The province’s best 2009-born hockey players were showcasing their talent over the weekend, at the first ever Up My Hockey (UMH) 68 Invitational Hockey Showcase.
Put on by NHL alumni Jason Podollan, the tournament was a way to get more ‘best on best’ competition for the top U15 players from across the province.
“This concept came to me as I was driving away disappointed from my experience at the provincial tournament in Penticton in May,” said Podollan, who runs the UMH program as a mindset development coach. “I felt the event could have been way better.”
The idea of UMH 68 was conceived, hatched and executed in just 30 days, with 48 players from all across the province converging in Vernon for three days of competitive hockey.
“Being an ex-professional myself, I was trying to provide a professional experience for these players. The kids had food, drinks available, along with their own stall and nameplates,” Podollan explained. “There were a lot of wide eyes walking through the locker room.”
Three teams (black, red and white) of 16 players each played four games throughout three days.
In the stands throughout the weekend were WHL and NHL scout evaluators, as former NHLer’s Jerred Smithson and Mark Ferner were behind the bench coaching the teams. There was also a players banquet, where the kids got to hear stories from a slew of former professionals.
The event was broadcast on Facebook, with commentating from current West Kelowna Warriors play by play man Trevor Miller.
The leading points getter of the tournament was Vernon’s own Dominik Silbernagel, with six goals and five assists in just four games. His team (black) ended up winning the whole tournament, with a 3-1 record.
“Each team played each other twice,” said Podollan. “It was more about competition between the players and to experience and be educated on their hockey journey.”
Podollan was blown away by the success of the weekend, with his phone “blowing up” with messages.
“I am super excited to keep this growing next year,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to market it for a full 12 months, rather than the 30 days I had for the first event.”
The hopes of creating more invitationals, for the players at the peewee level (age 11-12) is also on his mind.
“The separation (of skill) is even greater at that level, so I would love to grow it.”