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Catching up with Vipers great Hunter Bishop


Hunter Bishop played in two and a half seasons in Vernon between 2005 and 2008. He was known for being a goalscorer and leader, on and off the ice. It’s been 12 years since Bishop last played for the Snakes and since then he played pro in both North America and Europe and began his own hockey school. I recently caught up with the Fairbanks, Alaska product, who now lives in Charleston, South Carolina, to chat about his career and post-retirement life.

His time in Vernon

Bishop holds the Vipers franchise record for in goals in a season with 57 and the all-time leader in goals with 93 in 140 career games. He credits his 97 point season in 2007-08 to two twin rookies who were making their BCHL debut – the Jones brothers.

“There were two reasons I was so successful. One’s name was Connor, and the other name’s Kellen. I pulled them over to the side and said ‘I probably won’t come past the top of the circles once this entire season, so you two go down there and do your thing, and if you find me somewhere in the top of the circles, we’ll have a good year.’ I was joking – but I wasn’t.”

Bishop says Vernon had a significant role when he signed his first pro contract with the Montreal Canadians in 2010. “I was labelled as a guy who could score goals, I had that confidence in my game, and I think that’s why I was able to come in and put up the numbers that I did the two years I was there (in Vernon) and ultimately what earned me my first NHL contract.”

After two seasons with Ohio State University, Bishop played in the American Hockey League with a number of clubs, as well as in the ECHL with a couple of different teams between 2010 and 2014.

Playing in Europe

He signed a contract with Olimpija Ljubljana of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga in 2014 and says it wasn’t hard to adjust to a new city and country.

“I never struggled with getting accustomed to surroundings and people speaking another language. I always loved that. In my first year in Slovenia, I showed up, and we had two or three imports. I loved diving into the culture and getting along with the local Slovenian guys.”

Bishop played one season in Slovenia before signing a contract with HC Innsbruck of the EBEL before the 2015-16 season. Innsbruck was the highlight of his career as he had his best year as a pro in 2016-17 with 49 points in 54 games.

“Innsbruck was my favourite place as a pro, it was the Vernon of my professional career, and I’ll say that forever. It was a combination of being beautiful, the people involved in the organization; it ran a lot like a family, like the way (former Vipers owner) Duncan Wray used to run things. I had great teammates, and it was some of the best years of hockey.”

In 2018, Bishop signed a deal with the Belfast Giants of the Elite Ice Hockey. He says he’s never seen a fanbase quite like the fans in Belfast. “That city is nuts about hockey and it’s not nuts anywhere else in the entire United Kingdom but Belfast.” He then retired from professional hockey in 2019 after a ten-year career.

Joining the coaching ranks

This past season, Bishop stepped into a new role as head coach and general manager of the Charleston Colonials’ Premier and Elite teams. The Colonials are members of the United States Premier League. Bishop says coaching was a challenge, but he wanted to bring the junior experience to his team.

“I knew it would be a great opportunity, a lot of the kids here in Charleston I’ve been working with for five to six years already through my camps, so I knew a lot of the players. I was excited about the opportunity to work with those guys. Hopefully, give them a similar experience that I had because junior hockey was the best years of my life.”

As a coach, Bishop reinforces the idea of skill development and recruited a younger team to do this.

“I promoted skill development, and I believe that’s the trend of the game. Coaches and teams that aren’t doing it are falling behind. It’s becoming a normal thing now at the pro level and on down.” Bishop stepped away from coaching in this offseason to focus full-time on his hockey camps.

Hunter Bishop Hockey

In 2016, Bishop began Hunter Bishop Hockey in Charleston. For younger players, he holds week-long camps, and for older players in the junior, pro, and college levels, the camps run all summer. Bishop’s passion for hockey camps began as a child, going to as many as he could, and a love for training. He wants to give back to the game that has brought so much to him.

“Those moments as a young kid really impact you. The game has been great to me and I love having the opportunity to set up camps and work with hundreds of kids over the summer and hopefully have some kind of impact. It’s my passion in life and that’s why I’ve decided to do what I’m doing full time.”

Last summer HBH expanded to the city of Greensborough, North Carolina, and will become a staple camp for years to come. Bishop says he has plans to expand to other cities in the future.

Bishop says Vernon played a massive role in his playing career and he’s not afraid to tell players where they should go play hockey. “I tell people all the time. Guys ask me, ‘What do you think of this league or that league?’ I say, ‘Guys it’s really easy, you go to the BCHL and you go to Vernon.'”