Glenn Clark has been a fanatical hockey fan his entire life and when he first moved to Penticton in 1991, he was dismayed that there was very little public recognition and knowledge of the Penticton Vees and their amazing Cinderella run at international hockey supremacy in 1955.
The Penticton Vees played in the Okanagan Senior Hockey League and their first game was the opening of Penticton’s Memorial Arena on October 25, 1951, versus the Vernon Canadians. In 1953, they were crowned Champions of Western Canada and in 1954, the Vees were the winners of the Allan Cup making them the National Senior Champions. In 1955, the Vees represented Canada at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Krefeld, West Germany beating the Soviet Union 5–0 for the gold medal. Considering the magnitude of this event in the annals of Canadian hockey history, it was disappointing for Glenn to find that very little of this history was publicly acknowledged.
Beginning in 1998 Glenn took it upon himself to remedy this oversight and tracked down the surviving members of the 1955 Vees team, seeking out photographs and anything else he could find which would provide him with a window into the events which led up to this historic victory. He began his journey by contacting Ivan McLelland the goaltender for the 1955 Vees. Over the intervening years, Glenn would come to call many of the surviving team members friends and with each friendship his passion and desire to document this important moment in Canadian sport history became increasingly clear.
With this in mind Glenn started working with the defunct Penticton Vees Hockey Club began creating a series of paintings whichdepict the team at the height of their glory. The resulting body of work was exhibited for the first time in 2000 at the Penticton Museum, and it was shortly afterwards that Glenn was awarded a commission from the City of Penticton to paint a mural on the side of the Elks Building depicting the triumphant Penticton Vees posing in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The mural has twice been featured on Hockey Night in Canada, and the paintings from this series were exhibited as part of hockey day in Canada. This exposure suddenly sparked the interest of people from across the nation who once again began embracing the team and their story. Before long Glenn was receiving phone calls from authors and likeminded individuals who were interested in writing a book and documenting this amazing slice of Canadian sports history. Glenn was also contacted by CBC TV who were interested in including the storied history of the 1955 Vees as part of a six part feature on the history of hockey in Canada.
In 2004 the Kelowna Art Gallery invited Glenn to once again explore the history of the Vees as a solo exhibit to coincided with the Memorial Cup which was in Kelowna that year. He created a number of new paintings for this exhibit and once again the Penticton Vees gained some well-deserved national media attention. But these moments were short-lived and the team’s achievements remained largely unknown to a wider audience until the City of Penticton installed the massive public sculpture in the roundabout outside Memorial Arena. Since the Kelowna Art Gallery exhibition, most of these paintings have remained stored in Glenn’s home studio out of sight. This is a significant body of work and it marks an important point in Glenn’s career. In talking over the ideas for the exhibition, it was mutually decided to keep the work together and display it once again as a singular body of work.
To this day Glenn continues to play rec hockey with the Penticton Tuesday Knights and he continues to donate his work annually in support many local charities including the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame. These paintings are not only a testament to the achievements of a great hockey team; they also illustrate the power of art, the value of friendship and the dogged determination of one individual looking to right a wrong and make us all aware of our past and those individuals who have contributed to our sense of national identity.