Vipers in good hands

Who’s going to be the next head coach of the Vernon Vipers?

Who’s going to be the next head coach of the Vernon Vipers? If I pocketed a toonie for every time I was asked that, I could buy shares in the new Las Vegas NHL team.

The BCHL Vipers are receiving e-mailed resumes every 10 minutes and owner Duncan Wray is conducting interviews by phone from his primary home in Victoria and preparing a shortlist.

Or is he simply going through the process to see who’s out there and waiting for Mark Ferner to leave the Kamloops Blazers as an associate coach with Don Hay? Ferner, if you just moved here, guided the Snakes to three straight Royal Bank Cup appearances, winning two titles and losing 2-1 in the final of the third try.

Some say the Vipers would have won the RBC on home ice if Ferner was at the helm and not the much younger Jason Williamson, who had served under Ferner.

Maybe, but Williamson, who has a great eye for talent and pulled off some excellent trades, somehow got the Vipers past the highly favoured Penticton Vees in the Interior Conference final. In Game 7 on the road. Pretty impressive.

It wasn’t Williamson’s fault his No. 1 goalie, Austin Smith, had his worst first period of the season, in a semifinal loss to the eventual champion Yorkton Terriers.

This would have been Willy’s year to prove he was worthy of the job. Through solid recruiting and some luck – Thomas Aldworth – landed here after confusing Langley with Vernon, the Vipers are young, but skilled. Reaching the playoffs was realistic and would have taken some superior coaching by Willy.

Williamson, who owns a teacher’s degree from Niagara University in New York State, will take time to get his personal life sorted out. I hope somebody gives him another chance down the road.

In the meantime, Wray has the luxury of talented 25-year-old Kevin Kraus and ex-NHLer Eric Godard running the show. From all reports, Kraus did a fabulous 70-hour a week job as head coach/GM of the Revelstoke Grizzlies for two years.

Kraus and Godard, who practised daily with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for more than two years in Pittsburgh, are both head coaching material, but must pay their dues. Whether it’s Ferner coming home or somebody else with a five-star background, the Vipers are in good shape.

Bestwick to scout for St. Louis

Longtime BCHL coach Bill Bestwick announced one week he was running for Mayor of Nanaimo. The next week, he accepted a position as an amateur scout for the St. Louis Blues.

“My duties in this capacity commence immediately and I welcome this challenge and opportunity working for the St. Louis Blues,” an email from Bestwick to local media read.

Bestwick said he was approached by Blues’ pro scout Tony Feltrin about his interest in entering professional hockey’s scouting world. Feltrin played Junior A hockey in Nanaimo and later joined the WHL Victoria Cougars. He was a Ranger draft who lost an eye on New Year’s Eve, 1985 playing for the New Haven Nighthawks.

Bestwick will scout players in the WHL’s B.C. and U.S. divisions in the league’s Western Conference, along with the B.C. Hockey League.

Bestwick, who played hockey for two years at the now defunct St. Louis University, was released last December in his second year as head coach of the Victoria Grizzlies. He previously coached the Nanaimo Clippers for 14 seasons.

Former Vernon policeman hired

Kamloops’ former police chief Yves Lacasse, who was an RCMP member and Midget Rep coach for several years in Vernon, has been named the WHL’s security officer, a volunteer position established this season.

The WHL’s description of his job: “Lacasse will conduct internal reviews and investigations on behalf of the WHL office to ensure WHL Clubs are operating in accordance with league standards and regulations. Mr. Lacasse will also be responsible to facilitate the implementation of a new league-wide security program with all WHL clubs.”

Lacasse was appointed to the position on Sept. 9.

“Our kids today have changed,” Lacasse told Kamloops This Week. “We’re dealing with a new generation and it’s important to be connected to our youth and have someone they can talk to.

“We want to have someone in place in every WHL community, whether it be a serving police officer or retired police officer. We want to identify individuals in their community that will be good leaders and mentors for the kids.”