PHOTO: Jack Murray
With the 2019/20 season coming to a close, we will take a look at each of the six 20-year-olds on the Vees roster and look back on their junior hockey careers. Next up: forward Colton Kalezic.
Five seasons of junior hockey creates a lifetime of memories, something that Colton Kalezic will have with him moving forward forever. The 20-year-old forward came to Penticton to conclude his career in junior hockey and it couldn’t have started in a better way with the Vees winning each of their first 11 games to begin the season, “We just had this swagger,” mentioned Kalezic, “As a team, we were all on the same page to play and we were so confident that we were going to win, we just felt like we weren’t going to lose.”
Shortly after opening the season on an impressive note with a long winning streak, the Toronto, Ontario native received something he was not expecting: an ‘A’ on his sweater, “On a team with a lot of veterans, I wasn’t expecting Fred and his staff to pick me” said Kalezic, “When you look at past Vees who have worn a letter, it just shows you how much of a privilege it is and I knew that even when I didn’t have a letter at the beginning of the year, I still had to lead by example.”
“I remember we had a game later that day and I couldn’t even nap pre-game because it was so exhilarating,” continued Kalezic, “I was really excited for a bigger role to fill and I was extremely honoured to be presented an assistant captain on this team.”
The holiday break provided about 10 days for players to head back home and recharge the batteries in being with their families. Once the team came back to Penticton, it seemed as though the Vees play had been amped up, “I thought that after Christmas, this team had something really special going,” commented Kalezic, “We were strong defensively and, as the playoffs were coming around, I think we were peaking and even when facing some adversity, we stayed tight and kept it together.”
“Our team chemistry really took off to another level,” Kalezic continued, “Obviously the playoffs didn’t go the way we expected but it was great to end with a win and I know we were ready to take on any team.”
The bond was strong between each of the Vees, whether it was hanging out at the rink or going to grab a bite to eat, the team was always together, Kalezic recalls, “We spent as much time as we could with everyone, as a group, before they had to go home. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t play it out until the end with this team and always thinking what could have been but not many players get to finish off their junior career with a win.”
Looking back can be tough, especially not being too far removed from his final season of junior hockey, but Kalezic has plenty of things he has taken away from each of his last five seasons, “I think the pace of junior hockey really prepared me for what to expect moving forward,” mentioned Kalezic, “My coaches from junior hockey taught me how to be coachable in the game, learning from them and I think that can really help you in other aspects in life.”
“The culture that my teammates and coaches brought into the locker room makes for a great environment and to show up to the rink together and solve problems on the ice,” continued the Vees forward, “We got through things together and when days didn’t go so well, we were always there to pick each other up and I have a lot of friendships throughout the years that will follow me forever.”
Spending his final season of junior hockey in the Peach City, Penticton is a place that Kalezic will hold close for some time, “I’m definitely going to miss the hockey the most,” said Kalezic, “Being in that room every day with all of the boys and having all the fans cheering as we came down the tunnel, game days were a lot of fun.”
“Since it was my first time in BC, I’m going to miss the province as well,” Kalezic continued, “I can definitely see myself coming back here in the future.”
After playing in the OJHL and USHL, Kalezic says the community support is like no other in Penticton, “The building is always packed and it feels like the community is more involved with the team than in some previous spots,” stated Kalezic, “We have such an unbelievable rink to play in and the chance to host these fans in incredible. Without the fan support, we wouldn’t be playing so to play in front of them is what really keeps us going.”
After a successful career in playing over 250 career games with three different teams, the 6’1″, 177-pound forward will make his way to the collegiate hockey ranks and heading to the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the fall, “I feel like I’ve rested enough over the past few weeks so I’m ready to get my training started as soon as I get home,” stated Kalezic, “It’ll be nice to head back home and see my family again but I’m definitely going to miss this group of guys and keep in touch with them as much as I can and I’ll always remember how awesome of a year it was.”
As for his best memory in junior hockey after five years? “It’s funny because it was actually one of my worst games of the season,” said Kalezic, “I had no points and I think I was a minus but when we beat Wenatchee at the end of the regular season but the best goal scoring feeling I had was against West Kelowna in Game #5 when I scored shorthanded in my last junior game.”
The Vees would like to thank Colton for everything he did for the organization and City of Penticton and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavours!