The Penticton Western News is going to reel off its big newsmakers of the year over its next two issues.
We kick things off with the Penticton Minor Hockey Association being out more than $300,000 and reports its former treasurer is to blame.
In a statement, PMHA said it had “fallen victim to a sophisticated embezzlement scheme” allegedly carried out by Sandy Elder, who handled the organization’s finances from 2001 to July 2013, when she died of cancer.
A forensic audit allegedly found evidence that $315,650 was “misappropriated” between May 2010 and April 2013 through altered cheques, falsified receipts and records, plus cash transactions for referee payments and concession revenue.
PMHA president Bruce Judd declined comment and referred questions to lawyer Erik Lund. The statement said Judd became suspicious after Elder died and called in a forensic auditor, but decided not to make the matter public until after the investigation.
“Now that the investigation is complete, litigation is expected to commence against Ms. Elder’s estate,” Lund said in the statement, which noted the RCMP have also been alerted.
“In cases such as these, it can be very difficult for victims to locate and execute on sufficient funds or assets. It is an unfortunate reality of the legal world that you can’t get blood from a stone … At this point it is unclear how Elder has (allegedly) disposed of the funds.”
At least one PMHA member knew nothing of the matter before being told Thursday about the press release.
“This is the first I’ve heard,” said Atom coach Tony Orioli.
When told of the amount missing, he said, “Oh, wow. That’s unfortunate.”
The Western News learned of the investigation in January, but Judd denied it at that time.
“Whoever told you that is wrong. If you print it, you’re wrong. You would be liable for being sued,” he said.
Minor hockey board gets face lift
Amid the dark cloud of the Penticton Minor Hockey Association missing $315,650, its board ended up with fresh faces following elections. Val Fulton climbed the ladder from director to vice-president. She is also the midget hockey director. Before being voted in as vice-president, Fulton told the crowd she wants what’s best for the association.
“There are people out there that would like to see change,” she said.
The changes to the board of directors included the additions of Barb Main and Chad DeLeeuw joining current directors Stacey Gagno, Rod Kenney and Ted Van Troyen. Minor hockey parent Scott Rogers said he didn’t see any real drastic changes to the board.
With Fulton replacing DeShane as vice-president, Rogers said it’s a “positive in the sense that everybody here was passionate about minor hockey.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a knee jerk reaction to the change,” he said. “Everybody that was here was probably equally passionate about the direction that we had to go. Val in this case, she clearly stated her case that she was prepared to work hard. That’s all we can ask for.”
Brian Hutcheson, another concerned parent, was positive about the changes.
“I think it’s not bad to get new blood in there a little bit because there are a lot of people that have questions about what has transpired,” said Hutcheson. “This way it gives a fresh look. People can get some answers. Aesthetically it probably looks good too for the people that are on the board.”
Hutcheson heard rumblings about it in the fall, but figured the number was smaller.
“The amount of money that was gone is huge. That is scary,” he added. “I think that’s why it’s good to have some new people on the board. Maybe a fresh face to look at what’s happened. I’m not blaming anybody on the board. I’m not accusing anybody.”
At the end of July, Judd made the decision to step down with Fulton taking on his position as acting president. Directors Randy Craig, Rob McLaughlin and Mike Ouellette, plus secretary Carla Relvas, also stepped down from the executive.
Canucks Young Stars Classic draws big crowds
The turnstiles were busy at the South Okanagan Events Centre as fans lined up to watch the Canucks Young Stars Classic Sept. 12-15.
“The attendance to all the games have been great, rightly so,” said Trevor Linden, president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks.
The highest attended game, according to www.pointstreak.com, was between the Canucks and Edmonton Oilers which attracted a crowd of 4,408. The Canucks and Winnipeg Jets attracted 3,508 fans, while the Canucks and Calgary Flames and Flames and Oilers drew nearly 3,100 fans. The two early games attracted 1,500 and 1,951 fans.
