The Comox Valley Vipers are provincial champs – but their mission is far from complete.
The Vipers won the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games floor hockey tournament in Vernon recently.
Now they wait to find out whether they get a chance to play for national glory.
It’s not quite cut-and-dry.
There are three divisions in floor hockey, and thus, three provincial champions. But B.C. only sends one team to nationals.
The divisions are ranked by ability (i.e. A, B and C – with the A division being the highest).
The Vipers won the “A” Division in Vernon.
“Based upon past experience, the division winner of the highest division always goes to nationals, so I am optimistic that we will be going to Thunder Bay [next year for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games] but until we get that sheet of paper from Special Olympics BC, I can’t categorically say that we are going,” said Vipers coach Randy James.
It would be an injustice not to send the Vipers to nationals.
The team has not lost a single game in this cycle. They went undefeated in the regional tournament, to represent the Island in Vernon, then swept the provincial tournament at the end of February, beating Abbotsford 7-1 in the gold medal game.
The Vipers are eager to return to the national stage.
Twelve of the 14 players on this team were in Cornerbrook, Nfld. for the 2016 Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games.
The Vipers lost to Ontario in the gold medal game that year.
They haven’t lost since.
“The majority the players playing on this team have been playing together for about 15 years,” said James. “So our athletes are all very tight, very close, they have great friendships and they work well together. That really showed when they were playing at the provincial level. The skills, techniques and strategies that we have taught them have really come to the forefront.
“We are undefeated regionally, undefeated provincially. So I would be very surprised if we don’t go to nationals.”
After all, there is work still to be done.
“We have an agenda for sure, and we would like very much to get back to nationals, and to make it that one step further – the highest level, which would be worlds,” said James.
The 2021 World Winter Games are in Sweden.
Canada is the defending silver medalist in floor hockey.
But first things first.
“Yes. We have to wait to hear from Special Olympics BC,” said James.