By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The 2014 Western Canadian bantam hockey championship may end up being decided in Kamloops.
Then, again, it might not.
A report Monday on the website westernelitehockeyprospects.com stated that the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association had “handed over the rights to host the Western Canada Bantam Hockey Championship to Kamloops and the Jardine’s Blazers.”
Later Monday, a source familiar with the situation told The Daily News: “It has been moved . . . primarily due to many of Kelowna’s top players moving to (Okanagan Hockey Academy) or Pursuit of Excellent and depleting the (Jr. Rockets’) lineup.”
The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hadn’t yet been made.
The source said that the Jardine’s Blazers “will be led by the likes of Brendan Semchuk, Jackson Caller and a pair of top 2000-born prospects in Ty Kolle and Ryan Chyzowski (and) look to be a much stronger representative than the Jr. Rockets, who have lost many of their top players to prep clubs.”
However, Wilf Liefke of Coldstream, the president of BC Hockey, said last night that he spoke with Kelowna Minor president Leonie Popoff “a couple of days ago . . . because I have heard that rumour . . . from other sources, as well.”
According to Liefke, Kelowna “is committed and excited about hosting, so they are looking forward to it . . . onwards and upwards.
“There is no validity to that rumour.”
The Kelowna Minor Hockey Association was named tournament host on Jan. 14.
Jon Pankuch, the president of the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association, said a switch “would be news to me.”
However, Pankuch said that Kamloops “put (in) a request that if something went astray, we’d be interested in looking at it.
“But, as far as I know, Kelowna is still hosting it.”
The tournament, which features five teams from four provinces, is scheduled for April 3-6.
The 2013 tournament was held in Kindersley, Sask., where the Edmonton-South Side Athletic Club Southgate Lions won the title, beating the North Shore Winter Club Winterhawks 5-3 in the final game.
Also in the tournament were Saskatchewan’s West Central Wheat Kings and Prairie Storm, and the Winnipeg Hawks.
The Lions’ roster included forward Tyler Benson, who broke the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League scoring record by putting up 146 points, including 57 goals, in 33 games. He added 37 points, 15 of them goals, in 11 playoff games. In the Western Canadian championship, he had 13 points in five games.
Benson was selected by the Vancouver Giants with the first pick of the WHL’s annual bantam draft. He is scheduled to attend the Pursuit of Excellent Academy in Kelowna and play for a midget team there this season.
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