VERNON - Long-time Vernon Vipers owner Duncan Wray, who passed away today on his 68th birthday, is being remembered for his warm personality, passion for the community and love of the game.
“It’s a real tough day for us,” executive vice president for the Vipers Todd Miller says.
Wray, who owned the franchise for 26 years, died peacefully today, Jan. 11, according to a statement from his family, who asked for privacy as they grieve his passing.
Wray was a strong advocate in the hockey community, and something of a rarity among team owners.
“He’s the longest standing solo owner in the B.C. Hockey League. In fact, he’s one of only few remaining people who have the organization owned by only one person,” Miller says.
The franchise didn't make him rich, but money never was his reason for holding onto the team for so many years.
“He would tell you he didn’t make a single dime over the years, in fact he put more into it than he ever would’ve gotten out of it," Miller says. "He was passionate about the team, about the Vipers and about the City of Vernon. That’s something that will be sorely, sorely missed about him and what he brought to the table.”
No date has yet been set for Wray’s funeral service, however his family says they will share it when the time comes.
Under Wray, the Vipers won seven B.C. Hockey League championships, six Doyle Cup B.C.-Alberta championships, 12 Interior Conference pennants and three BCHL regular season titles.
Wray appeared to be in great health, Miller says, adding that’s what makes his passing such a terrible shock. A retired dental surgeon from Vernon, Wray and his wife were most recently living in Victoria, but he was back every weekend during hockey season to support the team, Miller says. Just this past Saturday, he attended the last game at the Civic Arena, which is slated for demolition later this year as a new ice sheet is added to Kal Tire Place.
“I heard someone mention today that his very first game as an owner of the Vernon Vipers was at the Civic Arena. Oddly enough, his very last game as an owner of the Vernon Vipers will now go down as being at the Civic Arena,” Miller says.
A family man and father of five children, Wray was known as a friendly, down to earth owner who loved engaging with fans.
“That’s exactly what made Duncan, Duncan. You know, when you look at an owner you assume that owner is going to drive up in a sports car and pull up and be wearing a three piece suit. That wasn’t Duncan. Duncan was the kind of guy that would stand at the rails and talk to the fans and watch his team play,” Miller says.
Wray was well respected in the hockey community. The B.C. Hockey League shared the following statement today: “Heavy hearts for so many today. Duncan gave so much of himself to the BCHL and we are all better for having known and worked with him.”
A friend and role model to many, Wray's passing will leave a huge hole in the community.
“For me, he was like a second father,” Miller says. “He will be sadly, sadly missed.”
The affection many held for Wray can be seen in this touching 2011 video, filmed during a surprise party to celebrate his retirement as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.