Jordie and Jamie Benn’s guide to Hockey Day in Canada host city Victoria

Victoria natives and NHL vets Jordie (right) and Jamie Benn celebrate a goal in their days suiting up together in Dallas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hockey Day in Canada is set to descend on Victoria this week, so we’ve enlisted the help of a pair of local brothers to play tour guide in the B.C. capital.

Jordie and Jamie Benn won’t be in Victoria during the festivities, which run from Jan. 17-20 — Jordie, 36, is playing pro in Sweden, and Jamie, 34, is wearing the ‘C’ in Dallas. But in the interest of making sure everyone visiting sees the best of the city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Benn bros were eager to point out some must-hit spots. 

“Obviously growing up in Victoria, it’s a special place for us, and that’s where we fine-tuned our game,” said Jamie. “I think we both think there’s no better place to grow up and play hockey. It’s exciting that Canada’s going to see a little bit more of Victoria and know some of the things that we’re all about.”

Both Benns played their minor hockey in the city, and starred with the BCHL’s Junior A Victoria Grizzlies, though they were the Salsas in Jordie’s day. The older Benn, who recently returned from captaining Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, also suited up for the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings for one season. The brothers still have family in the city, and they go back every summer.

So, what exactly is Victoria all about?

The local experts take us through their favourite things about the 2024 HDIC host, and Jamie is quick to point out that one of Victoria’s best assets is that it’s a bit of a hidden gem. “We actually don’t mind that Vancouver gets a little bit more attention than us,” he said. “You know, keep the island quiet. That’s how we like it.”

What’s an ideal tourism day in Victoria?

Jamie: So many great things to do in Victoria. We spend more of our time there in the summer than the winter now, but if you walk around the Inner Harbour, there are so many good places to eat, so many things to do. You can go to the [Fairmont] Empress Hotel. You make your way out to the Butchart Gardens. Just being down by the water in the Inner Harbour is really cool.

Jordie: If anybody’s coming in for a visit in the summer, it’s a beautiful flower garden [Burchart Gardens.] You can walk around in there. It’s very beautiful. It’s definitely something to go see when you’re coming in and checking out Victoria.

Favourite restaurant?

Jordie: Oh, geez. Umm…

Jamie: It’s got to be The Local [laughs].

Jordie: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of places down there that are unbelievable places to go eat and have a drink, or something like that. But definitely when we get back, we frequent The Local [at 105 Wharf St.] And obviously we head to a place called Romeo’s [1581 Hillside Ave. and 777 Royal Oak Dr.] for a quick late-night pizza.

But there’s also all sorts of restaurants if you just walk around downtown. I don’t think you’re going to find a bad spot. It’s one of those places that I think a lot of people take pride in what they serve.

What makes The Local great?

Jordie: It’s like our second home… The special thing about it is in the summer, they set up these big flower arrangements, and you’re right on the water. You look across the street, there’s the water. It’s buzzing downtown. The sun’s out, and you can lose yourself for a few hours on the patio at The Local.

How many pints have you two downed there in your lifetime, give or take?

Jordie: No comment. 

Fair. What cuisine is Victoria best known for?

Jamie: There’s a lot of good steak places. I think you can’t go wrong with seafood. Being on the water, getting your salmon and your oysters and your sushi. We’re very lucky to have a lot of options in Victoria.

Jordie: Yeah, it’s tough to pick one place, because we’ve been everywhere and it’s all really good.

If you were having your last-ever meal in Victoria, where would you go?

Jordie: I would go to Deep Cove Chalet [11190 Chalet Rd.]  

What would you order?

Jordie: [Laughs.] I’d have to look at the menu. Jamie, what would you get?

Jamie: I’d probably start with steak of some sort. And caesar salad. Can’t go wrong with the caesar salad.

Where do you guys buy clothes in Victoria? Do you have a favourite store?

Jamie: Uh, not really, to be honest. Victoria is a little behind the times with clothes. But that’s ok. Very simple city, which we love.

Okay… coffee?

Jamie: When we go home, we make frequent visits to Tim Hortons [there are 13 locations in Victoria; odds are you’ll run into one or two]. We get our fill of Canadian in us.

Jordie: Donuts, bagels and a double-double.

Where did you two do most of your skating and playing growing up?

Jamie: The weather really didn’t get cold enough in the winter for outdoor skating. When we were very young, there would be the odd day where a farm field would freeze over and we’d skip school and go skate on the field behind our school. But we did a lot of road hockey growing up. And then all our minor hockey was at Panorama Recreation Centre [1885 Forest Park Dr.]

Jordie: Panorama is one of those places that, when you walk in, it has a certain smell to it. Even when we come back now and we’re older, it’s one of those things — it just has this smell and it brings back childhood memories. And that’s where we grew up. We spent so much time there with our mom and dad taking us to early morning hockey practice. A lot of memories and a lot of good friendships were made there. It’s one of those rinks that’s very special to us. 

Are your pictures up in that arena?

Jordie: You might see our faces at Panorama. I haven’t been back in a while. Jamie might know — you skated there in the summer.

Jamie: Yeah, there’s a few pictures of us floating around there now.  

How often did you two get the chance to play together during your minor hockey days?

Jordie: We just played Junior hockey together [with the Grizzlies; both Benns have their numbers retired]. We never played minor hockey together, but all our friends that we grew up with, we always had a chance to — Greg Scott, a buddy of ours, who’s actually beside me right now, he played with me one year and then I’d move up to the next level and then Greg would play with Jamie.

Any vivid memories from playing together on the Grizzlies?

Jamie: A lot of good memories. We started playing in Victoria for the Grizzlies together, one year together, and then down the road years later playing an NHL game together [the first time was Jan. 3, 2012, when both Benns suited up for Dallas]. I think that was pretty special for us. I think we probably both remember walking into the rink and going up against the Detroit Red Wings with all their legendary players. It was a pretty cool experience to have, to share with your big brother, and very cool for our family as well.

Is Victoria getting better known as a hockey city?

Jamie: Yeah, I think it’s definitely growing. I think Victoria is making big steps in boys and girls hockey, and now we have more than a few players come out of Victoria that are playing professionally in the NHL or overseas. And you look at Micah Zandee-Hart, she’s played for the women’s Olympic team and I think she is a big part of hockey in Victoria for young girls and someone that they can look up to. And we feel that we are hockey players that the little guys can look up to as well.

How important is that for you to be role models for kids in Victoria who want to pursue a career in hockey?

Jamie: I think it’s so important, because being youngsters, you know, playing hockey was a big dream. And we all have our favourite players, we all have our role models, or someone to look up to. When we were those little guys, we looked up to the Courtnalls [Russ and Geoff, who grew up on Vancouver Island] and we looked up to our favourite players in the NHL and at the time they seemed so much older. And then obviously we were fortunate enough to make it, and when you’re going through it, you’re really not that old. You’re in your early 20s and these kids are 12, 13 years old asking you for pictures and autographs. It’s a neat moment, but we want to set a great example for young kids growing up that goals are achievable and you’ve got to dream big to get somewhere. We just want to set a great example and be those role models for those little kids.

Len Barrie is another one of those NHLers from Victoria that has an impact on young players and certain individuals. Just for myself, he was a big part in my hockey career and helped me out in guiding me on what to do, and kind of led me to the WHL instead of college, and I can’t thank him enough for some of his guidance when I was a young guy.

Is there anything else hockey fans should know about your hometown ahead of Hockey Day in Canada?

Jamie: Victoria is full of a lot of kind people and it’s a very nice city, and we’re both proud to be from there.

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