DAUPHIN, Man. - The Vernon Vipers aim to make more history in this year's RBC Cup.
The defending champion Vipers are the only hockey club to have won back-to-back titles in the Canadian Junior Hockey League championship back in 1990 and 1991. They hope to do the double again starting Saturday in Dauphin, Man.
The Vipers, who include Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland among their alumni, are the only club in the five-team tournament to have previously won the national junior A title and have done so five times.
The field includes the host Dauphin Kings and La Ronge Ice Wolves out of Saskatchewan, who are both making their debut in the tournament, as well as the Oakville Blades and Brockville Braves out of Ontario.
La Ronge and Oakville open the 40th Canadian junior A championship followed by a game between the host Kings and Vernon on Saturday. The semifinal round is May 8 and the final May 9 will be broadcast live (TSN, 3 p.m. ET).
The CJHL has 143 teams in 11 leagues across Canada. The players are between the ages of 16 and 20 and are heavily recruited by NCAA colleges. Players in Canada's major junior hockey leagues - the WHL, OHL and QMJHL - aren't eligible because the NCAA considers those pro leagues.
CJHL alumni who either play or have played in the NHL includes Kyle Turris, Glen Metropolit, Dany Heatley, Mike Comrie and Paul Kariya.
The CJHL's player of the year will be named May 7 in Dauphin. The finalists are Etienne Archambault of the College Francais de Longueuil, Damian Cross of the Pembroke Lumber Kings, Cody Kunyk of the Sherwood Park Knights, Denver Manderson of the Penticton Vees, Dauphin's Steve Shamanski and La Ronge's Dustin Stevenson.
A quick look at each of the teams in the RBC Cup.
Dauphin Kings - The host Kings are 38-2-1 on home ice this season and look to become the first home team to win the title since the Weyburn Red Wings in 2005.
La Ronge Ice Wolves - The Wolves ranked seventh out of 12 teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs, yet won their first SJHL title. Of their 26 playoff games, 11 went into overtime.
Vernon Vipers - The Vipers have 13 players returning from the team that won last year's national championship in Victoria.
Oakville Blades - The Blades are in the RBC Cup for the second time in three years. They went 1-3 in the round robin in 2008 and didn't make the semifinals.
Brockville Braves - The Braves had a 26-game winning streak during the regular season. The Braves went 0-4 in the national championship in 1998.