Many great players have donned the Kelowna/Tacoma Rockets sweater over the years, from NHL stars to European legends and every level in between.
The Rockets boast one of the best crops of alumni around. Not only are there some of the best players in the NHL, but there are also some of the biggest characters and some of the most well-liked and popular players that wore Rockets uniforms.
The Kelowna Capital News called on you to select your all-time Rockets lineup. Well, the votes are in — here’s the line-up you chose.
Jamie Benn – Leon Draisaitl – Mikael Backlund
Brett McLean – Justin Keller – Blake Comeau
Shea Weber – Duncan Keith
Tyson Barrie – Alexander Edler
• Jamie Benn
Benn, a native of Victoria, played two seasons in Kelowna from 2007 to 2009, scoring 79 goals and 68 assists in 107 regular-season games. Like Barrie, he was a member of the WHL championship team in 2009. With Team Canada, he won a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Benn won the NHL scoring title of the 2014-15 season with the Dallas Stars.
• Leon Draisaitl
Draisaitl, from Cologne, Germany, spent the last half of the 2014-15 season with the Rockets after a trade from the Prince Albert Raiders. After playing 37 games with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Draisaitl joined Kelowna where he scored 19 goals and 53 points in 32 games.
He led the Rockets in playoff scoring with 28 points in 19 games, and was named the MVP of both the WHL playoffs and the 2015 Memorial Cup championship in Quebec City. Draisaitl registered 50 goals and 105 points in the 2018-19 season. He was on pace to break that ceiling during the 2019-20 season before COVID-19 halted the season.
• Mikael Backlund
Backlund, from Vasteras, Sweden, was a member of Kelowna’s WHL championship team in 2009. In 28 regular-season games with Rockets, he registered 12 goals and 30 points in 28 games. He would maintain his production in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals and adding 10 assists in 19 games. Backlund was a first-round selection, 24th overall, of the Flames in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and made his NHL debut in 2008–09.
• Brett McLean
Brett McLean is the Rockets all-time leader in points with 370 from 1994-99. Brett McLean was selected with the sixth last pick, 242nd overall, in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars. Despite a productive junior career with the Kelowna Rockets, McLean was unable to earn a contract from the Stars. Unsigned, McLean toiled in the minor leagues with affiliates of the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks and making his NHL debut in the 2002–03 season. He would go on to play 385 games with the Blackhawks, Avalanche and Panthers.
• Justin Keller
Keller was a force for the Rockets from 2003-06. He was a rookie on the Rockets’ Memorial Cup-winning team in 2004, registering nine points in 17 games. In his final year with the Rockets, he scored a whopping 51 goals in 72 games.
Keller had played 256 games in the American Hockey League with the Springfield Falcons and Norfolk Admirals prior to signing with Austria’s EHC Black Wings Linz for the 2010–11 season. Keller is currently playing local hockey in the Summerland Reds Tournament for the Ice Ninjas team.
• Blake Comeau
Comeau had a successful major junior career, winning two Western Hockey League (WHL) championships and one Memorial Cup as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. He was also a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship.He was selected in the second round, 47th overall, by the New York Islanders at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He currently plays for the Dallas Stars of the NHL.
• Shea Weber
Weber, from Sicamous, had 26 goals and 91 points in 190 games with the Rockets between 2001 and 2005. He was named the WHL playoff MVP in leading Kelowna to the 2005 league championship.
Weber is currently the captain of the Montreal Canadiens and has been nominated three times for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman, but has yet to win the award.
• Duncan Keith
Keith, from Penticton via Winnipeg, had 46 points in 37 games with the Rockets during the 2002-03 regular season, then added 14 more in 19 games in the playoffs. Keith and the Rockets won the team’s first WHL title in 2003.
As an NHL player, Keith has three Stanley Cup rings with the Chicago Blackhawks, two James Norris Trophies as the league’s top defenceman, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top playoff performer in the postseason.
• Tyson Barrie
Barrie, a native of Victoria, played for the Rockets from 2006 to 2011, had 51 goals and 228 points over four-plus seasons in the WHL.
Currently, a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Barrie scored the series-winning goal against Calgary in the WHL championship series in 2009.
• Alexander Edler
Ulf Niklas Alexander Edler is a Swedish professional ice hockey defenceman and alternate captain for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. He was drafted out of Sweden’s third-tier ice hockey league by the Canucks in the third round, 91st overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and played junior ice hockey with Modo Hockey of the J20 SuperElit and the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
• Kelly Guard
Guard, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, spent his entire junior career with the Rockets. In 2002–03, his first of two seasons with the team, he led the Rockets to a WHL Championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament in Quebec City. The Rockets lost 2–1 to the Hull Olympiques in the semi-final.
Guard boasted another great season with the Rockets in 2003–04, posting 44 wins in 62 games. Although Kelowna lost in the third round of the WHL playoffs that season, the city was chosen to host the 2004 Memorial Cup and as such the Rockets received an automatic berth in the tournament.
Guard helped lead the team to the franchise’s first Memorial Cup Championship as they defeated the Gatineau Olympiques 2–1 in the final. For his efforts, Guard was awarded both the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy and the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the Memorial Cup’s top goaltender and most valuable player, respectively. He was also named to the tournament’s First All-Star Team, and to the WHL’s First All-Star Team for that season. In all, Guard posted an 83-24 record over his two seasons with Kelowna.
• Jackson Whistle
During his first two seasons with the Rockets, Whistle played as back-up to starting goaltender Jordon Cooke. In the 2014–15 WHL season he was named as the team’s starting Goaltender. Whistle was named November WHL Goalie of the Month after winning 12 of the team’s first 14 games of the season. The run of good form continued all season, culminating in the Rockets winning their fourth WHL Championship by beating the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-0 finals. As a result, the team qualified for the 2015 Memorial Cup, where they progressed to the final, losing 2-1 in overtime to Oshawa Generals.
Whistle’s final season with the Rockets was marred by injury, as he suffered a torn labrum in both hips which resulted in season-ending surgery.