Over the years, the Vernon Vipers have etched their name in the history of minor hockey in North America. As one of the most renowned teams in the junior A hockey league, the Vipers have consistently delivered remarkable performances that have left a lasting impact on the sport.
From unexpected upsets to exhilarating wins, the Vipers have had their fair share of memorable moments that have cemented their legacy in the world of hockey. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most noteworthy moments in Vernon Vipers history.
The Birth of the Vipers
The Vernon Vipers were founded in 1981 as a member of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League (BCJHL). The team was formed when the previous junior team, the Vernon Lakers, moved to Kelowna. Although it was a new team, the Vipers quickly made a name for themselves and garnered a loyal fan base in Vernon.
In their first season, the Vipers captured the league championship and went on to compete in the Centennial Cup (now known as the National Junior A Championship). The young team exceeded all expectations and reached the finals, but ultimately lost to the Guelph Platers.
However, this was just the beginning of the Vipers’ journey to become one of the most dominant teams in the BCJHL.
The President’s Cup
The Vernon Vipers’ first President’s Cup came in the 1991-1992 season, after a 25-year-old Ray Kinasewich took over as the head coach. Under Kinasewich’s guidance, the Vipers played an aggressive and style of hockey that proved to be a game-changer.
The Vipers defeated their fierce rival, the Penticton Panthers, and clinched the President’s Cup for the first time. This was the start of a rivalry that would last for decades and produce some of the most intense and exciting games in the BCJHL.
In the 1990s, the Vipers established themselves as a powerhouse in the BCJHL and went on to win four President’s Cups (1991-1992, 1992-1993, 1995-1996, and 1996-1997) and three consecutive league championships (1996-1997, 1997-1998, and 1998-1999).
The Vipers’ three-peat victory was led by head coach Troy Mick, who took over the reins in 1997. Under his guidance, the Vipers continued to dominate the league and achieved three consecutive wins, a record that still stands today.
The Miracle of 2010
In 2010, the Vernon Vipers captured the hearts of their fans with a memorable come-from-behind victory in the Centennial Cup. The Vipers had a rocky start in the round-robin tournament, but managed to secure a spot in the final against the hometown team, the Dauphin Kings.
In what is now known as the Miracle of 2010, the Vipers were down 3-0 with just 15 minutes left on the clock. However, they rallied back and scored four goals in the final period to clinch the championship and bring home the Centennial Cup for the second time in their history.
This remarkable comeback victory is still talked about today and is considered one of the greatest moments in Vernon Vipers history.
In 2014, the Vernon Vipers received international recognition when they were invited to participate in the prestigious World Junior A Challenge. The tournament features top junior A teams from around the world, and the Vipers were the first ever Canadian team to compete in the event.
Despite facing tough competition from teams like the United States and Russia, the Vipers put on a strong performance and showed the world just how talented they were. This experience gave the Vipers a global platform and paved the way for future BCJHL teams to participate in the World Junior A Challenge.
The Vipers have continued to achieve success in the BCJHL, with a total of six league championships, eight President’s Cups, and six Fred Page Cups (Western Canadian Championship) to their name. They have also produced numerous NHL players, including Andrew Hammond, Curtis Lazar, and Jamie Benn.
In the 2019-2020 season, the Vipers achieved another milestone when they won their sixth league championship and qualified for the Centennial Cup. Unfortunately, the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Vipers proved that they were still a force to be reckoned with on the ice.
The legacy of the Vernon Vipers continues to grow with each passing year, and their achievements have inspired young hockey players around the world. As we look towards the future, one thing is certain – the Vipers will continue to make history and captivate the hearts of their fans with their skill, determination, and passion for the game.