In honour of Minor Hockey Day, the Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association will quietly celebrate its 64th year as an organization.
GTMHA is keeping at least one annual tradition alive by recognizing all its teams in today’s Trail Times feature, and thanking all the players, coaches, parents and volunteers who have endured and adapted to a very challenging year.
Greater Trail minor hockey has built a legacy that transcends the COVID pandemic. In a year that could easily divide, it brought together the communities of Trail, Rossland, Warfield, Montrose and Fruitvale with purpose and conviction.
The pandemic shut down travel, cancelled seasons, tournaments and even parents and spectators from watching, yet, the GTMHA forged ahead with practices and skills training, while undertaking strict protocols.
“It’s been hard,” said GTMHA vice president Jim Maniago. “Hard on parents that couldn’t watch when we were playing and hard on kids that were stuck with just practices and no games after November and hard on coaches to try and keep the kids engaged with only skill based practices for four months.”
The protocols were many and varied and included waiting outside with all your gear, helmet and mask on until 15 minutes before ice time. In November there was hope that a season might be possible in December, then January, then February, and still they wait.
“The protocols were different, but in general everyone adapted pretty well,” said Maniago. “Weird for the kids not to be able to spend the time together bonding as a team or having to rush to get ready in the few minutes that they are allowed into the rink before ice time but they adapt.
“The hardest part might have been the never ending dangling carrot of potentially being allowed to play games again and then never getting to do that.”
Youth hockey started in Trail in 1934 with 11 teams that included five Bantam, four Midget, and two Juvenile teams participating. By 1939, the Trail Boys Booster Hockey Club replaced the original organization and recruited 130 players to its ranks, under the direction of its first president, 15-year-old Jake MacLeod.
The organization grew by leaps and bounds and soon became the Trail Minor Hockey Association in 1950 with over 500 boys registered and teams playing for regional and provincial championships.
In 1955, the first female hockey league in BC was formed in Trail with four teams competing.
Trail minor hockey director Charlie McLean then introduced Minor Hockey Week to the Silver City in 1957. The following year, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association liked the idea so much, they made it an annual event celebrated across Canada.
Almost every city and town in the country now celebrates minor hockey day with events, games and tournaments.
A Hockey Day in Trail would normally start with the annual pancake breakfast provided by the United Steel Workers Local 480, and then follow up with back-to-back games and tournaments running the rest of the day, capped off by a Trail Smoke Eaters game and/or a Beaver Valley Nitehawks match.
Although watching hockey wasn’t possible this year, for the love of the game parents kept taking their young players to the rink, so they could continue to improve their skills and play the game.
“Overall everyone made the best of it and appreciated being able to at least get out of the house, get on the ice and get some exercise,” added Maniago. “But we’re all hoping that by fall things will be more back to normal and the kids can enjoy a regular hockey season.
“Our teams have lost two years of competing for provincial championships and you only get so many years to be a kid.”