Everybody, “knows,” the Smoke Eaters had a bad year. There were some on-ice upsides – the team was entertaining as well as frustrating and was led by local kids for the most part – including how much eventually disappointing fun was had by Smokie fans.
Off the ice and outside of still-perilous finances, 2014/15 was a rousing success on at least one front – the very important educational aspect to kids choosing junior A hockey over the pro junior leagues.
About half of last season’s roster will heading off to college to play and learn. If you buy into, and I do, the concept that giving young men access to educational opportunity is a big reason for junior A hockey to exist, then the 2014/15 Smokies recently completed one of the most successful seasons in the team’s realtively brief history.
The eight division 1 NCAA scholarships (along with more limited ones to Canadian Schools) to be used by Smoke Eaters from last season’s roster rank the club fourth on the list of BCHL clubs, right up there with Vernon and Salmon Arm in terms of directing and helping kids who pass through the league on their way to educational opportunity.
A few more wins, and a little longer season, would be a nice improvement in the club’s fortunes moving forward, but there is little doubt that we can look backwards to last year as having been a good one and look forward, for as long as finances allow, to more and better.
• The announcement that the busiest international trade link in the country (Windsor/Detroit’s new bridge) will be named after, “Mr. Hockey,” comes as a politically-motivated surprise, but will please almost everyone involved in Canadian hockey.
Gordie Howe is as universally liked by hockey people, off the ice, as he was once both admired and detested and feared within the boards. The link between Canada and the city in which he enjoyed most of his hockey success will build on that affection.
•Canada/Czech semi-final at the world’s in Prague, to be played, I believe, not far from the statue of Trail’s Mike Buckna, “The Father of Czechoslovakian Hockey.” The NHL season is done for most of us, so something fun to do on Saturday morning.