Just as Teck is the icon of Trail industry, the ‘61 Trail Smoke Eaters is the team of the century in the city’s athletic world.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the team’s seminal win at the world hockey championships, local groups are going to great lengths to commemorate the day and encourage residents to get into the “Spirit of ‘61.”
A dozen members of the original Smokies team will gather at the Royal Theatre Saturday afternoon with residents and dignitaries in a special ceremony and screening of “For the Love of the Game: A Century of Hockey in Trail, B.C.”
“I think specifically with this team, it did a lot to put Trail on the map, especially in a hockey sense . . . and brought us some prominence that we wouldn’t have achieved without this team,” said Sarah Benson of the Trail Historical Society.
The historical society and City of Trail promotion committee is organizing the Teck-sponsored event and will include a special feature to follow the screening.
The society acquired rare footage from a Swiss newsreel that shows 7 1/2 minutes of the Smokies’ 7-4 game against the U.S. and the 5-1 final against Russia.
“We’ve been searching forever for the whole game in its entirety on film, we do have it on audio, but we can’t find the footage,” said Benson, although she is happy with the additional minutes.
Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs will also officially proclaim March 12 as ‘61 Smoke Eaters Day, a rare nod to an exceptional feat.
“What they really brought to the community with their championship is the passion that we can do it; as a small town and city, that Trail’s culture of achievement says we can be the best in the world,” said Bogs.
The honour is one of many received by the “61 Smokies over the years, including its induction into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.
“It’s very nice of the city to do that, it doesn’t happen to everybody, but it’s nice for the team to be recognized in that manner,” said Cal Hockley, captain of the ’61 Smokies.
The Trail club is the last amateur Canadian team to win the world championship, and while Hockley says the hype is getting a bit old, it cannot diminish the accomplishment.
“It was significant, and the name became synonymous with hockey in Trail and everywhere I went after that. As soon as I mentioned I was from Trail, they’d ask if I was familiar with the Smoke Eaters.”
The ‘61 alumni will meet at the Royal Theatre at 1 p.m. Saturday for a meet-and-greet followed by an introduction, the city’s proclamation, speeches, a raffle for the traditional orange and black ‘39 Smokies jersey, followed by the screening.
While Hockley is proud of the team’s international title, he takes even greater satisfaction in the role they played in the formation of “old-timers” hockey for players over 35 in Canada.
“Guys played senior men’s hockey but after that, that was the end of it,” said Hockley.
As the men got older, they formed an old-timers team and organized games against their counterparts in Sweden, he said.
“When we started out, we couldn’t find any old-timers (teams) in Canada to play so when we suggested we were going to Europe, the C.H.A (Canadian Hockey Association) was astounded.”
The formation of those early Smoke Eater old-timer teams in the ‘70s, led to the thousands of recreation hockey teams and old-timer leagues across Canada today, and is just one more legacy of the ‘61 Smoke Eaters.
Tickets are $4 and are limited but can be picked up in advance at Trail City Hall, the Trail Times or KBS.