The BCHL finalized its 58-game 2016-17 schedule on Thursday.
Hockey season opens for Trail Smoke Eater players on Sept. 9 this year and concludes on Feb. 26, 2017 with playoffs starting on March 3. The Smoke Eaters will likely face their toughest challenge right out of the blocks, as they face the RBC champions, West Kelowna Warriors, in a home-and-home to start the season, with Trail hosting the Warriors at the Trail Memorial Centre on Saturday, Sept. 10.
Following their opening two matches, the Smoke Eaters play five games outside the always tough Interior division, with the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack going Sept. 21-25 where Trail plays Victoria and Powell River, and rounds out the month with the long haul to Prince George to play the Spruce Kings.
October and November will see Trail put a few-thousand miles on the bus as they travel to Vancouver Island in back-to-back months playing Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley Oct. 8 and 9, then returning Nov. 18-20 for games agains Powell River, Alberni Valley, and Victoria.
December will be a pivotal month for the Smoke Eaters as they play six of nine games against division rivals Salmon Arm, Penticton, and Vernon, and following the scheduled Christmas break from Dec. 19 to 28, Trail ends 2016 with another home-and-home with West Kelowna.
After surging into a playoff spot last December, a January collapse almost put the Smokies out of contention if not for a late rally. Unfortunately, Trail’s playoff hopes were dashed in a loss to the Vernon Vipers in the final game of the season. In a similar twist of fate, the Smoke Eaters wrap up the 2016-17 season with a home-and-home against Vernon Feb. 24-25, hoping for a different result this year.
Other important dates on the Junior A calendar in the coming season include: The World Junior A Challenge (WJAC), Dec. 11 to 17 in Bonnyville, Alta., Junior hockey roster deadline Jan. 10, 2017, and the RBC Cup national championship, May 13 to 21 in Cobourg, Ont.
Smoke Signals:The Trail Smoke Eaters game times will change slightly this season. Saturday night and week night games will now be played at 7 p.m., while the Friday night games remain unchanged at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The Smoke Eaters also held a training camp in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on the weekend; see more on the Smokies camp in the Trail Times later this week.