The Vernon Canadians helped establish the Okanagan Valley as one of the nation’s hotbeds for senior semi-pro hockey in the 1950s. After watching clubs in the Kootenays dominate the senior circuit in the 1930s and 40s, teams like the Canadians and Penticton Vees emerged in the post-war years.
Okanagan teams benefited from a number of things: new rinks were constructed before and after World War Two; minor league hockey programs were developing better Okanagan players; excitement about hockey and the resulting good crowds meant that teams could afford to bring in semi-pro players from the east; and these ringers brought with them a rough style of hockey that became very popular with local fans.
With the construction of the new rinks, the Mainland Okanagan Amateur Hockey League was formed. This later became the Okanagan Senior Amateur Hockey League in 1951-52. This league helped develop the Penticton Vees who captured the Allan Cup Canadian championship in 1954 and the World champion in 1955.
The Canadians flourished while the Penticton Vees were in Europe winning the World Championships. Vernon’s Canadians ‹ with George Agar coaching ‹ defeated Kimberley to win the Savage Cup but lost to Fort William in the Western Finals.
The next season Vernon brought in three eastern players, beat Spokane in the first televised seniors’ game and went on to win the Allan Cup. George Costonguay was the manager and George Agar was the playing coach. The other players were: Mervin Bidoski, Orval Lavall, Tom Stecyk, Sherman Blair, Frank King, Oddie Lowe, Willie Schmidt, Harold (Hal) Gordon, John Harms, Walter Trentini, John Hart, Don McLeod, Briane Roche, Jack MacDonald, Charles Krieger and Dave Gatherum.
Semi-pro senior hockey survived until the early 1960s. However, with the high cost of compensating semi-pro players the league was in financial trouble and ceased to operate following the 1960-61 season. The year after the OSAHL folded, the Okanagan Junior ‘A’ Hockey League was formed.