplishment in hockey in Canada for a number of years and you guys stood in there and you never forgot where you came from: Your communities of Sicamous (Weber) and Penticton (Keith) were proud," said Hamilton.
Both players accepted their awards in front of dozens of former and current Rockets, coaches as well as spouses, girlfriends and children as former players gathered for dinner at Manhattan Point restaurant before a round of golf Thursday and a hockey game wrap up the festivities on Sunday.
"I just want to say that when I first came to Kelowna it was a tough decision," said Keith, who jumped from the NCAA to play a starring role for Kelowna. "But I think I knew within a couple days that it was the right decision. I want to say thanks for being such good friends."
Weber, just named captain of the Nashville Predators, praised the Rockets organization.
"I was a small town kid that got an opportunity to come to Kelowna and play hockey," said Weber. "I'd like to thank the Rockets organization. Without them I wouldn't have the chance to be where I am today."
An area near the Rockets dressing room, already home to paintings of former players, will also become home to the President's Award winners.
The Rockets Alumni Weekend features a sold out golf tournament as well as a hockey game on Sunday at the Capital News Centre. Tickets are available at all Scotiabank Kelowna branches for the hockey game.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)