Vernon’s own Rogers Hometown Hockey hero

Kelly Zawyrucha, 54, is a truck driver and transportation logistics manager for the tour, which comes to town Jan. 21 & 22

Vernon’s Kelly Zawyrucha is an integral part of the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour. The truck driver is in charge of transportation logistics.

Vernon’s Kelly Zawyrucha is an integral part of the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour. The truck driver is in charge of transportation logistics.

He’s a hometown guy, but he won’t appear on stage next Sunday with hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone.

He won’t be interviewed between periods of the NHL game on Sportsnet between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks.

But without Vernon’s Kelly Zawyrucha, Rogers Hometown Hockey doesn’t happen.

Zawyrucha, 54, is a truck driver and transportation logistics manager for the tour, working for Brampton, Ont.-based OTSFF Motorsports. In his delightfully named rig Barney, The Big Purple Truck an homage to the beloved purple dinosaur children’s character he hauls blocks that are used to hold down set tents and other matters.

Part of his job is to check out travel conditions for his grocery list of transportation units involved with the cross-Canada jaunt that began in October and ends in April.

“I look after that responsibility for our units,” said Zawyrucha from Moose Jaw earlier in January, where he was on a quest to have a selfie taken (and accomplished) with the legendary Moose Jaw Moose statue on the city’s outskirts.

“It’s my job to make sure the drivers and rigs are fine. The biggest part right now is keeping track of highway conditions and the weather.”

Zawyrucha, a former Armstrong paramedic, looks after five OTSFF trucks, the Sportsnet mobile studio for MacLean and Slone, two moving vans, the Dr. Oetker, McDonald’s McCafe and Rogers Virtual trailers along with support vehicles.

In his truck-driving career, Zawyrucha has driven for NASCAR and the Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem and Uproar concert tour. He has also driven for Yamaha and Honda.

This is his first year with the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The East Coast was wonderful, such friendliness and hospitality.”

When the tour reached Grand Falls Windsor, NL, and Zawyrucha stepped out of Barney, it meant he had set foot in every Canadian province and territory, as well as all 50 United States.

Zawyrucha is looking forward to being in his hometown next weekend, playing tour guide for the Rogers Hometown Hockey crew.

“Thanks to my ties with racing, we’re going to do some snowmobiling on Hunter’s Range,” he said. “And we’re going to go to a Vipers game and a (Kelowna) Rockets game.”

Zawyrucha and crew do more than just drive. They arrive at their destinations on a Thursday and help set up and tear down the Rogers Hometown Hockey set (which will be at Vernon’s Spirt Square at City Hall during its time here next weekend). Sundays are his day off to catch up on his sleep until the show is over. Then it’s tear-down and load time, which takes about five-to-six hours, and off to the next venue.

The Hometown Hockey tour started in Newmarket, Ont. From there, Zawyrucha and company have driven to St. John, NB, Grand Falls Windsor, Halifax, Montreal, Windsor, Timmins, Barrie, Stratford, Milton and Petawawa all in Ontario before heading west to Moose Jaw, Vancouver this weekend and Vernon, arriving Thursday.

The tour takes a week off for the NHL All-Star Break before hitting the road again for the final portion which starts in Edmonton, then goes to Cochrane, Alta., Cranbrook, Nanaimo, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster (both the Alberta and Saskatchewan sides of the border city), Ottawa, Portage la Prairie, Man., Guelph, Ont. and finishing in Hamilton April 8 and 9.

“Newfoundland has been my favourite part of the tour,” said Zawyrucha. “In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we ate a lot of lobster. And the people were just so friendly and amazing.”

The two-day Rogers Hometown Hockey celebration gets underway Saturday at noon at Vernon City Hall (SpiritSquare), running until 6 p.m., and concludes Sunday evening following the Rogers Hometown Hockey outdoorviewing party (12-7 p.m.).

The event is open to the public free of charge.

Sunday evening’s broadcast kicks off with a special pre-game show hosted live on-site by MacLean and Slone from the Sportsnet Mobile Studio beginning at 4 p.m. on Sportsnet, followed by a showdown between the Canucks and Blackhawks.

Former Vancouver Canucks goalie Kirk McLean will join the weekend festivities, and local Hometown Hockey heroes Eddie Johnstone, Brent Gilchrist, Jerred Smithson and Dean McAmmond are also expected to take part.

The free hockey-themed weekend will feature games, activities, live local entertainment and food trucks for the whole family. Included in the fun are the Rogers Fan Hub, which features innovative and technology-driven interactive experiences; Rogers NHL Viewing Room, where fans go in inside the NHL Situation Room to advise on a challenged play; the Scotiabank Community Locker Room, which features meet and greets with NHL alumni,interactive games and recent NHL highlights; the Dodge Family Zone with a hockey-themed obstacle course;McDonald’s Ball Hockey Rink and Dr. Oetker Guiseppe Pizzaria.