CAMROSE –Despite an 16-year pro hockey career, Mark Ferner never had the opportunity to play in an international tournament.
Drafted 194th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1983, the Regina-born journeyman blueliner enjoyed NHL stints with the Sabres, Capitals, Mighty Ducks and Detroit, acquiring hockey wisdom from the very best coaches and translating it into success at the junior A level.
In just four years behind the Vernon bench, Ferner has piloted the Vipers to back-to-back junior A national titles. Pending the outcome of Saturday’s semifinal showdown between Vernon and the Wellington Dukes in the RBC Cup championships, he could be on the verge of a record third consecutive crown today in Camrose.
That success has not gone unnoticed, and Ferner will soon get his chance to compete at an international event – as head coach of Canada West at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge (WJAC, location to be determined).
“I wasn’t that good of a player,” grinned Ferner, when asked if he ever had a taste of international competition. “It’s a tremendous honour, tremendous opportunity,” he added.
“Certainly where we (Vipers) are as far as the season is concerned, we have unfinished business, but I look forward to the opportunity and the challenge of being a head coach at a tournament level like this.”
Ferner, who began his junior career with the Kamloops Blazers/Junior Oilers, doesn’t plan to change the coaching style that has brought so many accolades to the Viper trophy cabinet. Once his assistants are named, the coaching staff will begin the process of selecting potential players.
“They’re going to put the best team together. The goal is to win this,” said Ferner, adding there will more than likely be a Viper or two in the Canada West roster. “It’s important that you have the people that are there for the right reasons. You need a good mix of everything. It’s about treating your players properly, having the right kids there and that they’re all on the same page.
“They’re short tournaments and a bounce here or a bounce there could get you the victory, or not get you the victory.”
Ferner will attend a Hockey Canada workshop this summer in Calgary, where he will have access to NHL coaches that have coached at similar tournaments.
“It’ll be great insight for me,” he said.
Curtis Hodgins of the OJHL Whitby Fury was named Canada East head coach.
Meanwhile, two of Ferner’s current players earned Royal Bank Cup hardware at the tournament banquet Friday night, and a third won a scholarship.
Third-year Snake Adam Thompson was named the RBC’s top defenceman, while second-year forward Dylan Walchuk won the Tubby Schmalz Trophy as most sportsmanlike player.
Camrose netminder Dalyn Flette was named tournament MVP and top goalie.
Vernon defenceman Steve Weinstein earned an RBC Cup $500 Legacy Scholarship.