Mike Haug of Interior Signs in Trail was busy removing the old decals from the Trail Smoke Eaters bus on Wednesday. The bus will get a new look as it prepares to hit the road for another BCHL season. Guy Bertrand photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters’ opener showcases big changes at rink

Smoke Eaters legacy lives on…

Action on the ice will be enhanced by a lot of action off the ice, as the Trail Smoke Eaters new era begins tonight.

The Smokies open the 56th BCHL season against the West Kelowna Warriors at the Cominco Arena, but tonight’s match up is the first opening-season game for the new Smoke Eaters staff and owners Annie and Rich Murphy, who have been working overtime to make it a memorable and activity-packed evening.

“Things are going great,” said Allison McCarthy, corporate sales and events manager. “We are just putting the finishing touches on the season-opener details, but overall things are going really well.”

And while the puck drops at 7 p.m., the opening night festivities kick off well before that.

“We have a lot planned for this evening. It’s going to start with a Kids Tailgate Party in the parking lot under the mural at 5:30 p.m.”

The Kids Tailgate Party, courtesy of Teck, includes a variety of hockey-themed kids games and pizza from Rustic Crust with all proceeds going to KidSport-Trail from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

In addition, fans are encouraged to show up early as the state-of-the-art video wall will be unveiled at 6:45 p.m., and Smokies’ media guru Geoff Fontes has compiled footage for what should be an explosive Trail Smoke Eater entrance.

“We are going off of the theme, ‘The legacy lives on,’” explained McCarthy. “So, not to give too much away, but it’s going to highlight our incredible hockey history and how it transitions into current day.”

With close to $2 million invested in the team and comprehensive renovations to the Trail Memorial Centre, the Smoke Eater game experience will be unlike any before it with upgrades to the Spud and Suds Shacks, the addition of the Trail Beer Refinery kiosk, and the video wall where Trail fans and their sponsors will be treated to instant replay, corporate partnership ads, commercials, and entertaining clips.

“It is really going to tie the whole element of entertainment together with the addition of this video wall, so we’re all super excited to see this in action.”

Following a live rendition of the national anthem, representatives from Sanctuary will be on hand for the ceremonial puck drop. Game night sponsor, Teck, donated the Smokies Fan Box to Sanctuary, a safe and nurturing community centre for pre-teens.

The first intermission features a fun Smokies X’s and O’s game with the winner receiving a $100 Royal Theatre gift pack, and the second intermission highlights a paper-airplane toss, which, similar to the puck toss, will award a prize to the plane that is closest to the centre-ice dot. Smoke Eater souvenirs will also be available with a new line up of hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts, hockey-glove foam fingers, and of course – baby onesies.

Following the Murphy’s acquisition of the team on Nov. 1, 2016, the owners quickly hired local staff to direct hockey and off-ice operations to improve ticket sales and energize the game-night experience. The result: a much-improved Smoke Eaters team, along with new events and promotions that boosted attendance last season, culminating in an average of almost 2,000 per game during the Smokies first playoff appearance in eight years.

The Smoke Eaters hope to kick off this season with the same success.

“All of the current staff started on this adventure last November and December so this is our first time opening the season together,” added McCarthy. “But everything is running smoothly, and we are ready for a great season.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. with the puck drop at 7 p.m.

Smoke Signals: The game-night experience requires a robust group of volunteers and while many have been recruited and are returning from last year, the Smoke Eaters can still use more hands to help out in the concession and Spud Shack.

Anyone interested in becoming a contestant for intermission activities can go to the Smoke Eaters Facebook page to sign up. Contestants are then randomly selected to participate.