Defenseman Gavin McLeod played five seasons in a Kelowna Rockets' uniform before playing five more at the University of Alberta.

Ex-Rockets Keith, McLeod to be honoured Saturday

WHL hands out Alumni Achievement Awards as part of league's 50th anniversary celebration

They were two defensemen who brought considerably different styles to the ice.

But both made significant contributions during their time with the Kelowna Rockets.

As part of the WHL’s 50th anniversary celebration, Duncan Keith and Gavin McLeod will be honoured prior to Saturday night’s game at Prospera Place.

All clubs are presenting Alumni Achievement Awards this season to some of their most distinguished graduates.

Keith is being recognized in the professional hockey category, while McLeod is being acknowledged as a WHL grad who has experienced a highly successful business career through support received from the WHL Scholarship program.

Keith, who joined the Rockets part way through the 2002-03 season, helped the team to its first ever WHL title and a berth in the Memorial.

He has gone on to enjoy a stellar NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning three Stanley Cups, two Norris trophies as the league’s outstanding defenceman, and one Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

McLeod played five seasons with the Rockets, appearing in 321 regular season and 24 playoff games.

His last season as team captain in 2000-01, Kelowna claimed its first championship banner, winning the WHL’s West Division.

“My last year we won the division for the first time in Kelowna and with the players that Lorne (Frey) and Bruce (Hamilton) had in the pipeline and the younger guys, we built a strong foundation for the team that eventually had a lot of success,” McLeod said. “My last year I was the captain in Kelowna and we had some younger players like Josh Gorges that went on to lead the team to the Memorial Cup a few years later.”

Following his WHL career, McLeod moved on to the University of Alberta, where he played five seasons and also earned his degree.

The 6-foot-5 Delta native and the Golden Bears won won five Canada West titles and two national championships. He was team captain for both national titles.

“I had a great relationship with the Hamilton family and was very grateful for the education package that was provided,” McLeod said. “I always wanted to go to school and get some sort of an education. I didn’t want to be hanging around the the minor leagues until I was mid 30s and then figure out what I had to do with my life.

“CIS hockey is kind of a hidden gem,” he added.

Meanwhile, former Rockets’ forward Jamie Benn was named No. 33 on the WHL’s top 50 players of all time. Earlier this month, Duncan Keith was cited in the 47th spot.

The WHL is counting down its list of 50 players as part of the league’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Rockets @ Giants…

The Rockets (42-16-3-0) continue their push towards 50 wins and another WHL regular season title when they visit the Vancouver Giants tonight. Kelowna needs eight wins in its last 11 games to set a new CHL record for consecutive 50-win seasons with four…The Rockets also lead Victoria by one point in the overall standings…On Saturday, Kelowna will play host to the Spokane Chiefs…Kelowna is coming off a 6-5 overtime victory Wednesday over the Everett Silvertips. The Rockets surrendered a 5-1 lead in the third period, before Justin Kirkland scored the game winner at 1:24 of OT.