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Trail Blazers: The Moffats go to Montreal

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Dora, Bob, Tommy, Shelley, and Jackie Moffat had the trip of a lifetime in April 1968. Photo: Trail Historical Society

by Sarah Benson-Lord

Trail Museum and Archives


For this week’s Trail Blazers, we go back 56 years to April 5, 1968, when young Tommy Moffat and members of his family departed for Montreal for the trip of a life time.

That spring, 12-year-old Tommy entered a contest he found on his morning Cheerios box, where he identified the NHL hockey player by their baby picture.

General Mills was offering 200 hockey stick prizes, as well as five grand prizes of a family trip to see an NHL game.

Recounting the story are Tommy’s parents (and Trail royalty), Bob and Dora Moffat.

Dora recalls answering the phone on Monday that week, while peeling potatoes for dinner.

Navigating her way around the kitchen with her two youngest children at her feet, Dora learned from a General Mills representative that Tommy was the recipient of one of the grand prizes, as well as a hockey stick.

Tommy’s prize was a trip to Minneapolis; however, when asked who his favourite team was, Dora stated Montreal, as TV in those days mainly showed Canadian teams on Hockey Night in Canada.

The representative then offered Dora tickets to the Saturday, April 6th game between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins in Montreal.

Asked if she could be ready to depart on Friday, she was confident she could do it.

Meanwhile, Bob was loudly encouraging Dora to hang up the phone from the other room, assuming she’d made a deal with a vacuum cleaner salesman.

The trip accommodated a family of five; this meant the two youngest were left at home and Dora, Bob, Tommy, Shelley (10), and Jackie (8) made the trip.

Dora arranged for hair cuts and new outfits for the children that week and transportation to the Castlegar Airport for Friday.

Upon arrival, they heard the plane circle above then leave, unable to land.

Needing immediate transportation to Calgary for their connector flight to Montreal, Bob, a postal employee, spoke with the Post Master, who arranged for Charlie Ames to drive the family to Calgary in a big van, smoking a cigar the whole way.

They took a night flight from Calgary to Montreal, first class the whole way.

The family were met by hosts, who shuttled them to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

They checked into three rooms, the two boys and parents sharing adjoining rooms, and Shelley receiving her very own room.

They recall dining at the Place Ville Marie before the game.

Once at the game, Tommy and Bob were given great seats, closer than the rest of the family. The Habs beat the Bruins 5-3, this the second game of the quarter finals. Afterwards, Tommy met his favourite player, Bobby Orr, among others.

Grand prize contest winners came from Montreal, the Maritimes, the Prairies, and further west.

Bob recalls the Prairie winner losing his chance to see a game in New York that weekend, as on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and riots were occurring across the U.S.

It was also the weekend that Pierre Trudeau rose victorious as Liberal party leader in Canada and would become Prime Minister on April 20.

What a memorable weekend for the Moffat family!

Dora and Bob’s biggest hurdle about the trip was getting in and out of the Kootenays by air, something we continue to battle to this day.

Their return home was marred by a flat tire at the Cranbrook airport.

The family was shuttled home on an old (and cold) bus, arriving home in the early hours.

As a family of seven without a vehicle in those days, this was the trip of a lifetime for the Moffats and first flights for most of them.

In addition to the flight and accommodations, the prize included $200 in spending money, roughly $1,700 today.

Dora and Bob remember every detail and tell us that son, Tom, still reminisces about his unbelievable win.

Bob shared this amazing story with the Hot Stove League group, which begins again for gents on Friday, April 12 and will run on the second Friday of every month at the museum.

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Read more: The story of unrequited love and murder in the Kootenays, 95 years later

Read more: Remembering a young man from Trail who went to war and never came home

Read more: Trail Blazers: When the walls came tumblin’ down

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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