He was a fan favourite during his three seasons with the Vernon Vipers, and now Aaron Volpatti is lending his name to the organization that helped launch him towards an NHL career.
The hard-nosed forward, now with the Vancouver Canucks, will be in attendance Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Wesbild Centre as the Vipers entertain the West Kelowna Warriors in B.C. Hockey League action. As the newly appointed honorary chair of Vernon’s Royal Bank Cup committee, Volpatti will be at the RBC booth on the concourse, greeting fans and signing autographs.
Vernon is hosting the RBC national Junior A hockey championships in May 2014.
“I’m honoured to help in any way I can,” said Volpatti. “It’s a cool thing they have this coming.”
The 27-year-old is currently caught up in the NHL lockout. Despite playing on a two-way contract, Volpatti wasn’t sent down by the Canucks to their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, due to waiver issues.
Until the NHL and the players’ association come to a new collective bargaining agreement, Volpatti remains in limbo. He trains in Vernon, and skates with the Vipers along with Vernon’s Jerred Smithson (Florida Panthers).
Having spent the last year recovering from shoulder surgery, Volpatti knows he needs to play. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing in Europe.
“Hopefully I’m not here too much longer, but if I am I can come to the odd game, and whether they want me to sign some autographs or whatever it is I’m happy to help,” said Volpatti.
“I’m just kind of waiting like everyone else right now.”
Don Klepp, the RBC committee’s communications director, says Volpatti is an ideal ambassador to help promote the event.
“It took him about three nanoseconds when he was asked,” said Klepp.
“He’s a natural for this because he was such a fan favourite. He continues to spend time in Vernon and practises with the players. He’s an inspiration for the players when they see how hard he works.”