The Vernon Vipers have added a Stanley Cup ring to their coaching staff.
Retired NHLer and Vernon minor hockey grad Eric Godard will be an assistant under head coach Jason Williamson this B.C. Hockey League season.
“It feels good being in your hometown. I know the city well and both coaches already, so the transition is going pretty easily,” said Godard, who won the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008-09 season.
Godard retired following the 2011-12 campaign and started his coaching career last season with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks. As an assistant, he worked alongside the other new Vipers’ coach Kevin Kraus. The SilverBacks went 25-24-1-8 and missed the playoffs.
Godard and Kraus reunite once again following the departure of assistants Kris Mallette and Dave Robinson.
“We never really planned on this,” said Kraus. “When I decided to come to Vernon, I called him one day to see if Salmon Arm talked to him about an extension. At that point he hadn’t heard anything. I like to think I put the bug in his ear and it worked out for the best.”
Godard brings 335 NHL games and a 12-year pro career into the Vipers’ locker room.
“I definitely think I’m different than the other coaches. I want to be a players’ coach, someone that is easy to talk to and gets along with the players,” said Godard.
Added Kraus, “He is a real good guy, he keeps the room fun and entertaining.”
New Vipers’ captain Riley Guenther grew up in Calgary where Godard played from 2006-08.
“It’s pretty cool working with someone that you’ve seen on T.V. a bunch of times. I grew up an (Edmonton) Oilers fan, but I remember seeing him fight before, I think I saw him drop (Derek) Boogaard once.”
The captain is just getting acquainted with the soft-spoken, six-foot-four former enforcer, but is looking forward to working together this season.
“Obviously he has a lot of experience and he was a tenacious player back then. We know he’s going bring that attitude to our team and it’s only going to make us better,” said Guenther.
Even after earning six goals, 18 points and racking up 833 penalty minutes with the New York Islanders, Flames and Penguins, one of Godard’s biggest achievements was when his son Otto was born earlier this summer.
“Being a dad has been fun. You can start to see changes in him everyday now,” said Godard. “It has given me a different perspective on dealing with players this year compared to last year. I gotta grow up I guess.”
Godard plans on getting a stick into Otto’s hand as soon as possible, but in the meantime, he is focused on finalizing the Viper roster.
The Vipers begin a home and home exhibition series with the SilverBacks tonight in Salmon Arm. with the return match Saturday 6 p.m., at Kal Tire Place. The coaching staff will make cuts following the mini series.
They are carrying 15 forwards, nine defencemen and two goalies. Williamson needs to release three forwards and a pair of blueliners.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s Zach McPhee, 21, will play for the CIS University of Regina Cougars. The towering centre played four years in the WHL, including the last two with the Kootenay Ice. He supplied 12 goals and 24 points with the Ice. McPhee spent 24 games with the Vipers in the 2010-11 season. He joins Erik Benoit (Penticton Vees), Dylen McKinlay (2012-13 Kelowna Rockets) and Tyler Giebel (Royal Bank Cup champion Yorkton Terriers) as freshmen forwards. Devon McMullen of Yorkton is the lone rookie on defence. Ex-Viper Lucas Gore is a senior goalie. The Cougars enjoyed three exhibition games in Switzerland and Germany last week…Vernon’s Cole Woodliffe rang up a hat trick as the Summerland Steam shaded the host Princeton Posse 4-3 in KIJHL exhibition play Tuesday night. Woodliffe, a forward, played for the Vernon Home Hardware Midget Vipers last season, getting summoned to the KIJHL North Okanagan Knights nine times (scored three goals)… Ex-Viper Demico Hannoun converted a breakaway as Team Blue won the Peaches Cup, 5-4, over Team White at Vees’ camp.