UPDATE 5 pm:
The BC Hockey League says Duncan Wray was “the lifeblood of the Vernon Vipers franchise,” adding his death “leaves a huge void in the league — and in our hearts.”
Commissioner John Grisdale says Wray — an owner for 25 years — will be given a special tribute by all 17 teams.
“There will be team memorials, and league-wide recognition, including a moment of silence (by each team). And over the coming days, we’ll certainly talk about more things,” Grisdale tells Beach Radio News.
Wray, a retired oral surgeon, passed away Thursday morning of unknown causes at age 68.
“Duncan was a fan, first and foremost,” says Grisdale who spent time with Wray last weekend at the heritage game at Civic Arena. “He allowed the people he put in place to run the team from a coaching and management position, but he was on the sidelines cheering, and emotionally he was tied to the rise and fall of the team.”
Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund says it’s a very sad day for the community, noting Wray was the last person to receive the Freedom of the City honour in 2011.
(Story by Pete McIntyre)
UPDATE: 12:50 pm
Statement from Vernon Vipers:
The Vernon Vipers are saddened to announce the passing of long time Owner Duncan Wray.Here is a statement from the family.
The Wray family is heartbroken to share the news with you that Duncan Wray passed away peacefully on January 11.
Duncan was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to those that knew him. His loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts and he will be greatly
The unexpected news has come as a devastating blow and although the family is grateful for all the kind messages of sympathy, we ask that we
can be left to grieve in private at this very difficult and sad time for us.
Further information on funeral services will be shared when available.
The Wray Family
Troy Mick, a former Vipers head coach, now president of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, was one of Duncan Wray’s best friends.
An emotional Mick spoke with Beach Radio’s Pete McIntyre about the loss of a man he admired greatly.
Shocking news today that the owner of the Vernon Vipers has died.
Duncan Wray, who has owned the franchise since 1992, passed away in his sleep last night.
Wray, a retired oral surgeon, is survived by his wife Libby, three sons and one daughter.
It’s believed he was 68 years old.
His death comes just days after he and the team took part of a very successful heritage game at Civic Arena, a sold-out event that was the final junior game played at the 80 year old arena.
The voice of the Vipers on Beach Radio, Graham Turnbull, says it’s a tragic loss.
“He’s been the one mainstay since the beginning. He’s bred success. That’s one thing that will always stand out with Duncan. He was so passionate about junior hockey, the BCHL, the Vernon Vipers, this community, that he brought a stable, winning presence to the organization.
Turnbull says Wray’s role as Chairman of the Board of the BCHL has helped the league trend in the right direction for a number of years.
On a personal note, Turnbull says the way Wray treated him was the way he treated everyone he dealt with.
“He treated me like I was a member of the family. He’d give me the shirt off his back if that’s what I needed. Was always there to support me and I know that was something that he did for a lot of people, outside of the organization as well as everybody up and down the office and the hockey staff as well.”
Graham says it is going to be a hard time for the players, but he knows that they will respond with respect and admiration.
“Guys like Jagger Williamson, who have been here for four years, they know the impact that Duncan has had and the love that he had for the team individually and as a group. I don’t think too much will have to be said. The actions and the thoughts will sort of speak for themselves.”
Turnbull says since buying the franchise in 1992, Wray turned it into the number one ranked Junior A hockey franchise in the CJHL.
He also served on the Board of Governors of the BCHL since 1992 and at the time of his death was the Chairman of the Board.
One of Wray’s best friends is Troy Mick, a former Vipers coach, who is now with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
An emotional Mick remembers his friend with great admiration.
“I lost a best friend, a second father, a man who did so much for me and my family over the years. He was just an amazing human being. There is not many people who are like Duncan Wray and I haven’t stopped crying for the last two hours,” Mick told Beach Radio News.
Mick, the president of the Silverbacks, says Wray never played hockey at a high level himself, but he loved the game and loved helping his players move on to get an education, and to play the game they loved.
As owner, Wray guided the club to four national championships and runner-up in 2011.
The team won seven B.C. Hockey League championships and six Doyle Cup B.C.-Alberta championships.
He purchased the club in 1992 from Mel Lis, and changed the name from Lakers to Vipers in 1995.