The Top Prospects Game on Wednesday dished up great hits, great goaltending and, overall, offered good entertainment value.
The two-day event, however, also created its share of confusion.
Created in 1996, the game features the CHL’s top draft-eligible players divided into two teams named after hockey legends Bobby Orr and Don Cherry. Neither made the trip to Kelowna, and that led to anger and disappointment amongst Okanagan ticket buyers when it was learned they wouldn’t be in attendance.
Normally, high-end events such as this sell out in Kelowna. The attendance at Prospera Place on Wednesday was 5,022 — decent, but not great.
Interviewed during the second period, the CHL’s commissioner, David Branch, said constraints prevented Orr and Cherry from appearing in the Okanagan.
“The CHL Top Prospects Game was born 17 years ago, and it was Don Cherry and Bobby Orr that we went to, to try and give it a sense of reason for fans to come out because you didn’t have a home team,” said Branch. “They gave up their time and energy and really were so instrumental in helping us build this game into what it is today.
“It was never intended that they would come to every game, and they haven’t. In fact, it’s really helped us bring back people like Mark Recchi, Tiger Williams, Kelly Hrudey, Pat Quinn . . . that is really important to us as well, bringing back some of our alumni. I spoke to Don, and I always give him first option, but he has so many commitments, and Bobby’s in Florida and he has obligations, so that’s what it’s all about.”
Branch didn’t give any specific reasons as to what those obligations were.
Concerning Orr, it’s unknown if he’ll ever appear behind the bench at the Top Prospects Game again, as he’s a hockey agent and it’s bad optics to have an agent with direct access to draft-eligible players with other agents.
According to Orr’s website, bobbyorr. net, he’s been an agent since 1996.
As for changing the team names to something else, Branch said that won’t happen.
“When we built this up, we dedicated their contributions by naming both teams and the trophy in their honour,” said Branch, adding the naming aspects were decided in 2006.