KELOWNA, British Columbia -- This is hockey country, boating country and, of course, wine country.
Two years ago, the Anaheim Ducks had a couple of days off between games in their Western Conference Second Round against the Calgary Flames. They went to one of the most beautiful spots in the world -- Banff, Alberta, - to decompress, practice and enjoy nature. You could say spotting a bear on the way to practice served that purpose.
This time, with two days off before Game 4 in Edmonton, the Ducks traveling party picked another travelogue spot: Kelowna, British Columbia. It is about an hour flight from Edmonton and home of the Western Hockey League, the Kelowna Rockets.
"Actually, the bus ride from downtown Edmonton to the airport is longer than the flight we took to (Kelowna)," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said on Monday.
The Ducks practiced at the Rockets arena, Prospera Place, on Monday and Tuesday before heading back to Edmonton. After practice on Monday, many of the Ducks players and coaches spent time studying the murals in the hallway of former Kelowna Rockets greats and current NHLers: Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn.
Alas, hockey season is over in Kelowna. On Sunday, the Seattle Thunderbirds eliminated the Kelowna Rockets, winning the best-of-7 series, 4-2.
It's still too early for a full schedule of water sports. But it's not too early for a full schedule of wine tasting. That's the other full-on passion in the Okanagan Valley.
The Ducks practice schedule did not allow me time to visit local wineries -- yes, that's really true - but I had time for a quick tasting at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort on Monday night.
Sitting with me were a couple from Banff who had come back from visiting four wineries in one afternoon and were intent on matching that output on the remaining two days of their trip. It reminded me of a hockey fan or baseball fan trying to see as many games as possible in a short period of time.
Our wine guide, Colin Barr, was like a patient schoolteacher. We tried a Reserve Shiraz from Mission Hill Family Estate and a Chenin Blanc from Quails' Gate, and a Rosé from the 50th Parallel Estate Winery.
"It's meant to be a rosé,'' Barr said. "From the moment they planted those grapes, it was intended to be that. The grapes are bit more ripe, more plump."
This felt like venturing into the analytics of wine.
"Over 300 labels of exclusively Okanagan wines," Barr said. "Just in the room behind you. The room you are in right now is more for serving wines by the glass. You don't have to worry too much about climate stability or storage temperature."
So if you want to catch some junior hockey next season and spent a few afternoons of wine tasting, Kelowna would seem to be at the top of the list for combining those two passions.