Viper captain Dave Robinson congratulates Matthew Peca of the Pembroke Lumber Kings on winning the 2011 Royal Bank Cup.

Viper captain Dave Robinson congratulates Matthew Peca of the Pembroke Lumber Kings on winning the 2011 Royal Bank Cup.

Robinson returns to Viper den

Barely a year removed from his playing days with the Vernon Vipers, Dave Robinson is rejoining his hometown B.C. Hockey League club.

Barely a year removed from his playing days with the Vernon Vipers, Dave Robinson is rejoining his hometown B.C. Hockey League club.

Only this time it will be as an assistant coach.

Robinson, who captained the Snakes to the gold-medal game of the 2011 RBC Cup national Junior A championships in Camrose (they fell to the Pembroke Lumber Kings), will join Calgary’s Jason Read as an associate under head coach/GM Jason Williamson.

Robinson, a 22-year-old forward, had just wrapped up his freshman year with the University of Calgary Dinos when he learned about the coaching opportunity.

“I’ve been going back and forth about it,” said Robinson, of his decision to quit playing. “Throughout my whole career I’ve battled concussions and I just lost a little bit of the passion to play. I was ready to give up the game and when I saw this opportunity come up, it made that choice a bit easier.

“It’s never easy quitting hockey when you’ve been playing it for 15 years. It was a tough decision on me, but I’m excited to start a new chapter.”

Williamson says he and Robinson played a similar hard-nosed style, and believes he is a natural fit for Vernon.

“Dave’s just a heart-and-soul kid. Everyone in this town knows him and he’s a guy we can always lean on, just from his experience playing here and knowing what it takes to be a Viper.

“He’s obviously played a lot of hockey and he’s not that far removed from the game, which can be invaluable.”

Read’s 18 years of coaching experience, primarily on the defensive side, will be a welcome addition to the Viper bench. He will guide the blueline in Vernon as well.

The 41-year-old formerly scouted southern Alberta for the Vipers, while working with the Calgary Royals Midget AAA program.

“He’s watched a lot of hockey for us, and he’s got some good insight in the Alberta area,” said Williamson, adding Read coached Viper d-man Geoff Crisfield when he was with the Royals.

“He’s going to work closely with the dee. He’s got some knowledge and he’s been around the game a long time. He’s going to develop our defence and make them harder to play against.”

Read’s Junior experience includes a stint with the BCHL Victoria Salsa as an assistant under Campbell Blair (former Vernon Laker d-man, now coaching the NCAA Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves) for three years, and one as head coach. He coached against Williamson in his playing days with the Vipers.

“The players have to understand they’re playing defence,” said Read, of his strategy for the blueline.  “That’s the position they picked and that’s the priority they must achieve. Looking after their own zone is No. 1, and if you’re able to offensively commit and jump into the rush after that, that’s great.

“People just need to know what their jobs are and we need to support them in any way they need to be helped.”

With Brett Corkey, Marc Hetnik, Crisfield and Ryan Renz all returning, Read will have plenty of talent to work with.

“It’s definitely one of our strengths,” said Williamson. “Veteran experience is invaluable at this level.”

After missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, the Vipers will lean on that veteran presence to help groom a talented crop of rookies as they attempt to rebound.

“We definitely weren’t happy with last year,” said Williamson. “We’ve worked hard this summer to put the pieces back together and we’re going to be right in the mix for fighting for a BCHL championship.”

n A week after announcing a pair of Saskatchewan recruits – d-man Michael Statchuk and centre Landon Robin – the Vipers committed to Kootenay forward Craig Martin Thursday.

After finishing third in the KIJHL scoring race with 48 goals for 96 points in 50 games as a 16-year-old, Martin led all postseason scorers with 17-15-32 in 21 games, helping the Beaver Valley Nitehawks to a league title.

He posted seven points in nine games as a call-up with his hometown Trail Smoke Eaters.

“Craig was a highly sought after player by virtually every team in our league and had options in the WHL,” said Williamson. “He is a very gifted offensive player and will be looked upon to add scoring to our line-up.”