Student up for national prize thanks to project on ‘61 Smokies

Supporters can vote for John Ircandia’s grandaughter’s project online

When Grade 5 student Olivia Richards first began her school history project on the ’61 Trail Smoke Eaters, getting on the Internet to try and win a trip to Ottawa wasn’t the first thing on her mind.

“I don’t think I have ever won anything before, so I think it would be really cool [to go to Ottawa],” said the student from Vancouver’s Edith Cavell Elementary.

Olivia’s project is being recognized on a national level by Heritage Canada as part of its Young Citizens contest. The winner, with the most votes and highest score from a judges’ panel, will end up flying to the nation’s capital for a national heritage fair.

To start her project, initially for the annual student Heritage Fair in Vancouver, Olivia took a trip to Trail to begin her research.

Olivia’s mother, Paula Richards, a Trail native, says the idea for the history research project came from her father, John Ircandia,  a former Smoke Eater who is  friends with a few players from the world championship 1961 team.

“I grew up in Trail, and my dad still lives there,” she said. “We’ve got a family connection to the area and my dad knows a lot of the ’61 Smoke Eaters and he is friends with them, so we came up in February and interviewed a few of them.”

Olivia sat down with three former players, Cal Hockley, Dave Rusnell and Norm Lenardon.

“We got the actual story from [the players’] point of view,” said Richards.

One of Olivia’s favourite facts she uncovered during her research?

“When the Smoke Eaters left to go on their journey to Europe, they left on Wayne Gretzky’s birthday,” she said.

Richards says her daughter had a great time doing the research and mom even had a great time giving her a hand where she could.

“It’s pretty neat and she is excited and it was cool helping her put the video together,” she said.

Olivia is one of 200 students from across Canada that have their projects featured on the Heritage Canada website and she is looking for some local support to help her win that trip to Ottawa.

“Fifty per cent of her final score [in the contest] to win the trip to Ottawa is the voting, so we are just trying to get the word out,” explained Richards.

To vote for Olivia Richards’  project on the history-making 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters, visit and click the vote button.

Voting for the contest closes on July 11, 2014.