The Trail Hockey Club Society (THCS) is bringing former members of the most storied NHL franchise in sports history to the Silver City in the new year.
The Montreal Canadiens Alumni will lace up their skates for a game against the Trail Old Timers in Trail on Feb. 16 at the Cominco Arena in what will be a fundraiser for the newly founded THCS Scholarship Fund.
“They were here back in I think it was 1980,” said THCS executive member Tom Gawryletz. “But they’re doing a tour of B.C. so it’ll work out good. They’ll play against the Trail Old Timers … and they’re all ex-Montreal Canadiens.”
As the former community owner of the Trail Smoke Eaters, the THCS is now an independent fundraising arm of the BCHL Junior A team that was purchased by Rich and Annie Murphy on Nov. 1, 2016. Money from the sale of the team and those raised through initiatives like the Montreal Alumni game go towards building a scholarship fund to help local hockey players continue on to college and university.
“We’ve thrown a lot of things around, but the thing that will last the longest is some kind of an endowment with a scholarship fund.”
The scholarships will be directed to Smoke Eater and Beaver Valley Nitehawk players who don’t receive NCAA scholarships but want to pursue a post-secondary education either as a student or student-athlete.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s Greater Trail and it doesn’t matter where a kid plays because in our mind a lot of kids that move on to college or university, say from the Smoke Eaters, a lot of them are on scholarships so it’s not like they need a lot of money,” said Gawryletz. “But someone who is going to Selkirk College or UBC where they don’t have the money to give away, then those are the kids we want to help and obviously they’re going to need some help.”
It’s still uncertain who will fill out the Habs’ roster, but in the past luminaries like Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Terry O’Reilly, Brad Park, Bobby Hull and Moose Dupont accompanied the NHL Legends for the Oldtimers’ Hockey Challenge at the Cominco Arena for games in 1999, 2000, and 2001.
Many well known local players took to the ice against the ageing but no less skilled NHLers, including Sean Brandt who had the rare opportunity to play on the NHL side in relief of an absent Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams in the 1999 game, centring the likes of Lafleur and Dionne.
The family-fun show thrilled a capacity crowd of 3,500 at the Cominco Arena, as the NHLers skated to a 25-3 win.
“The game was hockey,” wrote the Trail Times’ Dave Thompson. “However, with Dionne, and especially Lafleur, giving fans brief glimpses of the phenomenal skills they once possessed in abundance. Lafleur scored eight times in the contest and showcased still impressive speed, agility, power and puckhandling. Dionne, though much slowed from his all-star days, displayed the great hands and on-ice vision that made him a superstar.”
For more than 40 years, the Canadiens Alumni have been traveling throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada to make hockey dreams come true. Each year, the Canadiens Alumni help raise over $1.5 million for grass-root and community causes, and on this leg of their BC tour, in addition to Trail, the veteran Habs will visit Kamloops, Chilliwack, Kelowna, and Nanaimo.
“We’re hoping to generate about $20,000-25,000 off that game, which will go a long way to helping out with the scholarships, as the 50/50 has,” said Gawryletz.
The Society also operates the 50/50 draw at Smoke Eater games, which as part of the provincial gaming regulations stipulates that proceeds go to charitable organizations. With a successful Smoke Eater team and robust crowds, the game night 50/50 draws have been growing substantially and giving an added boost to the scholarship program.
“As far as scholarships,” says Gawryletz. “There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be $30,000-$40,000 we can give away and not touch the principle, so hopefully that’ll work.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Tickets for the Montreal Canadiens Alumni game can be purchased at the Trail Smoke Eaters office, at all Smoke Eaters home games, and at Gerick’s Sports. Adult $15 ($20 at gate), Kids 12-and-under $10, and VIP $50 (limited supply).