Vernon has had plenty of big moments in the close to 60 years the franchise has been in operation. In this article, I look at some of these moments, from national titles to personal achievements, from the start of the franchise to today. This is also subjective as I may have missed some key moments, but I think these moments are the most important.
The Formation of the OMJHL
You can’t start this greatest moments list without recognizing how the league began. The precursor to the BC Hockey League was the Okanagan-Mainline Junior Hockey League.
It began in 1961 with the Kamloops Rockets, Kelowna Buckaroos, Pentiction Junior Vees, and the Vernon Junior Canadians making up the league. The Junior Canadians had a rough first season, only winning seven of their 29 games.
Vernon franchise record
A Vernon record that still stands is that of Wayne Dye. The Vernon Essos player, who played with the franchise from 1967-72, still holds the record for most points as a Vernon player with 325 and most goals with 156.
First players drafted to the NHL
The 1986 National Hockey League Draft was a special time for the Vernon Lakers franchise. It marked the first time two players from the team were drafted to the NHL. The first player was defenseman Murray Baron, who was picked by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 8th round, 167th overall. The second was goaltender Scott King, who was drafted by the Detriot Red Wings in the 10th round.
Baron had an NHL career from 1990-2004. He played for five teams and had 129 points. He left professional hockey in 2004 and in the 2017-18 season, was the assistant coach of the Thompson Blazers U18 AAA of the BC U18 league.
King only played two games in the NHL, both with the Red Wings. He also won a Calder Cup with Detroit’s American Hockey League farm team in 1992.
BCHL records for a defenseman
Since 1987, a Vernon Lakers alumni have held many records for a defenseman in the BCHL. Campbell Blair holds the BCHL record for most goals by a defenseman in a season with 38 and most points from the blueline in a season with 109.
He also holds the record for most career assists for a BCHL defenseman with 169 and most career points by a dman with 247. For both of these records, he played for the Lakers, Shuswap Totems, and Summerland Buckaroos.
The first Vernon player drafted by the Vancouver Canucks
The first Vernon player drafted to the Vancouver Canucks was Dane Jackson, who was selected in the 1988 NHL Draft.
Jackson played for the Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Islanders during his NHL career. He retired from professional hockey in 2003 and has been a coach with the NCAA’s University of North Dakota since 2007.
Four consecutive trips to the National Junior A Championship
A record that still stands in Canadian junior hockey is that the Vernon franchise went to the national championship tournament four straight times, from 1989 to 1992.
The franchise won the crown in 1990 and 1991 and made it to the semi-finals in 1992, losing to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winkler Flyers. In 1989, Vernon played in the tournament’s round-robin but didn’t progress to the semis.
The first championship win
The Vernon Lakers championship win in 1990 had many firsts. It was the first title for the Vernon franchise, the first time the city of Vernon hosted the tournament, and the first time TSN broadcast the game.
Vernon was the second-best team in the BCHL’s regular season with a 33-20-5 record. In the playoffs, the Lakers won the Interior round-robin and got an automatic bye into the BCHL final. They went up against the New Westminister Royals, who were the best team in the league, and lost in six games. Although the Lakers lost, they had a bye into the Centennial Cup tournament as the host team.
Vernon finished the round-robin of the tournament with a 3-1 record. They played in the semi-final game against the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, and it was no contest. The Lakers won 11-5, and the 11 goals scored is tied for the most ever in the history of the national championship.
The championship game was between the two top BCHL teams – the Royals and the Lakers. It was an intense game because the Royals led 5-2 after the second period and were 20 minutes away from a national championship.
The Lakers put on the performance of a lifetime and clawed back to tie the game 5-5 off a goal from Cam Slyven. The forward from Calgary wasn’t done as he scored the overtime winner to give the Lakers the win, 6-5 in overtime.
The second national championship
Vernon’s second title came a year later, in 1991. The Lakers finished third in the Interior Division with a 37-20-2 record. The team went on a tear in the playoffs, losing only three games through the entire post-season to earn a berth into the Centennial Cup.
The Centennial Cup was hosted in Sudbury, Ontario, by the Cubs of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Lakers went 2-2 in the round-robin and secured a spot in the semi-finals.
Vernon played the Yorkton Terriers of the SJHL in the semi-final. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Lakers won 5-4 in overtime. The Lakers won their second meeting 7-5 to advance to the championship game.
The Lakers took on the hometown Sudbury team in the final. The Lakers doubled up the Cubs, winning 8-4 to give Vernon its second championship in two seasons.
