More than 400 fans and friends from the hockey world said goodbye to beloved Vernon Vipers owner Duncan Wray Saturday at Kal Tire Place.
Head coach Mark Ferner, executive vice-president Todd Miller, B.C. Hockey League commissioner John Grisdale and Wray’s daughter, Erica, spoke from the podium at centre ice to pay last respects to Wray, who loved travelling, photography and Diet Pepsi. The current Vipers all sat on their home bench.
Duncan died in his sleep, on his 68th birthday, Thursday, Jan. 11, in Victoria. He bought the Junior A franchise from Vernon businessmen Mel Lis in 1992.
Retired NHLers Brent Gilchrist and Steve Tambellini attended the service which included a touching 15-minute video slideslow on Wray’s life. Wray’s five adult children were last to take the podium with sons Jonathan, Andrew, Nicholas and Alexander right by Erica’s side as she talked about how her father taught her about kindness and love.
Ferner, who apologized for writing his speech on the bus trip home from Prince George early Saturday morning, told stories about Wray being a consummate prankster. Wray once penned a fake press release from the BCHL to Ferner which stated that all coaches had to wear helmets at practice sessions.
“I gathered the players at centre ice and told them that if anybody laughed at my helmet, I’d trade them,” quipped Ferner. “Duncan got me.”
Viper grad Rob Short, whose number 20 hangs from the Kal Tire rafters, scores of current past team volunteers, Lis and former Vernon Laker trainer Vic Chenier and bus driver Jim Reed were also at the arena service.
A private funeral was held Saturday morning at a Vernon church. Orland Kurtenbach, the first captain in Vancouver Canuck history, was in attendance. Kurtenbach, a former BCHL ambassador and coach, now lives at Predator Ridge Golf Resort.
Ex-Viper captain Chris Crowell, who welcomed a baby boy to his world Thursday morning, made the trip from Kamloops for the church service. His number 18 was also retired by Wray.
Under Duncan’s watch, the Vipers claimed four Royal Bank Cup national titles and six Fred Page Cup league championships. He was inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Game in 2011 and his 1999 RBC-winning Vipers team joined the same shrine last year. Wray, a retired oral surgeon, was a key member of the BCHL board of governors.