Friday, February 21, 2014

Who is responsible for Weber/Benn/Keith wearing Kelowna Rockets colours?

Lorne Frey
It is unbelievable to think that Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Jamie Benn were never drafted in the WHL Bantam draft. All three are now in the NHL and all three are a win away from helping Canada win gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The trio were key players in helping the Kelowna Rockets win WHL titles in 2003-2005 and 2009 with Weber also being apart of the Memorial Cup winning team in 2004. How did these three players land in the hands of the Kelowna Rockets? Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey had a lot to do with it. Here is a portion of my interview with Frey Wednesday night. We will revisit the interview in our first intermission of tonight's game in Prince George because of its relevancy.  

Shea Weber:
"The year we listed him he was a 15 year-old playing in Sicamous with the bantams. I went to a game on the Westside (West Kelowna) and they were playing and we were looking at two other guys we had already drafted out of Sicamous. I’m watching and this number five defenceman looked pretty good. He was a smooth skater and moved the puck well but he wasn’t dynamic at that time. The following week they were back there again and I saw him (Weber) and we thought we would take a chance on this guy and listed him”.
A season later Weber would play junior ‘B’ in Sicamous before earning a spot on the Rockets when he was 17.

Duncan Keith:
Keith with his wife 2010 in Penticton
“At the BC U17 program, the summer program, that was the first time I saw him.  He was a little defenceman at that time.  We invited him to training camp in Strathmore that fall and he showed up and he had a great camp out of there. We listed him right out of there.  A lot of the scouts were wondering what we were doing because he was five foot nothing but he had the puck all the time. They said he wouldn’t play but I said he would.  In discussions with Duncan, he wanted to play here from day one but his dad didn’t think he was big enough at the time so that is why he went to college before finally playing here (Kelowna) as a 19 year-old.”

Jamie Benn:
Benn dominant playing with Colin Long
“I don’t like to take the credit, but in this case with Jamie Benn, I may have too”, Frey says with a chuckle. “I saw him as a bantam on the Island and he was a small player. I never saw him as a fifteen year-old year-old but at 16 I am checking the leagues and all of a sudden I notice he is leading his Junior B league in scoring as a rookie. I quickly called up another scout of ours, Corey Curtis, and I asked him if he had seen this Jamie Benn play. Curtis went out to see him the next day. I asked him (Curtis) if Jamie had grown a bit and he told me he was about 6 feet tall. I listed him that day. I knew how good he was at 5 foot 8 and I knew that if he got to six feet he would be something. I went out and saw his mom and dad and told both of them and Jamie that he will be playing in the National Hockey League at 20. Len Barrie, Tyson Barrie’s father, also had a lot to do with getting Jamie to play in Kelowna as an 18 year-old.”      

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