It is all but certain that no amateur team will ever again win the World Hockey Championship, so it was only fitting that the last Canadian amateur team to do so would convene to celebrate the 55th anniversary of that seminal moment in Trail’s hockey history.
Members of the 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters gathered at the Colombo Lodge earlier this summer to celebrate 55 years since its World Hockey Championship victory in Geneva, Switzerland.
‘61 Smoke Eater captain Cal Hockley, “A Trail to Remember” author John D’Arcangelo, and Gordon Gattafoni of the Colombo Lodge organized the event that saw nine players attend. Hockley, Norm Lenardon, Harold Jones, Don Fletcher, Gerry Penner, Edmund Cristofoli, and Dave Rusnell of Trail and Victoria’s Harry Smith and Kimberley resident Walt Peacosh gathered to reminisce of the championship and their European experience, while Rossland’s Darryl Taylor captured the special moments on video.
“The hugs and smiles that the players exchanged as they entered the Lodge revealed how meaningful and important this reunion was to them,” wrote Joseph Ranallo, who also chronicled the event. “Some had not seen each other for a considerable period of time.”
The players swapped stories of events on and off the ice, of their physical matches against world-class competiton and their ultimate victory over the Soviets, to the european food and refreshments, medical care, and a grudging respect for their opponents. But more significant, was their universal acclaim for head coach Bobby Kromm.
“They all agreed that Bobby Kromm’s firm, decisive, and demanding coaching style played a critical part in their team’s ultimate victory,” said Ranallo. “They also acknowledged Trail’s Mike Buckna’s extensive influence on the nature and history of hockey in Europe.”
Led by coach Kromm and back-stopped by goalie Seth Martin, the Smoke Eaters defeated Sweden 6-1, tied Czechoslovakia, then scored a decisive 5-1 win over the favourite Soviets, clinching the gold medal for Canada. The Smoke Eaters went 6-0-1 in the tournament, and was the last amateur team from Canada to win the world championship.
The reunion was capped off by a dinner at another iconic Trail landmark, the Colander, where the players enjoyed more tales of past and present experiences, which organizers plan to preserve for posterity by “For the Love of the Game” writer and producer Taylor.
The ‘61 Smoke Eaters triumph left an indelible mark on the Silver City, one that serves as a source of pride for it’s residents, and a rich and unforgettable tradition for the Orange and Black.
“The reunion that lasted only a few short hours was nothing short of memorable,” wrote Ranallo who graduated from Rossland High School in 1961. “It reminded those of us who were fortunate enough to be present why, over the years, Trail has earned its coveted reputation of being the Home of Champions.”