The Vernon Vipers may have had an off day on Monday after their weekend double-header, but assistant captain Luke Pakulak had his work cut out for him in a head-to-head race with nine-year-old Tomas Lactin-Wilson.
Lactin-Wilson is a player on the Vernon U11 Vipers Development team. Last year, at a hockey camp, Lactin-Wilson suffered a freak accident, where the butt of his stick punctured his abdomen, which caused a one centimetre hole in his large intestine. It was a unique injury, one unheard of in the hockey community and doctors.
He spent five days at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, after undergoing surgery.
The Vernon Vipers team caught wind of the incident and immediately jumped at the chance to boost Lactin-Wilson’s spirits. He was invited to a pre-season game in September where he got to meet the players, get a tour of the rink and take home a signed jersey.
It was then when the feisty Lactin-Wilson challenged Vipers’ centreman Luke Pakulak to a race around the rink.
Lactin-Wilson healed up by the end of October, so much so that he was able to play for his U11 team throughout the year. The team finished up their season recently, after a hard-fought loss in the semifinals.
On Monday, March 20, the race finally came to fruition, and Lactin-Wilson’s practice paid off as he bested Pakulak at the line for the victory.
“Wow, he was faster than I thought,” said Pakulak.
Tomas’ dad, Grant Wilson, who is on the board of the Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association, was ecstatic with how the Vipers treated his son.
“You can’t say enough good things about the Vipers organization and the community. They were amazing throughout the whole process.”
Lactin-Wilson coolly remarked that he didn’t do much additional training for the race, but was looking forward to it ever since September.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said.
As the Vernon Vipers gear up for what is sure to be the hotly contested B.C. Hockey League playoffs, Pakulak gave Tomas some extra motivation.
“Hopefully I can see you in Vipers gear soon.”
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