When the Kelowna Rockets moved their permanent home to Prospera Place it was named Skyreach Place. The Rockets decided they needed a way to honour past players. Some WHL teams such as the Regina Pats have names and numbers retired on banners. Other clubs like the Red Deer Rebels simply hang banners on the concourse of players of the past. Owner, President, and General Manager Bruce Hamilton looked around the new barn, and decided that he wanted to go a different direction to honour players. So Bruce decided there would be a mural of players who had contributed to the team’s success painted outside of the Rockets dressing room. The wall today is known as the Kelowna Rockets Wall of Recognition for Outstanding Achievement.
Each larger-than-life sized player painted on the wall features them in a pose dressed in full uniform. With the exception of Scott Parker and Jamie Benn, the players are either skating with a stick in hand, or holding a trophy. Their equipment normally shows what era they played in as most jerseys have the brand ‘CCM’ painted on in recent years. Gavin McLeod is in a Nike jersey, and Scott Hannan is wearing Bauer. They have a plaque at their feet explaining why they are up on the wall, as well as the sponsor that paid for the painting.
The mural is painted on the outside wall of the concourse. It begins at section 109 and stretches to section 114. Joey Burdziuk, an artist that lives in Edmonton, does every painting on the mural. She comes out to Kelowna to make additions to the wall. With a player like Duncan Keith, who won three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals after the mural was already painted, those accolades are painted on at a later date.
Judy Levine is the project coordinator, helping secure sponsorships for each mural.
Originally the wall featured any player that was important to the organizations history. In the mid 2000’s as the Rockets became a powerhouse in the WHL and started producing championships as well as world-class players, it became evident that there needed to be criteria added to the wall.
As of 2004 to be added to the wall a player must have accomplished one or more of these feats:
- be awarded the MVP of the Memorial Cup
- been the Captain of a Memorial Cup winning team
- win a World Junior gold medal
- and/or win an Olympic gold medal
Kelly Guard, a former goaltender of the Rockets on the wall, said that while it’s an honour to be featured as an individual, it’s his teammates who helped him get up there.
“Being up on that wall is a constant reminder of the brotherhood we formed and how all the sacrifices each player made was worth it,” said Guard.
Players on the wall include (left to right):
- The Rockets first all around European player Vaclav Varada. He’s the only player featured in a Tacoma Rockets jersey as he spent the majority of his time with the club before it moved to Kelowna.
- The seventh captain in team history, Kelowna product Jason Deleurme is second on the wall. He was the first Rocket to post more than 50 goals in a season.
- Tough guy Scott Parker is painted in a fighting pose because the fans loved him for his toughness and willingness to drop the gloves. He is the current all-time penalty minute leader in Rockets history with 729 penalty minutes. A member of the 2001 Stanley Cup Colorado Avalanch, Parker’s mural has a cup painted below his feet.
- Scott Hannan was the first bonafide NHL defenseman to come through Kelowna, he was the first Kelowna Rocket to be selected in the first round of an NHL draft.
- Gavin McLeod was the tenth captain in Rockets history. After his time in the WHL he earned himself a full scholarship to the University of Alberta where he played for another five seasons.
- Ryan Cuthbert was the first Rockets captain to lift the Ed Chynoweth Cup above his head when Kelowna won their first WHL title in 2003.
- The sixth, seventh, and eighth players added to the wall were all members of the 2004 Memorial Cup team; Josh Gorges, Kelly Guard, and Shea Weber. Guard, the star netminder who won the MVP of the Memorial Cup is holding the Memorial Cup. Local product and then team captain Josh Gorges is hoisting the cup above his head. Shea Weber lifts the Ed Chynoweth above his head while his two Olympic gold medals, and World Junior Championship gold medal hang around his neck.
- The most decorated player on the wall is Duncan Keith who has three Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe trophy, and a James Norris trophy painted below him. He also has his two Olympic gold medals around his neck.
- Blake Comeau is in a skating pose with his 2006 World Junior gold medal.
- Luke Schenn is also in a skating pose with his 2008 World Junior gold medal.
- Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers were both added after winning gold at the 2009 World Junior Championship with Canada. Myers is in a skating pose with his medal while Benn has his hands up in a goal celebration pose with his World Junior Championship and 2014 Olympic gold medals around his neck. An Art Ross Trophy was added to Benn’s mural after he lead the NHL in points in 2015.
- Offensively gifted defenseman and the 19th captain of the Rockets Tyson Barrie is shown with his 2015 World Championship medal around his neck. Barrie is the all-time points leader for defensemen in Rockets history.
- Defensemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrisey were added to the wall with their 2015 World Junior Championship gold medals. Morrisey is in a skating pose, while Bowey the 21st captain of the team raises the Ed Chynoweth cup above his head. After winning the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, a cup was added to Bowey’s mural.
- Cal Foote and Dillon Dube were both added to the wall after helping Canada win gold at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The Kelowna Rockets Wall of Recognition for Outstanding Achievement adds life to the walls outside the Rockets dressing room. It’s a place that every player who plays for the organization aspires to be on someday.