The Trail Smoke Eaters hockey club ended its home season with class and generosity Friday at the Cominco Arena.
Before the Smokies faced off against the West Kelowna Warriors, the City of Trail and the Smoke Eater organization made a special centre-ice presentation to Tiger Milburn for over-50 years as public address announcer and countless hours of volunteer work at the Cominco Arena – then they gave away over $60,000 to lucky lotto winners during the second intermission.
Smoke Eater executive directors Jack Beard and Rick Basso presented Milburn with a commemorative placard to mark his contribution to the Smokies organization, and show just how vital he and his co-volunteers are to the team.
“I think it’s important, because volunteers like Tiger and the guys that work in the Spud Shack, these guys are true volunteers, they don’t ask for anything back, they buy their wives seasons tickets every year, as well as do the work they do,” Basso told the Times following the ceremony. “They’re from the old breed and you just don’t have those kinds of volunteers anymore.”
City of Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs then took the microphone and announced that the time-keeper/announcer’s space between the penalty boxes, where Milburn has toiled for the past 50 years, would forever more be known as ‘Tiger’s Den.’
“It was brought to our attention that Tiger had 50 years in the penalty box, and somebody said ‘My God, he owns the place’,” explained Bogs. “So we said, ‘Well the least we can do is have a plaque and picture of him in the penalty box.’
“I can’t think of anybody who has put that kind of dedication to any cause in our community. The Smokies are very proud of him and we’re very proud of him.”
The modest Milburn wasn’t expecting the fanfare and needed some convincing from the Smokie executive to accept the honour; but in the end, the Trail native was humbled and moved by the experience.
“Awesome, it’s just awesome,” Milburn said. “Rick Basso phoned me half-way through the month and asked me what I was doing on the 28th, I said, ‘Nothing,’ and he said, ‘We’re going to do a little something for you.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want anything,’ and he says, ‘Good, we’re going to have it anyhow.’”
It was a suitable ending to a season that was a challenge on the ice, but a reminder of what it takes to keep the Smoke Eaters going.
“I think I started in 1962,” said Milburn. “It’s been great, and it just seems like yesterday. I just love doing it.”
At their banquet last week, the Smoke Eaters also awarded Milburn a collector’s edition watch with the emblem of the Smoke Eaters on the front and an inscription on the reverse side that sums it all up for Milburn – “Smoke Eater for life.”