Members of the Vernon Vipers organization are still trying to come to grips with the unexpected death of their long time owner Duncan Wray.
Wray died of unknown causes Thursday at age 68.
He had owned the team since 1992 when it was the Vernon Lakers, changing it to Vernon Vipers in 1995.
Head coach and director of hockey operations Mark Ferner says the team is trying to proceed — but it’s been very difficult, especially given how sudden the death was.
“I spoke with Duncan at — I looked at my phone at 8:59 — so I spoke with Duncan at 9 pm on Jan. 10th, and then I get a phone call (from a family member) first thing in the morning with the news. It was shocking, to say the least,” Ferner tells Beach Radio News.
Ferner says he and team management will be meeting with the Wray family to talk about the future perhaps next week, but at this point, the team is trying to carry on and do what’s best.
“It’s tough on everyone, not just me. It’s the players, the league, the city, the fans, but more importantly, it’s about the Wray family, and I think we have to respect their wishes.”
Ferner says the Centennials called him and asked if he wanted to postpone Friday’s game, but he felt playing the game is what Wray would have wanted.
“What would Duncan want? He would want us to play,” says Ferner who has served two stints with Wray as Vipers coach, starting in 2007 to 2010, and returning from the WHL in 2015 to present.
The team won national titles in 2009 and 2010, two of four won during Wray’s 25 years of ownership.
Ferner says some of Wray’s family members are expected to be part of a tribute to the retired oral surgeon prior to Saturday’s home game against Cowichan Valley, with the plans still being put together.
Ferner was asked if Wray’s death could be an emotional rally point for the team that is currently leading the BCHL.
“Maybe, but this is new to everybody. We have great kids, and I know Duncan was passionate about this group, and we’re going to do what right by Duncan.”
Listen to interview with Mark Ferner with Beach Radio’s Pete McIntyre who talks about how it could impact the team going forward: