Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Vipers Celebrate 1999
Vipers celebrate 1999
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Jul 27, 2016
Slick winger Ryan Bayda has retired from pro hockey and is now opening a tattoo removal business in his hometown of Saskatoon.
Popular goalie Derek Gustafson is a sales rep for some craft beer breweries in Oregon.
Lanny Gare and Kenny Magowan, who flourished on the dynamic KGB line with Bayda back in the day, are the only two still playing the game in Germany for a living.
Yes, hockey fans, the 1999 Royal Bank Cup champion Vernon Vipers are alive and well. And they survived a few days of celebration in Penticton last weekend at the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
And as expected, said captain Lennie Rampone, of Kelowna: “We may have shoe-checked someone at lunch.”
Players came from Alaska, New York, Arizona and Europe.
“Lanny Gare was able to make it back from Germany with his family,” said Rampone, a mortgage broker. “Not only did we have a great player turnout, but also had great support from the parents. Petr Chytka’s parents came from the Czech Republic. Chytka now lives in Arizona.
“It was also great to see some of the billet families we used to hang out with regularly, take time to come to the induction ceremony.”
The Vipers won the BCHL title in the 1998-99 season with 52 wins. They had 11 players from B.C. and four from Vernon, including Kori Davison, now living in Calgary and in Energy Services sales with teammate Josh Reed, also a Vernon minor hockey grad. D-man Spence Gilchrist was another local.
“The guys were really proud to be there and proud to represent the Vipers organization with what we accomplished on the ice,” added Rampone. “The whole weekend went by too quick. Lots of laughs and playing the ‘remember when game.’ Some guys could mix in a salad in their diet and some guys don’t even need to use shampoo anymore.”
Only Tyler Valin of Edmonton and Jeff Filewich of St. Albert missed the induction at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Owner Duncan Wray, head coach/GM Troy Mick, assistant coach Joe Oliver and trainer Tim Cooper represented the Snakes’ staff.
The Vipers stopped Dany Heatley and the Calgary Canucks in the Doyle Cup that season and then struggled to a 1-3 mark in the round-robin in the RBC in Yorkton.
With the entire city of Vernon wondering what was wrong, the Vipers bounced the Bramalea Blues of Ontario 3-2 in the semifinal and ambushed the Charlottetown Abbies 9-3 in the final.
For Reed, the induction weekend was extra special since he, Davidson and Gare all played minor hockey here together before glory at the Junior A level.
“It was like we all picked up right where we left off when we were all reunited in Penticton,” said Reed. “There were a lot of remember when stories and the same jokes got the same kind of laughs as they did back in ‘99. The bond we created over the course of nine months is truly amazing. We were a team in every sense of the word. We’ve actually already started plans for our 20-year reunion in 2019.”
Mick, who also won a RBC title as an assistant under Rob Bremner, in 1996, thanked Wray for believing in him and his staff.
“It was one of the best feelings in my life to be inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Mick, a superstar with the Portland Winter Hawks and a Pittsburgh Penguin draft. “These guys are now dads, husbands and to see 19 of our guys show up, is a true testament on how close this team really was.”
Gare joins the shrine with his uncles, Danny Gare and Tom Renney and his late grandfather, Ernie Gare Sr.
Most of the players looked fit and tanned, and the bad hair jokes were flying big-time.
“There was lots of thinning hair but I think Rampone and (Mike) Bussoli’s hair actually got thicker,” said Reed.
A total of 18 players from that national championship team earned NCAA scholarships.
Also inducted was Murray Baron of Kamloops, who was a d-man with the Vernon Lakers from 1984-86. Baron played 15 seasons in the NHL.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers and played with St Louis, Montreal and Phoenix in addition to five years with the Vancouver Canucks. Baron, 49, played 988 NHL games recording 129 points.