McDonald off to QMJHL

It’s not often a junior hockey player will turn down the opportunity to play with the Vernon Vipers.

Bruin McDonald did that Wednesday, just hours after the Vipers acquired the 18-year-old blueliner from the Victoria Grizzlies in exchange for future considerations at the B.C. Hockey League Dec. 1 trade deadline.

McDonald, a Coquitlam product with Western Hockey League experience, instead opted to try his luck with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, according to Vipers’ head coach/GM Mark Ferner. Including his brush with the Snakes, it will be his fifth junior team in two seasons.

“You think you have your team settled and something like this happens,” shrugged Ferner.

“I’m not going to have a kid here that doesn’t want to be here,” he added, noting there is no working player agreement between the BCHL and QMJHL.

The Vernon bench boss doesn’t plan on releasing the rights to McDonald until he collects on the future considerations.

The Dec. 1 deadline reduces each team’s allotted cards from 35 to 25, and with the McDonald deal collapsing, Ferner will still have the full 25 available (22 roster players plus three spare cards). Barring injury, he believes the Vipers can manage with six defencemen.

“We have some APs (affiliate players) that can step in,” said Ferner, who plans to keep searching for another defenceman.

The Vipers brought McDonald in to replace outgoing d-man Elliott Richardson, who was sent to the Quesnel Millionaires along with netminder Bryton Udy in exchange for goaltender Kirby Halcrow in an earlier deal Wednesday.

McDonald appeared in 14 games for the Grizzlies, collecting one goal and four assists. He spent last season with the WHL Prince George Cougars, and started this year with the Spokane Chiefs.