Former Vernon Viper head scout Larry Black will best be remembered for recruiting Connor and Kellen Jones.
The Kootenay twins boosted the B.C. Hockey League Vipers to a pair of Royal Bank Cups, joining others like Kyle Bigos and Chris Crowell, who were also prospects signed by Black.
Black died in Kelowna General Hospital Sunday after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. The father of three was 66.
“It’s a very sad day,” said Viper assistant coach and former captain Kevin Kraus. “He always tried to push me to do my best; he was a big part of my hockey life. He was like a father figure and helped me out last year in Salmon Arm.”
As head scout for the Vipers for the last six years (he was a regional scout for five years before that), Black helped source the talent that won the Snakes back-to-back Royal Bank Cup Championships in 2009 and ‘10, plus a runner-up showing in ‘11.
Unable to come to a new contract agreement with the Vipers in May, 2013, Black, joined the Salmon Arm Silverbacks as their new assistant GM and director of player personnel.
Black (affectionately known as Blackie to friends and colleagues) was also disappointed a deal couldn’t be reached, especially with Vernon hosting the RBC Cup in May 2014. But he understood the business side of junior hockey, and said he was looking forward to rekindling a partnership with Salmon Arm head coach/GM Troy Mick.
The two previously worked together when Mick coached Vernon from 1997-2000.
“It’s been a bit of a shock. It’s tough getting my head around going to work for another team,” said Black.
“But I’m excited to get back working with Troy. We’ve worked together well in the past and I respect his abilities as a general manager. It’s a good opportunity for me.”
Black’s appointment helped free up Mick to focus more on his duties as head coach. The season before, Mick stepped away from the bench early on to focus more on front office operations and scouting.
Said Mick: “Larry brings a wealth of knowledge to the SilverBacks, on and off the ice. He is a proven winner and has an eye for recruits like no other.”
Black, a Revelstoke native, ran the Grizzlies Junior B program there for six years in the 90s. At the time, the team was affiliated with Mike Vandekamp’s Merritt Centennials, and when Vandekamp joined the Vipers as head coach in 2001-02, he brought Black on as a regional scout.
Black lived in Vernon with wife Gay (he has three grown children and five grandchildren all living in the area), and has worked with five Vernon head coaches in 11 years – Vandekamp, Mick, Bernie Pimm, Mark Holick, Mark Ferner and Williamson.