Despite playing in the same division for only five seasons, at times over the last 23 years this has been an incredible rivalry.
It goes back so far it predates Harvey Smyl’s tenure behind the Chiefs bench by three years.
They’ve faced each other 75 times during the regular season and another 32 times in six playoff series. Overall Vernon has the edge with 41 regular season wins and four playoff series victories.
Those six playoff series included four meetings in the league finals with each team winning twice.
The rivalry likely doesn’t mean much to any of the current players with the possible exception of Vernon’s Logan Mick, whose father Troy was behind the Vipers bench for so many of those games.
I know Troy, who is now part owner, general manager and head coach of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, has fond memories of the rivalry as I had a chance to chat with him about it recently.
I find it impossible to watch these two teams play each other without thinking back to those days.
I remember all the key players for these teams over the years. Players like John Morabito, Peter Zurba (with both Vernon and Chilliwack), Scott Longstaff, Jeremy Jackson, Ashlee Langdone and Marc Gagnon.
I could go on and on.
When I walk around the rink, I still see some of the same faces I saw 20 plus years ago and I’m sure you’ll feel the same sense of nostalgia this weekend.
Getting back to the here and now, the Chiefs are still struggling on the ice.
I know there’s some disappointment being felt by fans right now and I understand that. The Chiefs are fortunate to have such passionate fans.
I may be guilty, as evidenced earlier in this article of sometimes dwelling in the past. But I think now is a good time to do that when looking at this year’s team.
This franchise, under the guidance of Harvey Smyl has had an incredible amount of success.
So much in fact that we might forget that there has been rough patches like this in the past.
I can remember the 1998-99 team that went on to the league finals losing 11 of 16 games mid-season.
I remember the 1990-00 team that won the league championship losing six straight in early December.
There are many more examples I could mention.
I’ve seen and heard some negative comments about this year’s team.
Some of these comments were made publicly.
I appreciate the passion and understand the frustration. But please remember this. The Chiefs are not a pro hockey team. They are still kids, and kids need encouragement.
I don’t know how this season is going to play out.
I do know that this is a young team that needs guidance and has the right person in place to guide them.