Community Leader Awards: Coach Phil Von Unruh

Kelowna Capital News Leader of the Year series on those that give back to the community

Phil Von Unruh was named a Capital News’ Community Leader of the Year winner in the coach category at the 4th Annual Kelowna Capital News Community Leader Awards, held at Okanagan College, Oct. 23, 2017. The Community Leader Awards are given to local members of the community who demonstrate exceptional commitment and leadership.

A decade ago, with no hockey teams in Kelowna designed for special needs kids, Phil Von Unruh decided to take matters into his own hands.

So in 2006, Von Unruh rented ice time at Prospera Place and the Central Okanagan Wildcats special hockey program was born.

His oldest son, Kalen, who has autism, was one of six players to pull on hockey equipment for that first practise and Von Unruh’s vision has been evolving ever since.

Through his initiative, other special needs hockey programs in the B.C. interior are now operating in Vernon, Penticton and Kamloops.

“It’s very satisfying, especially when you see all the teams we now have playing and the fact that we also have a year-end tournament,” Phil said. “When you look at pictures of that first year, we didn’t even have jerseys, the kids were wearing hoodies.

“It was a pretty rudimentary start you could say,” he added, “so it’s nice to see the growth we’ve had here and other parts of the province.”

And last year, Von Unruh created an adult team—the Okanagan Wild—for players 16 years of age and older, most of whom have moved up from the Wildcats’ program.

Susan Noble, a parent of one of the Wildcats’ players, has praise for Von Unruh and his selfless contributions to amateur sport in Kelowna.

“His larger-than-life, kindhearted personality makes it possible for all the players to experience success and have fun at the same time,” Noble said of Von Unruh’s impact. “Without Phil’s dedication, enthusiasm and hard work, the opportunity for many of Kelowna’s special needs children to play hockey and be part of a team would not exist.”

In addition to coaching hockey in winter, Von Unruh remains busy year-round as a volunteer, coaching Special Olympics bowling, track and field and soccer.


Curtis McTavish – Leader of the Year

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Just Posted

Stolen vehicles found in Lake Country after collision on highway

All three vehicles were towed from the scene. The investigation remains ongoing at this time.

Wanted Prince George man found after break and enter in Kelowna

The 39-year-old Prince George man was taken into police custody without incident.

Do you own this dirt bike? Kelowna RCMP are searching for owners

The dirt bike was found abandoned last Monday

Peachland has largest number of mayoral candidates in the Central Okanagan

The mayoral candidates shared their reasons why they decided to run in the election

Okanagan RCMP detachment hosts recruiting, exam sessions

If you’ve contemplated a career with RCMP, register for sessions at West Kelowna detachment

Rick Mercer says pot is ‘excruciatingly boring’

Comedian hopes Canadians will move onto something else once marijuana is legalized

2 charged for feeding B.C. bear Tim Horton’s timbits

Court documents show that Randy Scott and Megan Hiltz have both been charged with feeding or attempting to feed dangerous wildlife.

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set for parole bid after 25 years in prison

Bernardo’s parole hearing at the Bath Institution is expected to attract numerous observers

Feds aiming to select preferred design for $60B warships by end of month

Defence insiders say the government wants to select a design by the end of the month from among three options submitted by several of the largest defence and shipbuilding companies in the world.

B.C. city wants control over its cannabis advertising rules

Without a say, towns and cities risk Washington-State-style flood of advertising, proponent says

Defence cautions against mob justice in Calgary child neglect trial

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark of Calgary have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death

Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

Internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons

Letter: Backbone organization needed to address housing in Kelowna

Renters United polled council candidates on housing strategies

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to dominate North American marijuana industry

Cannabis producers claim the U.S. is “rapidly losing” its competitive advantage to Canada

Most Read