Mark Ferner has spent the last four years preparing junior hockey talent for the next level.
As head coach and general manager of the Vernon Vipers, Ferner piloted the Snakes to two straight Royal Bank Cup national junior A championships in 2009 and 2010, plus a runner-up showing at this year’s tournament. The Regina native also helped dozens of Viper grads secure NCAA Division 1 scholarships and given them the tools to compete at the collegiate level.
Now, Ferner himself is moving on to the next level, as he accepted the head coach position with the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips for the coming season.
It will be the 45-year-old’s second stint coaching in the Dub. He spent three seasons as an assistant with the WHL Kamloops Blazers, starting in the 2002-03 season, taking over as head coach for a year in 2005-06.
Ferner’s ultimate goal is to coach in the pro ranks, and this was a step he felt he needed to take to achieve that.
“This has nothing to do with me wanting to get back to the Western Hockey League, this is a career move,” said Ferner.
“Financially, it makes a lot of sense for my family, and as far as my career is concerned, if I wanted the opportunity at some point to coach pro then I needed to make a step.”
In four seasons with the Vipers, Ferner amassed an impressive 165-51-7-17 record, and after so much success, there wasn’t much left to prove.
“Could I have come back and won the (Royal Bank) Cup again? Yeah, and then what?” he shrugged.
“We love Vernon – the people, the fans, the media, the kids. It was the best four years of coaching for me. Sooner or later, like our kids (Vipers), you’ve got to move on.”
Vipers’ owner Duncan Wray didn’t have to look far to find Ferner’s replacement.
After discussing his resignation Monday morning, Wray walked across the office and informed assistant coach Jason Williamson of his promotion.
“We knew something was going to happen here sooner or later, but it’s always a shock when it does,” said Williamson, who agreed to a three-year head coach/GM contract Tuesday.
“It’s a great opportunity to coach one of the premier franchises in all of junior hockey.
“I’ve been here four years as a coach and three (1999-2002) as a player, and expectations are high here. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. We look forward to continuing on with the strong tradition that we already have.”
Said Wray: “It really was a no-brainer. I think Willy knew deep down that was my goal that if he was here when Mark left that he would get the job.”
Regarding Ferner, he added: “It was a tough moment for both of us because we have a great relationship. I know he wanted to stay but the opportunity was just too good to move on.
“Every player that played for him respected him. I know he’ll be successful wherever he goes.
“I told him when he gets to the NHL, I expect tickets waiting for me when I get into town.”
The Vipers are in the process of finding a new assistant coach.