Minor Hockey Day in Trail is all about participation and having fun, that’s why over 300 Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association (GTMHA) skaters will take to Cominco, Rossland, and Beaver Valley ice on Saturday to celebrate Canada’s national pastime.
The festivities begin bright and early with the traditional pancake breakfast courtesy of the Local 480 going from 8 to 11 a.m. in the Cominco Gym. The games start at 8 a.m. at the Trail Memorial Centre with Junior Novice dropping the first puck, while a Pee Wee House Tournament opens at 7:30 a.m. in both Rossland and Beaver Valley Arenas.
“We’ve had an increase in registrations again this year and our novice programs are blossoming,” said GTMHA organizer Jim Maniago. “We have six Junior Novice and seven Senior Novice teams which is more than we’ve had in a long time.”
Minor hockey director Charlie McLean introduced Minor Hockey Week to Trail in 1957, with the slogan “Don’t send your boy to play hockey – Take him.” The following year, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association liked the idea so much, they made it an annual event celebrated across Canada.
This year GTMHA will see more than 20 teams take to the ice, and organizer Jim Maniago says the logistics of so many games is often challenging, with perhaps the biggest obstacle finding enough referees to officiate all the matches.
Junior and Senior Novice, Atom and Bantam House games continue throughout the day at the Cominco Arena culminating with the GTMHA Bantam Tier 2 Smokies playing the Kelowna Bantam Tier 2 Rockets at the Cominco Arena at 4:30 p.m.
The annual event acknowledges the sport of hockey and the contributions of its players, coaches, and parents. Greater Trail minor hockey saw many of its graduates compete at the elite level this past season, including Travis St. Denis, Scotty Davidson, and Craig Martin who played in the NCAA Div. 1 championship final in April, while Jake Lucchini won rookie of the year with Michigan Tech.
Trail native Steve McCarthy helped the Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate Lake Erie Monsters win the Calder Cup, while St. Denis joined Montrose twins Connor and Kellen Jones on the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the 2016-17 season.
Fruitvale native Barret Jackman closed out a brilliant 14-year career with the Nashville Predators, but retired with his longtime team the St. Louis Blues in October.
Yet, with the almost fatal collapse of Craig Cunningham on Nov. 19, there was the sobering reminder that, in the end, hockey is just a game. The best one can do is enjoy it and play it with the enthusiasm, dedication, class, and courage that Cunningham has shown throughout his career.
Minor Hockey Day in Canada winds up in Beaver Valley with all minor hockey players and coaches admitted free to the Nitehawks game against the Columbia Valley Rockies at 7:30 p.m. at the B.V. Arena.
A highlight for GTMHA this season is they will play host to the Pee Wee Tier 2 Provincial Championship Mar. 19-23.