Home is where the heart is and right now for Fred Harbinson, Penticton Vees head coach, general manager and president, his heart is in the Peach City for at least the next six years.
Harbinson and the Vees announced Tuesday a five-year extension to his current contract which has a year remaining.
The news came at the Vees year-end conference at the Vault restaurant at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
At the same time it was announced that 16-year-old Massimo Rizzo, who just completed his first full season with the team, would take on the role of team captain for the 2018/19 season.
He will be joined by Ryan Sandelin and Cassidy Bowes as assistant captains, along with two more assistants to be named at a later date.
Next year will be the 10th season for Harbinson who has over 400 wins under his belt during that time.
His record includes four Fred Page Cups, one Doyle Cup, one Western Canada Cup, had three National Championship appearances and won the 2012 RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask.
“For me it’s just the people (owners Sue and Graham Fraser) I’m working for, I had some teams that talked to me and stuff sometimes maybe the philosophies don’t line up exactly the same,” said Harbinson. “Financially I’m taken care of here, I get to coach really good players, you can go to college program and not coach guys of his (Rizzo) caliber, we’ve got a lot of those players the so -called higher levels and not have the lifestyle I have here.
“I’m not saying I’m never going to leave but Graham and Sue make it hard for us to leave. They treat us a certain way and it’s an exciting place to work.”
About the selection of Rizzo to fill the role Owen Sillinger and Grant Cruickshank, Harbinson said; “One of the questions we always ask of the players who are leaving is who they think who could be a great leader, possibly the next captain, I’d say 99 percent of them mentioned his name.
“I saw big growth in who he was outside of being a player especially the second half of the year. You’ve got to remember a lot of these guys are coming to us maybe as a 15 year old and he’s starting to develop as a man. I think this is sort of another piece of the puzzle in his overall development in trying to be a National Hockey League player.”
For Rizzo, he was hoping to get that call and is grateful for the team’s confidence in him to do the job, one he’s had with others in his junior career.
“I’m still young and I’ve been captain before and know what it takes to be a team leader, especially on a team like this there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with it but I’m definitely up for it,” he said. “You have to demand excellence from your team day in and day out in practice, training on the ice around the rink and do whatever it takes to win a championship.”
Harbinson led the Vees to another Interior and BCHL regular season title last season with a league best 86 points and a 40-12-3-3 record. The Vees cruised through the first round of the playoffs, beating the Coquitlam Express in four straight, but were knocked out of contention by the upstart Trail Smoke Eaters who won the division semifinal in seven games.
In nine years with the Vees, Harbinson has compiled a 383-109-10-28 record in the regular season.