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Local Roots
An aerial view of Brandon, Man., with a population of nearly 50,000. // photo by Tim Smith
An aerial view of Brandon, Man., with a population of nearly 50,000 // photo by Tim Smith

Bright Lights

He went from Wheat City to Sin City. For professional hockey scout Vaughn Karpan [BA/85], Brandon, Man., will always be the place that set in motion a career leading to the Stanley Cup final alongside the Vegas Golden Knights.

This director of player personnel for the NHL’s newest expansion team, who helped assemble a nearly unstoppable roster in their inaugural season, doesn’t believe he’d be where he is today without the influential people he met playing hockey in Manitoba’s second largest urban centre.

“It’s a farming community at heart, so they’re really honest, humble and hard-working, and I mean all those things as compliments,” says Karpan. “There are no hidden agendas in Brandon—they’re welcoming people.”

While the bright lights of Brandon may be far from The Strip, this prairie city is well represented: the Golden Knights organization boasts six former members of the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings among its hockey family, including fellow University of Manitoba Bison alumnus Bob Lowes [BRS/89], assistant director of player personnel.

“I guess I did my job. We all did in terms of the scouts. And the players we put our trust in probably made us look a little smarter than we really are,” Karpan jokes.

Moving from The Pas, Man., to Brandon as a young hockey player in 1978, he spent three critical years there, playing for the Brandon Travellers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, the Wheat Kings and the Brandon University Bobcats.

Karpan then headed down the Trans-Canada Highway to play for the Bisons, scoring 98 goals as captain, and eventually suited up with Team Canada for two Olympics.

During his 26 years in the NHL as a scout, he sought out talent for the original Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens. Among his finds: Blake Wheeler, current captain of the Winnipeg Jets, whom the Golden Knights unceremoniously knocked out of the playoffs.

“You’re always pleased to win a series,” says Manitoba-born Karpan, “no matter who you’re playing.”

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