According to SOEC staff, there were 16,500 tickets sold. Event chair Andrew Jakubeit said attendance is higher than last year as the tournament showcased 12 first-round draft picks from the Canucks, Flames, Oilers and Jets.
“It’s a great format,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving of being able to assess the players.
Treliving was also impressed with the crowds, though the former Penticton Knight admitted to some bias because of his roots.
“It’s not only one of the most picturesque parts of the world, there are great people here, great fans,” he said. “A really knowledgable fan base. It’s not surprising they have supported it as they have. ”
Linden was asked about the potential for a fifth team and said it needs to be the right fit. Asked if it was the Montreal Canadiens, Linden, a former Hab, said, “could be.”
Unofficially, Parkway 2 field has been named Mullins Field, in honour of the late Scott Mullins.
Mullins, who died of a heart-related problem in October 2013, is considered one of the best slo pitch players Penticton ever had. Mullins’ friend and longtime teammate Craig Denton said it was a group of Mullins’ teammates who came up with the idea for the name change, which is shown on schedules for the mixed leagues on the Penticton Slo Pitch website. Denton said the reason for doing it is because of how good a player and person Mullins was.
“He really was one of the best players to ever play out of Penticton,” said Denton. “Scott was just a guy that everyone loved him. He really was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. He loves everybody. He fit in with everybody. He competed at a high level and did so with still being everybody’s friend.”
Mustangs’s earn bronze after crash
The Mustangs’ bronze medal victory in November almost never was.
Their trip to the AA Big Kahuna BC High School Boys Volleyball Championships in Langley nearly ended near Princeton where their bus slid off the road. The incident occurred when co-coach Andrew Sexton hit a patch of ice while driving. Shawn Lum, the Mustangs other co-coach, said Sexton did a great job behind the wheel.
“He realized that he didn’t have control of the bus. He kind of guided the bus into the safest part possible. There were large embankments on either side,” explained Lum. “There was a few little bumps and bruises. Nobody was hurt, thankfully.”
Lum described the accident as an out of body experience.
Five seconds after the crash they gathered themselves. Lum said his and Sexton’s first priority was to check on the kids, who were also looked after by paramedics. Physically the students were fine, but suffered a little emotional shakeup.
“It was terrifying. It all just happened so fast,” said student-athlete Spencer Kingzett. “One thing led to another. It was a weird experience but the team definitely handled it very well. A big relief. It was honestly a miracle that nobody got hurt. We literally just came out with a few scratches and that was the worst of it, very lucky.”
The Mustangs forfeited their first match against top seed Mennonite Educational Institute, who went on to claim the provincial championship. Maggie lost to Clarence Fulton from Vernon 27-25 and 25-19 and defeated Woodlands in three sets, 15-25, 25-18 and 15-12 in the round robin.
Pinnacles women’s soccer team defends its title
The Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Bill Gillespie Challenge Cup is staying in Penticton thanks to a 2-1 win over the Peninsula Co-op Highlanders at King’s Park in July.
“I’m beyond excited. I can’t really put it into words,” said Pinnacles captain Alana Parker, who netted the winner with about 10 minutes remaining. “We battled hard, they were the favourite to win. They won the league. We hadn’t won against them in the whole season.”
Parker said the group knew they could win if they finished their chances. Parker, who had just one goal on the season, didn’t make a mistake, burying her shot into the low right side.
“I wasn’t coming off a lot of positivity,” she said. “To be able to make that run and get the ball, put it in the net, feels great. I was beyond excited. I knew we had the game after that.”
The Pinnacles, who hosted the championship as the Penticton Soccer Club celebrated its 60th anniversary, opened the scoring on a header by LaDawn Latawiec on a corner kick, but the Highlanders tied it at 1-1 just before the opening half ended.
“I thought we played really well. There were nerves early on,” said Parker. “We had some poor touches, but once we got our confidence and the feel of the game, and started to create chances, we played really well.”
The Pinnacles received strong goalkeeping from Emily Edmundson, who made the saves when called upon. However, Edmundson said she wasn’t challenged a lot.
“There weren’t a whole lot of strong scoring chances because a lot of them were blocked or kicked away,” said Edmundson, who plays for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. “There was one off the cross bar in the first half. Their goal was obviously a pretty good shot.”
Edmundson said it’s a great feeling to win again.
“I couldn’t have done it with a better group of girls,” the Kamloops product said. “Makes the whole season worth it.”
Pinnacles veteran Jana Yates was named most valuable player for the tournament.
Justin Kripps finishes sixth in Olympics after crash
Summerland’s Justin Kripps and teammate Bryan Barnett finished sixth in the two-man bobsleigh at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Kripps’ Canada 3 sled finished 1.23 hundredths of a second behind Russian Federation 1, which claimed the gold medal. After their final run, Kripps tilted his head back in what appeared to be disappointment. In an email to the Western News, Kripps said he knew they didn’t do enough to challenge for a medal.
“I decided to take some risks in the track to try to shave off some time because I believe if we did what we had been doing, we would have came fourth and I wanted to go all or nothing for the medal,” he wrote. Kripps said he drove better on day two, but pushed better on the first day.
Kripps added heat three was their best drive, and the risks he took in the final heat resulted in mistakes.
It was Kripps’s second trip to the Olympics after competing with Pierre Lueders in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be chosen to represent Canada at the Olympics,” said Kripps.
“There is nothing better than competing on the biggest stage in the world with Canada across your back.”
Margetts finishes 15th
Matt Margetts said being named to Canada’s freestyle ski Olympic team relieved some pressure, but it’s also back on.
“Just excited to get there and go and do as best as I can,” said Margetts of competing in 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. “Enjoy the experience and the journey has been awesome.”
Margetts and the sport of halfpipe skiing made their Olympic debut. When he informed his family who reside in Penticton of the news, Margetts laughed as he said they were almost more excited than he was.
“I had to tell them to cool their jets,” he said. “Everyone is really excited. They are really happy for me.”
The former Apex Ski Club member said plenty of hard work, blood, sweat and tears went into achieving his goal.
Margetts’s best result that season was a third-place finish in a World Cup event in Calgary.
“The season has been really good. It’s been very busy,” said Margetts.
He finished 15th among 28 athletes after he was unable to stick a landing in the first half of his run.
Symonds, Lester defend Challenge Penticton crowns
Jeff Symonds and Carrie Lester defended their Valley First Challenge Penticton crowns, but said it didn’t come easy. Symonds crossed the finish line with the hometown crowd behind in him eight hours, 26 minutes and 58 seconds, a full 20 minutes ahead of Christopher Bagg, of Portland, Oregon, who took second.
“It’s incredible,” said Symonds of his repeat. “I didn’t think that after everything I went through last year, the crash and everything, I don’t know how this is going to compare. It was a tough day out there. I had to work really hard for that one.”
Symonds, who exited the swim seven seconds behind Vancouver’s Josh Seifarth, said it always felt like the guys were on his heels. The worst part of his day was being out front.
“I love being the hunter. I love that kind of mentality,” he said. “Knowing you are out front, you’re the hunted.”
Symonds had a seven-minute lead as he exited the bike and built on it.
“I knew with this quality field I was going to have to get ugly out there,” said Symonds, who finished three minutes faster than his victory last year. “Luckily I came away with the win.”
Following Symonds, who pocketed $12,000, and Bagg, $8,000, was Auckland, New Zealand’s Simon Cochrane ($5,000 payout) to round out the top three pros. Lester, who finished 11th overall, clocked in at 9:27:24, just two seconds faster than last year. The Brisbane, Australia, native said she thought she was going to go faster on the bike.
“It’s such a tough course. I really did forget how hard it is,” said Lester, who also earned $12,000.
She was happy with her run, clocked at 3:13:59, just under 10 minutes faster than Penticton’s Jenn Annett, who clocked a 3:23:53 and finished third overall in the women’s pro field while experiencing a panic attack during the swim.