A trio of the best players to ever wear the colours of the Kelowna Rockets helped their country to golden glory in Sochi.
Defencemen Shea Weber and Duncan Keith, and forward Jamie Benn all played key roles as Canada captured the gold medal Sunday in men’s hockey at the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
Rockets assistant GM and head scout Lorne Frey, who saw all three players come through the WHL organization, was thrilled to see Weber, Keith and Benn wearing the gold medal.
“Everybody in our organization is pretty pleased to see what these guys have done,” Frey said. “There were a lot of people along the way at different levels who deserve credit for their success, we were just lucky and happy to be part of it. They were all good kids when they were here and they enjoyed success with us. Kudos to all three of them.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Weber, was a defensive stalwart along the Canadian blue line and also displayed his heavy, powerful shot as the Sicamous native scored three goals—second most on the Canadian team—during the Olympic tournament.
Weber tied with Drew Doughty for the most points by a Canadian player with six, and led the way in total ice time with 131 minutes in six games.
Frey was pleased but not at all surprised by Weber’s steady and consistent play.
“It was typical Shea,” Frey said. “He was very solid throughout the tournament, he made very few mistakes and really played within himself. The respect he’s gained and the success he’s had, he’s certainly one of the top players at this position in the world.”
Keith, a product of Penticton, was another rock for Canada along the blue line at the Olympics. He was second only to his partner, Weber, in ice time for Canada at 126 minutes.
“One thing about Duncan is, he competes,” Frey said. “He’s smart with the puck, and when he does get beat, he recovers very well. He makes plays that most other players don’t make…he’s definitely one of my favourites because of the way he plays.”
Benn, who played his way on the Canada’s roster after a solid start to the NHL season, teamed up with Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry to form one of Canada’s most effective forechecking lines at the tournament.
Benn, a Victoria native, scored two goals in the tournament, including the lone marker in Canada’s 1-0 semifinal win Friday over the United States.
“(Jamie) was maybe the surprise of the tournament for Canada,” Frey said of Benn. “There’s was a question whether he would be a good pick, but he proved he was and he was just outstanding. He was solid offensively and defensively and I just thought he was excellent, maybe Canada’s best player against the U.S.”
Weber, 28, who was a Memorial Cup all-star in 2004 when the Rockets won the title, played 190 games over parts of four seasons in Kelowna, scoring 26 goals and 91 points, while adding another 39 points in 54 playoff games.
Keith, who transferred to Kelowna from Michigan State in mid-season, had 46 points in 37 games with the Rockets in 2002-03, helping lead the club to the WHL title and a berth in the Memorial Cup that year in Quebec City.
Benn, 24, was a prolific scorer during his two-year stint in Kelowna, notching 79 goals and 147 points in just 107 games. He led the Rockets with 33 points in the 2009 playoffs as Kelowna won the WHL title.
One other former Kelowna Rockets defenceman, Alex Edler of Sweden, also played in Sunday’s gold medal game.