Lisa Mazurek Photography

Vipers captain Elliott embraces final BCHL season

Vernon Vipers captain Connor Elliott is trying to soak in all he can about his final junior season with his hometown team.

The 20-year-old from Coldstream, B.C., which is part of Greater Vernon, is in his fourth and final British Columbia Hockey League campaign. Last season, he was swapped to the Vipers.

“(I’m) enjoying getting to go to the rink every day, playing hockey, and living out the dream right now,” the veteran defender said. “(I’m) focusing on being the best I can for myself and for the team.”

The Vipers are counting on Elliott to contribute in several ways. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder defends on the blue line but can also chip in offensively. Elliott had 24 points, including three goals, in 40 games last season. As well, Elliott leads as the team’s captain.

“Connor is a great kid,” said Vernon assistant coach Colton Sparrow. “He understands what it means to be a Vernon Viper. It’s a privilege and he understands that.”

“He shows up every day ready and willing to do whatever it takes. He is generally a quiet kid, but he holds a presence about him that his peers respect,” continued Sparrow. “I am very excited for Connor as a local kid to wear the ‘C’ and do as great of a job as he is doing.”

Vernon’s local captain tradition

Elliott continues a strong tradition of local Vipers captains such as Garth Gartner, Kori Davison, Chad Murray, Dave Robinson, and Jagger Williamson — all since 1997. He is honoured to be among those names. “I’m going to make the most of it and do my best to lead the team and do my best for the team,” said Elliott, who feels he can best help lead the Vipers by setting the pace for his teammates.

“Just playing my hardest,” he said. “(I’m) trying to lead by example (and) show some younger kids what it looks like. (I’m) trying to be a good role model, trying to do all the little things right, (like) play my hardest, give it my all (and) not leave anything on the table.”

Elliott looks to finish his junior career where he got his start in hockey. Growing up, he developed his game with the Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association. Elliott then went to play in Kelowna for the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy and the Okanagan Rockets U16 AAA and U18 AAA teams. As a youth, he attended Vipers’ games.

“Once I started getting seriously into hockey, I was kind of watching the Vipers and thinking that’d be a really awesome thing to be able to do once I was older,” Elliott said. “Getting to the junior level was always something I thought would be cool — to play for the Vipers, get that experience, (and) being able to put on that jersey.”

In 2019-20, he played four games for the BCHL’s Penticton Vees as an affiliate player. Elliott jumped to the league the following campaign and skated with the Prince George Spruce Kings during the pod season. His 2021-22 season was split between the Spruce Kings and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Last season, Elliott was acquired by the Vipers partway through the season in exchange for forward Luke Lavery and future considerations.

“(I was) a little bit in shock being traded, but once I got over that, I was super excited to come back to Vernon,” he said. “Obviously being from Vernon, it is an exciting thing to play for my hometown team and put on that jersey that I spent so many years wearing in minor hockey. It was an exciting opportunity for me for sure.”

Enjoying life back home

Elliott appreciates living back at home and is enjoying many aspects of suiting up for the Vipers.

“The fans here are awesome. It’s a really fun rink to be able to play in and to play at home. Obviously, being at the rink, I love all the guys. All the coaches are really great and it’s a really fun place to be. I enjoy being at the rink every day and playing at home is a cool little added bonus.”

In the future, Elliott would like to compete at the NCAA Division I level while studying medical sciences or kinesiology. For now, Elliott is focused on the Vipers and experiencing all he can.

“I want to take in each and every day going to the rink, being around the guys, and getting to play hockey,” Elliott said. “I’m focused on enjoying that experience and getting the most out of it I can.”