Vipers open with ‘Backs

The three-time defending champion Vernon Vipers open the 50th B.C. Hockey League season Friday, Sept. 23 against the visiting Salmon Arm SilverBacks.

The three-time defending champion Vernon Vipers open the 50th B.C. Hockey League season Friday, Sept. 23 against the visiting Salmon Arm SilverBacks.

The official league schedule was announced Monday with the Chilliwack Chiefs (transfer from Quesnel) the newest franchise on board.

“I’d like to acknowledge the work done by our executive director Dave Sales on this season’s schedule,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. “It’s an unenviable task and a huge job that Dave took on but I believe he’s come up with a schedule that works in everyone’s best interest.”

A focus was placed on Friday and Saturday night games, also known as “prime nights”, and significant increases were made in that area compared to last season. Of the 480 games scheduled, 67 per cent will take place on prime nights. With Sundays included, 83 per cent of games will be prime or Sunday starts leaving only 17 per cent of games scheduled for midweek.

“Hockey fans always eagerly anticipate the release of the schedule so we’re happy to let fans, scouts, the media and our players see what’s in store for the year ahead,” said Sales.

“By handling the league schedule internally this year, we’ve boosted the number of weekend starts and hope that allows greater access to games for anyone following the BCHL.”

The schedule has a nine-day break at Christmas and concludes on Sunday, March 11, 2012 with three games scheduled.

The Vipers will play nine mid-week games at Wesbild Centre (five Wednesdays) and four Sunday matinees. They have seven mid-week road tilts.

Vernon will renew their once intense rivalary with Harvey Smyl’s Chiefs Friday, Oct. 7 at home.

The Vipers do not make the long trek to Powell River, but the three-time league finalist Kings are here Saturday, Feb. 25. The top four teams in each eight-team conference make the playoffs.