The Trail Smoke Eaters announced its 2012-13 schedule this week featuring an opening at the inaugural league tournament and the usual January travel.
The schedule features 56 games, marking the first time in the Smokies’ 18-year history that the club will play less than a 60-game schedule..
Trail head coach and general manager Bill Birks said dropping the four games from the schedule helps all the teams financially.
“Budget-wise it helps everybody,” he said.
The Smokies open the season with a pair of games at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack on Sept. 8 against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The team plays the Merritt Centennials the following day to wrap up its opening weekend.
“That will be good for all the players and the scouts,” said Birks. “I like what we’re doing if we have a good start against Cowichan and Merritt that will help us as we work our way home.
The Smokies stop in Prince George and Merritt before hitting the Cominco Arena ice on Sept. 21 for its home opener against the West Kelowna Warriors.
It’s the first of 27 home games this season with only four matches scheduled for a weeknight.
Birks alluded to the four games cut from the schedule as the reason for less weeknight games.
“Weeknights are a tough draw all over the league,” he said. “I think it’s a good move.”
The team’s first Lower Mainland trip goes in October with stops in Surrey, Cowichan Valley and Victoria.
The Smokies get a comfortable Christmas break after a busy start, which will see the team play eight games in the first 18 days of December.
The team heads for the break on Dec. 18, on the heels of three home games, and returns to action in the new year on Jan. 4, also at the Cominco Arena.
January’s annual grind will include 10 games, six on the road including the team’s second trip to the Lower Mainland.
Five out of seven games in February are on home ice and the team wraps up the regular season with three games in March, all against the defending Royal Bank Cup champion Penticton Vees.
The regular season ends on March 10.
The Smokies are offering early-bird prices on season tickets until Aug. 19. Contact the team office or visit the website for more details.