Off the Wahl: An important part of Smokies family

Behind the scenes of the Trail Smoke Eaters with Chris Wahl.

The Trail Smoke Eaters, like all clubs in the BCHL, have a host of off-ice staff and volunteers. Without their help, the team simply couldn’t hit the ice each winter.

One young man in particular spends more time at the rink, and does more of the “little things” that help the Smokies operation run smoothly, than just about anyone else I’ve seen in my nearly five seasons of watching, covering, and working for this team.

Matthew Eckersley, better known as “Patches” for the embroidery-laden coat he sports on most away trips, typically starts his work day at 7 or 8 in the morning, washing jerseys, socks and under-gear, folding towels, and helping trainer Kim Penner prepare the dressing room either for afternoon practice or a home game.

Before the pre-game warmup, you might notice Patches stacking pucks along the bench dasher, placing water bottles along the boards, shuttling a shopping cart full of towels for the visiting team to use or even taking food and drinks to the Cominco Arena VIP booth. During the game, he’ll usually set up behind one goal and act as goal judge, generally sporting one of his many game-worn junior hockey jerseys in the process.

But as hard as the ardent Colorado Avalanche fan works, his efforts are usually out-matched by his generosity. I can’t count the number of times our players have boarded the bus for an away game only to find a snack or two on their seats, and Patches generally will get each player a little something before they go home for the holiday break too.

He, like all of us who are lucky enough to be a part of this team, lives for the Smoke Eaters brand. A cursory scan of Facebook postings over the course of this past summer would reveal that Patches simply can’t wait for hockey season, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him without a grin from ear to ear whenever we’ve crossed paths at the rink.

On the road, Patches is about as easy a room-mate as you’ll find, too. He’s always eager to help, and always eager to bring back some kind of memento for his mother from his travels across BC. He even made a plaque at the end of last season with game pucks from each of the 16 BCHL teams.

But for all his hard work, Patches, and the other people who live, breathe, and sleep Smoke Eaters hockey each and every day, will never seek credit. He’s as humble a young man as I’ve ever encountered, and I’m proud to call him a friend.`

Just Posted

Columbia Basin Trust offering business accelerator program

Trust seeking motivated companies for customized support and mentorship program

Trail military exercises provide crucial training

Exercise Sapper Crucible: ‘The nuts and bolts of what a soldier is’

VIDEO: SPCA ushers in new era with Castlegar facility

$2.69-million project had ribbon cutting on Friday

Thrums, Riondel, and Slocan, revisited

Place Names: Scottish author delighted by Thrums name origin

Last stand for Silver City summer

Fall officially arrives in Trail at 6:54 p.m. on Saturday

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

B.C. nanny charged with sex abuse of 3 children

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

‘I’m no quitter’ on climate change issues, McKenna says at G7 ministers meeting

David Suzuki says if McKenna believes what she’s saying, she too should quit

Most Read