Smokies not even close to historic slide

"The current team is nowhere close to the worst season-start for a team wearing that logo..."

For Smoke Eater fans despairing of the long winless run – take heart.

The current team is nowhere close to the worst season-start for a team wearing that logo, and a coaching change turned that dismal season around, at least somewhat, and gave Smokie fans a bit to cheer about in the end.

In 1969-70, the senior team initially led by Bob Wiest failed to gain a single victory in the 1969 portion of the season. By January, they were around 0-23 and  not looking anything less than hapless.

By then Wiest was no longer in charge. ‘61 world champion Norm Lenardon had taken the helm.

That was a season in which there were three Alberta Senior Hockey League teams in the schedule, Edmonton, Calgary and Drumheller. The first win finally came at the end of a three-game trip through the ASHL.

Trail lost to Calgary, then to an Edmonton club run by former Smokie star Terry Cavanaugh, then headed to Drumheller, where the Smokies’ captain and leading goal scorer, a central Alberta native, was so popular the rink was overflowing.

Ron Leopold left Drumheller for Trail after becoming a favourite son and leading scorer in Drumheller the previous season. His return was triumphant – for Leopold had a hat trick and a four point night, and the Smokies finally got a win, 5-3. From that point, the Smoke Eaters were competitive almost every night in the WIHL and ended up totalling twelve wins and a tie in their final 27 games.

It wasn’t enough to gain them a playoff berth, even in a lopsided league dominated by Spokane Jets and the scholarship-fueled Nelson Maple Leafs, but their season wasn’t officially devoid of post-season potential until the last two weeks of play.

Twelve wins, 37 losses and a tie isn’t a record to brag about, but the improved, “A change is as good as a rest,” play somewhat mollified fans who not long before had watched the Smoke Eaters brand crowned with a World Championship (in which effort Lenardon was a key part) and two Allan Cup finals, one of which they won, on home ice.

There was some talent on the squad. Gary Ferro finished second in assists and overall in league scoring and Leopold was fifth in goals and eighth in points.  Long time followers may be surprised to learn that supposed wild-man Ken Uzeloc was well back of the leaders in penalty minutes for the year, nearly a game and a half (80 minutes) behind Wayne Spooner of Cranbrook and half a game back of long time Spokane stalwart Tom Hodges.

The story suggests the current Smoke Eaters’ season hopes may not be done, just yet.

• I just want to note that Bob Wiest was a good guy and very hockey-knowledgeable. He was done in by a lack of experience coaching at the senior level and a turnover in the management of the club that created some turmoil early on.

A favourite memory of that time for me is the 50-plus Wiest frequently whipping local stick-skills wunderkind Ferro on faceoffs during practice.

Those that can, I guess, can’t always coach effectively.

Just Posted

Métis Flag flies in Trail on Louis Riel Day

Area students, officials and public attend flag raising at Trail City Hall

Early Trail borrowed a couple of names from the U.S.

Place Names: Connection between Trail and Butte, Montana

First Past the Post is the only option

Letter to the Editor by Dieter Bogs of Trail

Acid tainted vehicles from Trail spills, held for evidence

Contaminated vehicles are evidence in ICBC’s lawsuit against “negligent parties”

Kootenay Boundary swears in 7 new directors

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary swears in 7 new directors and 6 returning directors

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unamanageable’

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probe several allegations of sex assault at Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

B.C. referendum ballot count jumps to 18% returned, Elections B.C. says

New count adds ballots received, but not screened for authenticity

Most Read