Fifty years ago today, Harry Smith and the rest of the 1962 Trail Smokie Eaters celebrated a rare victory in the annals of Smoke Eater hockey.
The team does not get the accolades of the ’61 World Championship team, but the squad managed to do one thing the ‘61 team did not – win the Allen Cup.
The Smokies raised the Allan Cup for only the second time in their history, after defeating the Montreal Olympics 5-2 at the Cominco Arena to win the series 4-1.
Yet players, like all-star Smokie defenceman Smith, don’t see the two teams as separate entities, but an extension of one very special and dominant group.
“We had the same key people, the same coach, a couple of different people, but mostly the same team,” said Smith from Hawaii.
For Smith, while the Allen Cup was an accomplishment, the world title was still the highlight.
“After you win the World Championship what goal is left?” he said. “That was a big moment my friend, you have to be there with 11 people you grew up with to understand that.”
The ’62 Smoke Eaters were compelled to play a series of exhibition games across Canada before heading to the ’63 World Championships. On an eastern swing, they lost their final six games before departing from Montreal for Stockholm, Swe.
“It (the Worlds) was an anticlimax really to even go there. We’d already won it and everybody else was ready for us, believe me, because they knew what we had,” said Smith. “The worse part of it, is we made a swing through eastern Canada playing all the good teams and they wanted to beat the Trail Smoke Eaters, and we got the crap kicked out of us and we were physically hurt when we got there.”
A few star players from the ’61 team, Cal Hockley, Darryl Sly, Claude Cyr and Michel Legace, also chose to stay behind and the Canadian Hockey Association provided them with pick ups that never quite gelled with the rest of the squad.
“We had a lot of people hurtin that didn’t help, and the CHA made us bring in a bunch of imports in and they didn’t fit in,” added Smith.
The team placed fourth at the Worlds in 1963, with four wins, two losses and a tie, but the Allen Cup victory in ‘62 is shared only by the 1938 Trail Smoke Eaters and remains as rare a feat as the two World Championships.
Smith’s Allan Cup victory was the start of a legacy of Cup winners in his own family, as his son Jim Smith won it in 2003 with the Powell River Regals and his grandson Lyle Tassone hoisted it with the Regals in 2006. Earlier this year his other grandson, Castlegar native Blair Tassone, played on a Regals team that lost in the western final to Stony Plains.
“We got good blood lines,” said Smith. “My family’s from Scotland and I’m a first generation Canadian so I guess it started with me.”
Smith played in an Olympic Games and three World Championships, twice with the Smokies and once with the Galt Terriers, and was named best defenceman at the Worlds in all three. He also played games with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL.
Smith now resides on Vancouver Island.