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Big night Friday in Penticton

Friday night’s induction ceremony at the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton is a huge one for the BCHL as five of the six honourees hail from the league.

BCHL commissioner John Grisdale, former Penticton Panthers forward Brendan Morrison, former Vernon Lakers defenceman Murray Baron, Penticton Broncos alum and current Merritt Centennials governor Brian Barrett and the 1998-99 Vernon Vipers team will all be inducted. Joining them is longtime Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Pat O’Neill.

Grisdale is entering his 14th season as commissioner of the BCHL, the longest tenure of anyone who has ever headed up the league in its 55-year history. During Grisdale’s time with the league, BCHL teams have won five RBC Cup national titles and hundreds of players have advanced from the league on to college and pro hockey. Over the last six years, more than 120 players per season have played in the league with a college commitment. Last season, 145 players had a college commitment. There were also 40 BCHL alums that suited up in the NHL in 2015-16. Grisdale’s playing background included 250 games in the NHL, 199 of which came over five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.

Morrison, a native of Pitt Meadows, played the 1992-93 season with the Penticton Panthers where he posted 35 goals and 59 assists for 94 points. He was drafted in 1993 by the New Jersey Devils and also earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he won a national title in 1996. He went on to a 934-game NHL career in which he registered 200 goals and 401 assists. He spent eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, playing 543 games and scoring 393 points.

Baron played two seasons with the Vernon Lakers, 1984-85 and 1985-86. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers after his final BCHL campaign and went on to a three-year career at the University of North Dakota. Turning pro in the 1989-90 campaign, Baron embarked on a 988-game NHL career that saw stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Montreal, Phoenix and Vancouver. He and Morrison were teammates in Vancouver from 1999 to 2003. A reliable rearguard who brought size and physicality to the blueline, Baron recorded 35 goals and 94 assists in the NHL to go along with 1309 penalty minutes.

Barrett played in the BCHL for three seasons, suiting up with the Penticton Broncos from 1968 to 1970 and for the Kamloops Rockets in 1970-71. He’s best known now for his involvement with the Merritt Centennials, where he’s been a coach, director or executive for most of the team’s existence starting in 1973-74. Barrett remains the team’s representative at the BCHL board of governors table and is largely responsible for the stability of the Merritt club. He’s overseen the development of hundreds of players over the years, dozens of whom went on to pro careers and the NHL.

The 1998-99 Vernon Vipers won the RBC Cup national championship, led by Interior Conference MVP Lanny Gare. After claiming the BCHL Fred Page Cup title, the Vipers defeated the Calgary Canucks of the AJHL in five games to win the Doyle Cup and the right to advance to the RBC Cup national championship in Yorkton, Sask. The Vipers gathered momentum through the tournament, capping it off with a 9-3 drubbing of the Charlottetown Abbies in the national final. At the time, the win was the second RBC Cup in franchise history. Overall, the franchise has four RBC Cups and two Centennial Cups, the RBC’s predecessor.