Jedd Soleway-Penticton Vees, Wisconsin Badgers , Drafted Phoenix Coyotes 2013
Major Midget Hockey and The Okanagan Rockets: A Parent’s Perspective
This is not going to be an easy testimonial to keep short. From our perspective, playing major midget hockey and specifically our experience with The Okanagan Rockets 2010-2011 was pivotal.
In a hockey world of choices and an apparent urgency to make it “sooner, rather than later” it was honestly not crystal clear at the time, what was really the best choice for our son, Jedd. Having not been drafted in the illustrious bantam draft, and then not selected in the U-16 program it wasn’t easy to fight the doubts.
Its only been a couple of years but already our hindsight and our gratitude for the path that ultimately emerged is hard to describe.
Had Jedd been drafted, I’m sure like many of his buddies, a quick jump to the WHL would have been thrilling. Instead, as a 16 yr old his dilemma was between the Jr B route and major midget.
Jedd’s chance to play major midget in Kelowna with Brandon West and Kyle Blanleil as his coaches, and David Michaud as his manager-slash-biggest supporter provided the chance to grow…a step at a time…both mentally and physically. Jedd grew physically (6 inches that year) … by Christmas, the coaching staff had helped provide him with the opportunity to play and experience the WHL showcase “Midget AAA All-star Game. By February, David Michaud’s connection with the BCHL and WHL resulted in opportunities for many of the boys, to jump into practices at the higher levels. In Jedd’s case, it was incredible to be able to attend multiple practices with both the Vernon Vipers and Kelowna Rockets.
The format of Major Midget hockey, with games on weekends ensured a couple of things, that in hindsight, were absolutely CRITICAL…one, it left time during the week to consistently schedule gym time and off-ice training, and equally, as important, time to focus on school and keeping grades up so that no doors would close.
What we experienced with the Okanagan Rockets and Major Midget Hockey was the opportunity to develop…to have options and to be prepared and ready to step into the next level, whatever that may be. There is no right or wrong answers and the best a player can ask for, it the ability to have options.
Jedd ultimately chose the BCHL route. It wasn’t an easy decision as physically Jedd seemed more suited to the demands of the WHL, but nothing about his career so far spoke of being on the “fast track” and the idea of pursuing a NCAA scholarship and continuing the pursuit of improving year by year, made the most sense.
In November, Jedd was traded to the Penticton Vees of the BCHL and his career took another leap. The coaching staff there focused on his assets and encouraged him to work on his weaknesses but always play his strengths. Coaches in the BCHL generally have an outstanding report with scouts at every level, and there was rarely a game that multiple NHL scouts weren’t watching. On many evenings, they would come down to the dressing rooms after the game to introduce themselves and encourage the boys to keep doing what they are doing..
It's kind of hard to believe that only two years after graduating from the Okanagan Rockets, Jedd is already on his way to a full ride scholarship with the University of Wisconsin (Madison) Badgers. He leaves next month (June)… When the coaches brought him down for his “fly down” and, blew his socks off with their program… they also blew OUR socks off when… and I quote, they told him… “your parents will never see a bill”…. Wow… That is simply unbelievable!!
We ran into “Mich” (David Michaud) at Vees games at least 5 or 6 times this season…still following his graduated players… he’s like family. He emails… he posts on FB… He stays in touch… I heard from him a couple of days ago and I guess the timing made me stop to reflect on how much has happened.
There is no decision that needs to be made in our minds… if a player has the opportunity to play at least one year, at the major midget level, it can and it will make a difference… potentially a VERY BIG difference.
I’m writing this letter from a parent’s perspective. If Jay or I can be of help, in any way, please do feel free to call us, anytime. There’s probably not enough of that opportunity “out there”….to just call someone, who has “been there”. We may not be totally objective as admittedly, in our minds, playing major midget was the best choice for our son, but we’d be happy to hear from you J
In closing….. thank you (you know who you are) and you made a difference !
Cheryl (and Jay) Soleway…. 1-250-308-809
Parker Bowles- Tri City Americans, WHL
When my family relocated to Kelowna in 2011, I was fortunate to play with the Okanagan Rockets.
