The Trail Memorial Centre welcomed a group of unexpected visitors as former Trail resident Ryan Huska and the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets took to the Cominco Arena ice for a workout Monday afternoon.
With the Rockets scheduled to play in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice Tuesday night, the former Trail minor hockey star decided to make a detour through the Silver City and enjoy a workout, before taking the players on a tour of Teck, and dinner at the Colander.
Huska, the head coach of the Rockets, was born in Cranbrook but moved to Trail at an early age and progressed through the minor hockey ranks until he graduated to junior.
“I grew up here,” said Huska. “My dad was transferred here when I was four years old, with the RCMP, and I left when I was 16 to go play junior in Kamloops, so this is kind of home for me.”
Huska went on to win three Memorial Cup rings as a player with the Kamloops Blazers, and added a fourth as an assistant coach in 2004 with the Rockets. With a fist full of rings, Huska is one of the most decorated Memorial Cup champions in the history of the WHL, and is looking to nab his fifth this season.
The personable coach was happy to return to the confines of the Cominco Arena, to reminisce and give his players the opportunity to experience some of its rich history.
“This building has (changed), there are a lot of things that are different here, not just the paint,” said Huska. “You can tell they’ve put a lot of work into it over the years and it’s nice they are able to keep it the way it is.”
Huska’s also led the Rockets to a WHL championship and second place finish at the Memorial Cup in 2009 and looks to continue the success this season. The Rockets currently are second in the B.C. Conference of the Western division with an 18-9-1-1 record, trailing league-leading Kamloops.
“We had a tough start to the year where 11 of our first 16 were on the road, but I thought our players did a good job of coming together early on, and right now we’re doing a good job of playing together as a team.”
The Rockets have won 12 in a row at home, but will continue their six-game road trip from Cranbrook through Alberta this week with games against the Lethbridge Broncos, Medicine Hat Tigers, and Red Deer Rebels before returning home Sunday after a tilt with the Calgary Hitmen.