It is a dilemma many B.C. Hockey League organizations would kill for – having to plan for next season while being in the midst of a playoff drive.
That has been the case the last three seasons for the Vernon Vipers as they hosted their annual spring prospects camp while simultaneously trying to record a third straight national Junior A title.
A field of about 80 Viper hopefuls, including many Vernon minor hockey products, attended the camp last weekend as the Snakes were busy hosting the Spruce Grove Saints in Games 1 and 2 of the Doyle Cup regional championship series.
“No question, it was a long weekend, but we spent time there,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner. “There were some good, young kids there that will have an opportunity to play here, whether it’s this year (2011-12) or next year.”
One of Vernon’s greatest off-season concerns will come on the blue line where veterans Adam Thompson, Stevie Weinstein and Malcolm Lyles are all heading off to play NCAA Division 1 next fall.
Ferner has already addressed the situation somewhat with the signing of coveted blueliner Geoff Crisfield of the Calgary Major Midget Royals last month, but knows more additions are needed.
“We have some guys identified now. It’s just a matter of making sure we’re looking after what we’re doing right now, and then trying to fill some spots with guys leaving.”
The spring camp, which featured numerous 16-year-olds, also gave Vernon’s scouting staff a look at future prospects that won’t be ready for another year or two.
“Depending on the age of the kids, they come for different reasons and the feedback that we got was that they enjoyed it and it was a great experience,” said Ferner.
Meanwhile, several Midget-age players from Vernon attended the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League North Okanagan Knights’ prospect camp last weekend in Winfield.
The Knights have replaced head coach Sylvan Leone with last year’s assistant Kris Mallette, 32, a former Kelowna Rocket and Moose Jaw Warriors who spent nine years playing defence in the minor leagues. He was a third-round Philadelphia Flyer draft pick in 1997.