They run an excellent program and treat the players like they are in the pros! Our practices were always upbeat and we had great camaraderie in the dressing room. Our coaches were always willing to help us improve but they expected hard work & commitment from every player.
It was obvious that team management & the coaching staff take great pride in what they do. My season with the Rockets provided me the opportunity to improve my skills which helped me elevate my game so that I could make the transition to the WHL.
I would highly recommend the Okanagan Rockets organization for all aspiring hockey athletes.”
Parker Bowles, Tri City Americans
Spencer Hewson - Nanaimo Clippers, BCHL
I am pleased to provide this endorsement of the Okanagan Rockets and the British Columbia Major Midget League.
Both of my sons have played for the Okanagan Rockets - my oldest son played as a defenseman in the 2009/10 hockey season, and my younger son played forward in the 2012/13 season.
The Major Midget League is organized to provide exposure to midget age players who aspire to move up into junior hockey. It is heavily scouted by the Western Hockey League, NCAA and BCHL. In my experience, the exposure that players receive in this league is greater than they receive in competing leagues, like the KIJHL.
Both of my sons were affiliated with junior teams while they played for the Rockets. The Rockets coaching staff was always proactive and flexible in making sure that players had opportunities to practice with and play for their junior teams.
Behind the scenes, the Rockets management was excellent. Road trips were always well-planned, communication was easy and budgeting for expenses was trouble-free. During David Michaud’s term as General Manager, I have seen the Rockets program develop into one of Canada's premier midget hockey organizations.
The Rockets enjoy facilities at the CNC Centre in Kelowna that are on a par, at least, with most junior teams. Both of my sons suffered injuries while playing for the Rockets, and I saw firsthand how closely the team works with the experts at Pinnacle Physiotherapy. I think that that close relationship expedited their recovery.
Playing for the Rockets was the springboard from which both of my sons moved up into Junior A hockey. For any young player looking for a challenging hockey experience, and for any hockey parents looking for a program to help their son develop, I highly recommend the Okanagan Rockets organization and the British Columbia Major Midget League.
Linden Hora - Vernon Vipers, BCHL
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Okanagan Rockets Major Midget hockey team for an outstanding year. We are so happy that we chose the Rockets organization to mentor and develop our son Linden.
Besides having an excellent reputation, one of the main reasons we chose the Okanagan Rockets was the team allowed Linden to live at home and to finish highschool with his friends. Further, the team also enabled Linden to continue his education within a regular school setting and schedule, and to participate in school events. Looking back upon the year, we can honestly say it was the right decision not only for the reasons stated above, but for so many more.
We really appreciated from a cost perspective that there were no “hidden” fees or surprises. The team was always managed in a professional manner by the teams manager, David Michaud and Head Coach, Mack O'Rouke along with his coaching staff. This was evident by the well planned team trips (transportation, meals and accommodations), and how parents and players alike were kept abreast of team events and or changes in practice/game times.
The professionalism displayed by the Okanagan Rockets organization, was also expected of by the players. While Linden played top level hockey for his age group, he developed as a player and a person. Expectations were clear and players were held accountable for their actions.
The team’s home facilities were excellent! The Capital News Centre supported not only the teams icetimes but dryland and yoga as well. The team’s physiotherapist, Thierry Lamvohee was an integral part of the team, and not only treated injuries as they arose, but always followed up and monitored each and every player.
Team goals were set at the beginning of the year and resulted in the team winning the BCMML, The Pacifics and then going on to play at the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where they won bronze.
This experience for Linden was amazing and one he will never forget. Another memorable highlight for Linden was the opportunity to be an affiliated player with the Vernon Vipers, Junior A team. As a result of team support, talented teammates, being placed in various different game situations, exposure to scouts and so many more aspects, Linden’s childhood dream of playing Junior A hockey has become a reality. As parents, we have tried to help Linden be the best person and player he can be.
We believe that this past year with the Okanagan Rockets Major Midget team has played an integral role in attaining that goal. We would highly recommend the Okanagan Rockets to any family and player considering playing high level hockey in a supportive and competitive environment.
Darryl and Bobbi Hora