He was affectionately known as ‘Crow’ when he played four years with the B.C. Hockey League Vernon Vipers, serving as captain of the 2009 Royal Bank Cup championship team.
Chris Crowell was one of the fiercest fighters in the league and was the consummate leader and teammate.
He made a major impact as a Viper and his work was rewarded Friday night when his No. 18 jersey was retired and raised to the rafters at Kal Tire Place. He becomes the second player in franchise history to have his jersey taken out of circulation: Rob Short’s No. 20 was the first.
“That was an awesome ceremony, I think Todd (assistant GM Miller) had a lot to do with putting it together,” smiled Crowell. “I was shocked at first. It was way more than I expected. The video was pretty cool and brought back a lot of good memories. I think they had all my goals in the video; it couldn’t have gone any longer because they showed them all. It’s good to come back and see a lot of familiar faces.”
An engineer in Kamloops, Crowell was accompanied by his wife, Bree, and his parents, Richard and Shannon Crowell of Kelowna. His brother, Kevin, was one of the referees Friday. Crow was surprised with the pace of the game.
“It seems everybody is small and quick with good hands and finish, and a lot more skilled than me. I was watching some of the game with (ex-Viper teammate) Bryce Kakoske and we both noticed how fast they all are.”
Crowell said he misses hockey, especially his years in the BCHL with such players as Kevin Kraus, Kellen and Connor Jones, Hunter Bishop, Kyle St. Denis, Braden Pimm, Kyle Bigos Scott Zurevinski and Short.
“Junior hockey was pretty fun time. I don’t think there aren’t many other times in your life where you kind of have a responsibility for two hours of the day and the rest you freewheeled and did whatever you wanted.”
Ferner and Viper owner Duncan Wray presented Crowell a gorgeous framed jersey before the opening face-off. Crowell signed loads of autographs throughout the building.
“He was one of the best captains I’ve coached,” said Ferner, in a stirring video of Crowell’s best moments and interviews produced by Rob Abramenko of KISS-FM. “He was a warrior on the ice and a gentleman off the ice.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder rang up 33 goals and 596 penalty minutes with the Vipers. He delivered thunderous checks and threw heavy punches back in the fighting days of the BCHL. He and Jordan Simpson of the Prince George Spruce Kings ran into one another at Booster Juice prior to one game in Vernon and agreed to scrap seconds after the opening face-off.
Crowell, who turns 28 next week, played NCAA Division 1 hockey for the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, being captain for three of his four years.
Seawolves’ head coach Matt Thomas sent a special tribute read by Abramenko over the public address system: “The University of Alaska-Anchorage would like to congratulate former Seawolve captain Chris Crowell for the remarkable honour: Chris embodied the qualities that make hockey a special sport. His contributions as a player, a student-athlete and most notably a leader continue to influence our program today.”