Robbie Short spends more time at Wesbild Centre than the Zamboni drivers.
Not only is he the longest-serving Vernon Viper (309 career Junior A hockey games), the 21-year-old Lavington product also racked up four years of Junior B lacrosse mileage with the Vernon Re/Max Tigers.
Now, Short’s name will be seen for years to come at the rink as his No. 20 jersey will be the first retired by the storied Vipers/Lakers organization.
Short, who will soon head south for a pro tryout with the Texas Brahmas of the Central Hockey League, found out about the honour Monday.
“After practice, Ferns (head coach Mark Ferner) called me over and he and Duncan (owner Wray) were there and Duncan tried to lead me on as much as he could, saying ‘We’re going to do something we’ve never done before,’ and tried to drag it out before he told me. It was quite the surprise,” smiled Short, a two-time Royal Bank Cup winner and two-time Fan Favourite Award winner at the Vipers’ annual banquet.
“On top of everything else that I’ve had here, it’s unbelievable. Nobody else has had it, I don’t think there are too many people in junior hockey that have had their number retired. It’s quite the honour.”
In 222 career B.C. Hockey League games, Short recorded 61 goals, 76 assists and 234 penalty minutes. Not all-star numbers by any means, but the Viper coaches (and Short has seen quite a few come and go) could always count on the 6-foot, 200-pounder for a clutch goal and a solid effort.
“He was what we wanted out of a player each and every night,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Jason Williamson.
“Whenever we needed Shorty in those championship games we always knew what we were going to get from him. He never complained and he always did what we asked of him.”
Playing his minor hockey in Lumby, Short grew up idolizing the Vipers and even got to meet some of his heroes away from the rink. He used to live right down the street from David Morelli and he would always go out and play ball hockey with him and some of Morelli’s Viper teammates.
“They had half the team out there most of the time, so I knew those guys pretty good,” he said.
Short remembers his first BCHL goal just as well, and his linemates even better. It was Oct. 10, 2006 against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“I was playing in Trail and I had two skinny APs on my line by the name of Jones (Connor and Kellen), their first game,” he laughed.
“I just came up the wall in the offensive zone and just turned and blindly shot and it went right in over his shoulder. I was my third game in the league.
“I remember Bernie Pimm (former head coach) told us if we scored one goal we’d win that game.”
Vernon lost 7-5, but Short and the twins combined for seven points.
The decision to hoist Short’s number to the Wesbild rafters will inevitably raise questions as to why other Viper/Laker alumni haven’t already had their numbers retired. Williamson, a former Viper (1999-2002), expected as much.
“There’s obviously a huge history here with the amount of players that have come through these doors. Even from when I played there was Kori Davison, Garth Gartner and some other locals that could go up there too.
“I think you’ll get questioned no matter who you put up. Someone’s got to be first and it’s a good starting point.
“Players that come in here need to realize there were players here before that put their heart and soul into this team.”
Short’s jersey will be raised to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony as the Vipers host the Penticton Vees Saturday night at Wesbild.
SNAKE BITES: Defenceman Max Mowat, a 17-year-old Vernon product, was a late cut by the WHL Kamloops Blazers. The former Okanagan Rocket blueliner’s services will likely be sought after by numerous Junior A clubs… Former Viper d-man Cameron Brodie is auditioning with the San Jose Sharks prospects at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton.