Wayne Dye played a few games with the Junior A hockey Vernon Essos as a 13-year-old and was a regular at 14. He wore No. 8 and was fiery, unpredictable, fearless and ultra-talented. He didn’t need a composite stick to unleash his cannon shot.
His jersey will be raised to the rafters in a special pre-game ceremony when the Vernon Vipers entertain the Trail Smoke Eaters in a B.C. Hockey League showdown Friday night at Kal Tire Place. Wayne, named Vernon’s Athlete of the 20th Century, died accidentally in 1988 at age 35.
A banner commemorating the 1956 Allan Cup champion Vernon Canadians will also be unveiled. The Canadians dispatched the Chatham Maroons 4-1 in the senior hockey final series at Civic Arena. Thousands of fans attended a downtown parade to celebrate the championship.
Morning Star reporter Roger Knox, a former director with the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame, has long pushed in columns and articles, to have both banners grace a local arena.
“Jack Gilroy, who married Wayne’s sister, Wendy, and I approached Mayor Akbal Mund with the idea a few months ago and then Dan Bosquet with Wayside (Press) jumped aboard,” said Kevin Mitchell of the sports shrine. “Wayside graciously donated the banners and Todd Miller of the Vipers (executive vice-president) helped make it all happen.”
Dye’s jersey will not be retired but rather the Vipers and the City will honour him with a legends banner.
Dye won the BCJHL scoring title in 1969-70, a year when the Essos used a Jack Marsh overtime goal on Victoria Cougars’ goalie Ed Forslund to win the playoff crown before 5,219 fans at Victoria’s Memorial Arena. Dye finished his Junior hockey career as a 20-year-old with Punch McLean’s New Westminster Bruins, scoring 35 goals and getting picked 109th overall by Chicago in the 1974 amateur lottery. His late father, Vern, helped found the Vernon franchise and the B.C. Junior Hockey League.
Wayne, a father of two, was also drafted by the Major League Baseball Seattle Pilots.
“We have invited four of the living Canadians to be there for the ceremony with their families, as guests of the Vipers,” said Mitchell. “Those four legends are Merv Bidoski, Odie Lowe, Tom Stecyk and Walt Trentini.”
Meanwhile, six points separate the first-place Vernon Vipers from the fourth-place Wenatchee Wild in the Interior Division.
The divisional rivals meet for the fifth time tonight at Kal Tire Place (7 p.m.).
Both teams have seven wins in their last 10 games (Vernon 7-2-1, Wild 7-3) . The Vipers iced the West Kelowna Warriors 4-2 Saturday night at Royal LePage Place. The Wild fell 2-1 at home to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Josh Prokop – whose Western Hockey League playing rights were dealt from the Swift Current Broncos to the Calgary Hitmen in a nine-player deal Saturday – led Vernon with two goals, giving him 12 on the year, both set up by Vernon captain Jagger Williamson. Prokop has committed to Ohio State Buckeyes. Shane Kelly, with his third, and Brett Stapley, with his team-leading 16th, had the other goals for Vernon, who got 37 saves from Ty Taylor.
The Vipers are ranked No. 18 in the 132-team Canadian Junior A League. Trail is rated 19th.