No joy in loserville

Morning Star sports editor Kevin Mitchell looks at some of the longer losing streaks in the sporting world.

Wonder how superstars Connor and Kellen Jones would have handled the Vernon Vipers’ losing streak? Eaten more chocolate bars in between periods perhaps? Borrowed one another’s stick? Traded jerseys?

Thank goodness, the slump is over, sort of. The longest losing skid in recent Vernon Junior A hockey memory, came to a close Friday night when the Vipers tied the Merritt Centennials 4-4.

Said New York Mets manager Casey Stengel: “Without losers, where would the winners be?”

Albert Einstein supposedly once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

The Vipers played decent hockey during this disturbing seven-game loserville thing. They did many of the same things over and over, but still managed to giftwrap a pair of wins to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, a mediocre team at best.

Vernon doesn’t lose two games in a row, let alone seven. Poor Jason Williamson. He gets married and becomes the Vipers’ new head coach/GM in the same summer and then bam, his team starts dropping games like they were the Washington Generals (whipping boys for the Harlem Globetrotters).

Missing his captain and major heartbeat – Patrick McGillis – Williamson made deals to change the team’s mindset. First, came intense winger Brendan Persley. Then, in the door came 20-year-old creative and fiery centre Ben Gamache.

While first place in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference already goes to the powerful Penticton Vees, the Vipers must now move forward, keep improving and be prepared for the playoffs. They don’t need grief counselling or a new set of Kootenay twins. They just need to pump up the work ethic volume.

They often say losing builds character. Not sure that is true with all the losing teams out there.

The NBA Los Angeles Clippers were founded in 1971 and long the ugly stepsister to the glamorous (and successful) Lakers, have won only 36 per cent of their games. Ever. The Clippers have only been to the playoffs seven times in 39 years. The Lakers? Fifty-six times in 61 years.

The Cleveland Spiders of 1899 Major League Baseball went 20-134 after, according to Wikipedia, its owner bought the St. Louis Browns and left the Spiders with all the chumps who were horrible hitters, poor pitchers and feeble fielders. Not sure if Nick Turik was shortstop or left field.

The Spiders’ best pitcher was Jim Hughey, who finished 4-30. In today’s game, his agent could get him three or four million a year with ease.

The Vipers are well over .500 and in a tight battle for the final three playoff spots in the Interior. They are blessed with enough talent to win way more than they lose.

The Pickering Panthers of Ontario are 2-20-7. The St. Albert Steel are 5-24-0-2. The Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritimes are 4-18.

The Grand Forks Border Bruins are 1-26. The Columbia Valley Rockies are 1-27-0-1 and the Chase Heat 1-24-1 Those Junior B teams are in serious loser territory.

Taking a look back a few years, the Junior B Westshore Stingers of Victoria were 0-48 in the 2008-09 season and 1-45-1 the next. They folded early last year when the players, upset at a lack of practice time, took warm up and then put on their civvies in protest.

After an hour delay, they returned to the dressing room, put on their hockey duds and proceeded to lose 16-0. The Stingers are taking a year’s leave of absence. And so they should.

The most losses ever by a Vernon franchise is 56, recorded by the 1977-78 Vikings and later matched by the 1994-95 Royal City Outlaws of New Westminster.

Even the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks, elite NHL teams these days, once suffered through 17-game losing streaks.

Oh, and let’s not forget pitcher Anthony Young of the Mets, who lost 27 straight outings. Guess he never lived near a highrise or bridge.

NOTES AND QUOTES: Former Morning Star reporter Brent Mutis did a fabulous job on the BCHL’s 50th season commemorative Smart Hockey magazine. He did a feature on Merritt goalie Rob Polman-Tuin, who has lived in Vernon for the past 20-plus years. Said Polman-Tuin of leaving Powell River for Merritt: “When I hitchhiked to Merritt, there were tumbleweeds blowing through town and I think it was a rodeo weekend.”…Roger Knox of this paper wrote a colourful piece on former Vernon forward Tad Campbell, who became the lead singer of Idle Eyes (big hit single Toyko Rose). Said Campbell: “The coaches – Vern Dye owned a pool hall so we all got really good at pool, which helped later in the bar-playing music days, and Odie Lowe, who always reminded me of Paul Newman in Slapshot – were fabulous. So was Don Culley my second year in Kelowna.”…Bob Nystrom, who won four Stanley Cup with the Islanders, told Mutis how he was nervous leaving his Hinton, Alta. home to play for the Kamloops Rockets. “I remember my first fight because it broke my glasses and I was mad because it cost $40 and I was only getting about $20 a month.”

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