A special piece of Penticton’s storied hockey history has found its way to the walls of the new David E. Kampe Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.
It couldn’t be more appropriate as Kampe, the late philanthropist and owner of Peters Bros. Construction in Penticton, was known as a great fan and supporter of hockey.
The work, by local artist Glenn Clark, entitled “Last Vees Game at Memorial,” features three original Penticton Vees — Kevin Conway, Ernie Rucks and Ivan McLelland — who played in the first-ever hockey game at Memorial Arena on Oct. 26, 1951.
Remarkably, the three members of the legendary 1955 world-champion Penticton Vees were also on the same ice to celebrate the final Vees (B.C. Hockey League) game Sept. 26, 2008. It was a photo that hockey enthusiast and historian Clark took that evening that inspired the limited-edition reproduction.
The painting arrived for the grand opening of the new tower in May, courtesy of a donation by Clark and given to the hospital on behalf of Ivan and (his late wife) Faye McLelland.
Only five prints of the painting were produced, and several hockey collectors wanted to buy the large one from McLelland that now adorns the walls of second floor of the impressive new hospital tower.
“We felt like it truly belongs in Penticton, and we wanted the hospital to have it,” said the 88-year-old McLelland, the goaltending hero of the Vees team that won the Allan Cup national championship in 1954 in Penticton and the world championship in 1955 in Krefeld, Germany.
McLelland, who lives in Penticton, is one of only two Vees remaining from the original team. Doug Kilburn, who lives in Spokane, Wash., is the other.
McLelland, Conway and Rucks all went on to become successful businessmen after their hockey-playing days ended, with McLelland and Conway ultimately returning to retire in Penticton.
All three were extremely close, McLelland said.
“Kevin and I had many years together (in Penticton), spent a lot of time enjoying barbecues and putting together the many reunions we had for the 1955 team,” said McLelland. “I was with him just a few days before he passed. He was a special human being and a special friend.”
Conway was known for being the first self-serve gas station owner in Vancouver working for Standard Oil, McLelland said.
Rucks finished his hockey career in California and went on to build a successful construction business. Rucks was best man at McLelland’s wedding.
“I was there to help put on a ‘roast’ for Ernie on his 80th birthday,” McLelland recalled. “There were 200 people at his son’s home in Richland, Oregon. We visited each other from time to time over the years . . . we had a nice relationship.”
McLelland said with the donation to the hospital, four of the five prints are now accounted for.
Another large one will be auctioned off at the annual Penticton and Friends Golf Tournament in July.