Defenceman Jason Bird (left) ties up forward TJ Dumonceaux in Vernon Viper practice Wednesday at Wesbild Centre. Bird will make his Viper debut tonight against his former team as the Snakes host the Coquitlam Express at Wesbild Centre.
Bird back on Vernon Viper blue linePublished: January 31, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: January 31, 2013 4:19 PM
Morning Star Staff
The last time Jason Bird played in a B.C. Hockey League game, he still had a tan.
The Etobicoke, Ont. native, then playing with the Coquitlam Express, injured his shoulder in a freak accident on opening day of the Showcase event in Chilliwack way back in September.
Five months later and Bird is ready to suit up for Game No. 2, only this time it will be as a member of the Vernon Vipers. Ironically, the 19-year-old defenceman’s return will be against his former team as the Snakes host the Express tonight at Wesbild Centre.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Bird, who became a free agent when Coquitlam de-carded him in December to make room on their roster. He was quickly signed by Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson.
“I’m really excited to play, especially against my old team. I’m pretty confident about my shoulder. I’ve been working pretty hard so hopefully it holds up.”
Bird, listed at 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, compiled two goals, 10 assists and 37 penalty minutes in 52 games with Coquitlam last season. He said the road to recovery has been a tedious one.
“The first couple of months were pretty brutal. I just sat at home and didn’t do much. Just sat in a sling. The last three months have been at physio and in the gym.
“It feels good to be back to normal.”
The 18-25-1 Express are similar to the 14-21-0-7 Vipers in two regards. First, both teams occupy last place in their respective divisions, and both unloaded a trio of talented forwards – for Coquitlam, it was Mitch Nardi, Philip Zielonka and John Siemer – at the carding deadline.
“It looks like they’re rebuilding for next year but they still have some good, young guys,” said Bird. “We can’t take them too lightly.
“We have to come in (tonight) desperate for those two points. It’s not just going to be an easy game so we’ve got to be hungry.”
The Vipers have an even more important date Saturday night as they host the Salmon Arm SilverBacks at Wesbild.
The 19-18-2-4 ‘Backs hold the final Interior playoff spot, nine points ahead of Vernon. Win both weekend games and the Vipers can make things interesting. Lose either one and their playoff hopes will be on life support.
“We have to make sure it’s our best effort and leave everything on the ice,” said Williamson, who celebrated the birth of his first child, daughter Maddex Mariah-Jane, with wife Kristin, on Saturday.
“If we can get two wins this weekend, we put ourselves in a good spot. If we don’t, it’s going to be an uphill battle from here on out.”
Regarding the birth of his daughter, Williamson chuckled: “I didn’t get much sleep before this but now it’s very limited.
“It’s been great and a tremendous experience. I’ve been to intense Royal Bank Cup finals and witnessing (the birth) was probably the highlight of my life.”
The Vipers are hosting Faith Night at tonight’s game, with all churches earning discounted tickets for sections H,J and K.
Meanwhile, the North Okanagan Knights had their 10-game KIJHL win streak snapped Wednesday night when they lost 5-3 to the Sicamous Eagles before 175 fans at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Quin Rempel, Corbin Marcott, Dominick Hodges, Brendan Devries and Cameron Berry scored for Sicamous, who moved within seven points of the Doug Birks Division-leading Knights.
Mat Lambert, with his 19th goal of the season, Mac Ferner, with his ninth, and David London, with his second, countered for the Knights, who led 2-1 after one period. It was 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Lambert picked up two helpers and earned second star behind Devries. The Knights have six games left and host Chase tonight (7:30).