Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BCHL Vipers certainly have look of stability

MARK FERNER must be breathing easier these days. There is the promising air of stability written all over this year’s edition of the Vernon Vipers.
Even though the first few days of any training camp always brings knots to one’s stomach, there should be less reason to gulp down huge quantities of Alka-Seltzer, for the solid BCHL club has learned a great deal under Ferner’s leadership.
Despite early apprehension in the season just passed, the Vipers staved off criticism and made excellent lineup changes during the 60-game schedule and eventually stormed into the league final, losing in the sixth game to the Nanaimo Clippers.
After former Vipers’ GM Troy Mick decided to move on to a real-estate organization in Mexico; head coach Mark Holick leaving to run the WHL’s Kootenay Ice and Vipers’ associate coach Bernie Pimm joining Kal Tire’s management team, club owner Dr. Duncan Wray was confronted with a monstrous headache.
But as usual, Dr. Wray selected the right man in Ferner, one who lives by the code of “honesty, integrity and character,” which really is a rarity in these days of hyper-egos.
In a September 2007 column, Ferner told me that he hadn’t expected to join the Vipers. After being fired by a former teammate and then GM-head coach Dean Clark of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Ferner had planned to “drop out” of hockey and pursue a small venture in connection with his wife Jody’s interior design business.
Then fate stepped in.
While Ferner was watching his son, Mackenzie, in a minor-league game, he had a chance to talk with Mick, who had been with the Blazers during the 2002-03 season. It was then the personable Mick told him of his real-estate plans.
Ferner was actually bent on staying out of coaching, but that was until another meeting with Mick and Dr. Wray.
“(Duncan) emphasized my own code of honesty, integrity and character during our meetings and that’s what convinced me in joining the Vipers,” said Ferner last September.
While assistant general manager and radio play-by-play broadcaster Todd Miller noted that at least 60 would be attending training camp, which opened Tuesday afternoon, a solid nucleus from last season also would be on hand.
Most notable among the missing was prolific goal scorer and leader, Hunter Bishop, who has moved on to Ohio State. However, his two linemates, Kellen and Connor Jones, will be back once again.
The popularity and skill of the Jones’ twins was sensational last season as the pair brought the Vipers’ fans to their feet time and time again.
Other returnees include goalie Andrew Hammond, along with defencemen Kevin Kraus, Kyle Bigos, Cody Ikkala, Justin Palazzo and Steve Tresierra while up front will be Braden Pimm, Chris Crowell, John Digness, Rob Short, Trent Dorais, Dallas Goodrunning and Brock Palasty.
Those moving on from last year’s contingent besides Bishop include Justin Thomas, Scott Zurevinski, Isaac Smeltzer, Greg Beller and Ryan Kakoske. Lucas Gore, who combined with Hammond in the Vernon nets last season, will be attending the WHL Chilliwack training camp.
In addition, forward Brett Switzer and defenceman Adam Thompson from the Calgary Buffaloes along with Steven Weinstein from LA are expected to be standouts during the Vernon camp.
THAT’S ICE: Ferner and assistant coach Jason Williamson will be sorting out the right combination in the next fortnight. The first BCHL game will be against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at Wesbild Centre on Friday, Sept. 5. The following night, the two sides battle again in Salmon Arm.


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