The last touchstone to what is arguably the first great Trail Smoke Eater team in its 100-year history passed away this week.
Former Trail Smoke Eater, Richard “Dick” Kowcinak, died at his home in Ontario on Monday, he was 92.
“We were in contact with his family over the past week and they let us know that he had passed away,” said Sarah Benson from the Trail Historical Society.
Kowcinak is the last living member of the Trail Smoke Eaters hockey team that won their first Allan Cup in 1938 and first World Championships in 1939.
“That was the first team that really put Trail on the map in terms of sports prowess and dominance,” added Benson.
Kowcinak was considered one of Trail’s fastest skaters with the best shot on the team. He had just come off a Memorial Cup win with the Winnipeg Monarchs when he moved to Trail to join the Smokies, a team that was already developing a reputation for excellence.
“They came here knowing they were going to be playing top-notch hockey and having a team like the Trail Smoke Eaters on your resume would only do good things for you in the future,” she said.
After winning the Allan Cup with the Smoke Eaters, Kowcinak then traveled with the team to Europe for a three and a half month tour, culminating in the World Championship tournament.
The Smoke Eaters outscored their opponents 42-1, with their closest margin of victory coming against the Czechs, 2-1, a team coached by Trail’s Mike Buchna.
One Scottish reporter wrote, “In Kowcinak, McCreedy and Brennen, the Canadian champions have one of the fastest skating forward lines ever to appear in this country and their spectacular combination plays have been a revelation wherever they have appeared.”
Kowcinak left Trail in 1940 to play in Kirkland Lake, and although he was not born or raised in Trail, his impact is remembered still.
The City of Trail penned a letter of condolence to the Kowcinak family that recognized, “Dick’s contribution . . . that helped pave the way for Trail’s young athletes to realize incredible achievements . . . and for his role in forging a reputation of determination and skill for our small city.”