The Trail Smoke Eaters organization is getting into the Christmas spirit with a host of events and fundraisers on tap for the Smokies games over the holiday season.
Trail is in a battle for second place with the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Division of the BCHL and will welcome the Vipers to the Cominco Arena on Saturday. But this game won’t be all about hockey as the new Smokies off-ice team encourages fans to give back to the community and celebrate the holiday season with the Smoke Eaters.
“We have lots of stuff going on for Saturday’s game so it should be a really good time,” said Smoke Eaters event manager Allison McCarthy. “What I’m hoping for is that we have a couple themed nights throughout the month … and fun intermission games at all of the games.”
The Smoke Eaters will hold their Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday where fans bring a stuffed toy and toss it onto the ice after the Smokies score their first goal. Trail also teams up with Re/Max All Pro Realty for their toy drive, and will be collecting unwrapped toys and nonperishable food items for the Salvation Army.
A highlight, will certainly be the re-emergence of the Underwear Band, which will play at intervals throughout the game.
According to McCarthy, the band originally struck up back in 1939 by local businessman and city councillor Alan Tognotti.
“He was known as Al’s your Pal, and (Al’s Underwear Band) was kind of the name of the band back then, and their signature uniform was long-john underwear with a Smokies sweater over top.”
Their signature song at the Trail games was ‘Smokies Sweater,’ which was played to the tune of ‘Put on Your old Grey Bonnet,’ for those who recall that one.
“They are coming out of retirement,” said McCarthy. “We’re hoping to carry on that tradition with that actual song. So the band is rebuilding history and coming back to life and carry on this legacy of the Underwear Band.”
The musical ensemble will be made up of Maple Leaf Band members as well as student musicians from J. L. Crowe and Stanley Humphries Secondary, and McCarthy hopes the band will become a fixture at Smoke Eater games.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as between periods the Smokies will feature a “Checking it off your Christmas List” event, where couples compete in an on-ice shopping race.
And a Christmas hockey game wouldn’t be complete without Santa Claus, so the big guy will be on hand for photos with kids during the first intermission. In addition, former Smoke Eaters Scott Davidson, Craig Martin, and Jake Lucchini will also be signing autographs prior to the game. Davidson and Martin play for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, while Lucchini is a top forward for the Michigan Tech Huskies.
McCarthy also suggests that fans keep those “ugly” holiday sweaters around after Christmas as that will be the theme for the upcoming Smoke Eaters game against the West Kelowna Warriors Dec. 30.
The new Smoke Eater staff has worked hard at making games ‘fun for the whole family’ since the team was purchased by Rich Murphy Nov. 1, and McCarthy says she is beginning to see a difference in attendance and atmosphere.
“We’ve had a very consistent crowd that seems to be growing with each and every game, and we’re definitely expecting these next two games to be even more so than what we’ve had in the past, because we do have a lot of fun things coming up.”
The puck drop for the Smokies-Vipers game goes at 7 p.m. on Saturday.