As far as personal performances go, Scott Longstaff had one for the ages in 1991-92. He set Vernon’s franchise record for points with 160 and assists with 106 in a 60 game regular season.
Longstaff also set the record for most points in the playoffs with 47 and most assists in the postseason with 37. Both are also league records.
The third championship
The third championship in 1996 was special as it was the first national title with a new name and new owner. The Vipers were the second-best team in the BCHL with a record of 43-13-4 and had 90 points.
The Vipers flew through the playoffs, losing only five times in 24 games and sending the franchise once again to the national championship, now named the RBC Cup.
The Vipers recorded a 2-0 shutout over the host Mefort Mustangs of the SJHL to capture their third national title in franchise history.
Another record-breaking season
Jeff Cheeseman’s name is all over the Vernon Vipers record books. In 1995-96, he set the team record for points in the regular season with 118. He also set the Vipers assists record with 68. He also holds the team record for most goals in a game with six.
The fourth championship
1999 was another impressive year for the Vernon franchise, as the team won its fourth national title. The Vipers were by far the best team in the BCHL with a 52-6-2 record for 106 points.
As was the same for the previous Cup wins, the Vipers went on a tear, only losing twice while beating Merritt, Prince George, and Chilliwack in the playoffs.
Vernon also won both the Fred Page Cup as BCHL champion and the Doyle Cup regional championship, only losing twice along the way to earn their spot in the RBC Cup.
The tournament was hosted in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and the Vipers didn’t do too well in the round-robin portion. The Snakes only won one game but still qualified for the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Vernon played the Bramalea Blues of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League. The Vipers won a hard-fought game 3-2 and booked their ticket to the RBC Cup final.
Vernon’s final game was played against the Charlottetown Abbies of the Maritime Junior Hockey league, and it was a no-contest as the Vipers thumped them 9-3 and won Vernon its fourth championship.
It was quite the decade for the Vernon franchise as the Lakers and the Vipers won four titles in ten years and tied with the Prince Albert Raiders of the SJHL with four national titles.
Vipers franchise records made
Beginning in 2006, more Vipers franchise records were broken as identical twins Connor and Kellen Jones began their BCHL careers.
By the time the twins left Vernon, Kellen was the franchise leader in assists with 139 in 161 games and Connor became the franchise leader in points with 208 in 170 games.
A fifth national title
The record-breaking fifth national title came in 2009. The Vernon Vipers finished with a regular-season record of 42-14-1-3, good enough for 88 points and second place in the entire BCHL.
Similar to the last four championship runs, Vernon lost only five games en route to the RBC Cup tournament. It was the only five games the Vipes lost in the playoffs. Vernon went a perfect 4-0 in the round-robin, claiming the top seed in the semi-finals.
In the semi-final, Vernon played the Kingston Voyageurs of the OJHL. The Vipers won handly, doubling up on Kingston 6-3 and earned a chance to play for the RBC Cup.
In the final, Vernon played the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL. The Vipers won 2-0 to claim their fifth RBC Cup title and sole possession of first place for the most junior A championships won.
The sixth national title
Heading into 2009-10, there hadn’t been repeating champions since the Lakers in 1990 and 1991. The Vipers were poised to do it again as they were the best team in the BCHL with a 51-6-0-3 record and 105 points.
Unlike the other playoff rounds, Vernon had a tougher time getting to the national championship. Both the BCHL final versus Powell River and the Doyle Cup final against the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League went to seven games. Vernon won both and went to the RBC Cup for the second time in as many years.
In the tournament’s round-robin, the Vipers only lost once, to the hometown Dauphin Kings of the MJHL. The Snakes finished in second place and played the Brockville Braves of the Central Junior Hockey League. Vernon won the game 2-0 and set up a rematch with Dauphin for the RBC Cup.
The final was a no-contest as Vernon won 8-1 and nabbed the franchise’s sixth title.
In 2010, the Vipers retired Rob Short‘s number 20. He played with the Vipers from 2006-10 and was once the franchise leader in games played.
He also won two RBC Cups with the club in 2009 and 2010. Short played professional hockey from 2011-13 before a serious injury forced him to retire.
The second jersey retirement came in 2016 when the Snakes retired Chris Crowell’s number 18. The former captain played from 2004-09 and won an RBC Cup in 2009.
Crowell left Vernon and played college hockey from 2009-13 with the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
Two Vernon Vipers goalies have their names in the BCHL record books.
In 2016-17, Darion Hanson set the BCHL record for save percentage in a season with a .945. And during the 2017-18 season, Ty Taylor tied the record for most shutouts in a season with seven.