Saluting the ‘62 Smokies

We shouldn’t allow April to get away without acknowledging the 50th anniversary of a major accomplishment by a Home of Champions team.

We shouldn’t allow April to get away without acknowledging the 50th anniversary of a major accomplishment by a Home of Champions team.

This month in 1962 the Trail Smoke Eaters won their second Allan Cup national amateur hockey championship, meaning that generation of players finally matched the 1938-39 icons with a national and a world title on their resumes.

Pretty much the same team had won the worlds the year before, but had kind of backed in to that opportunity after losing the national title to the Chatham Maroons in 1960.

Just for a little context, after the 61 Smokies it was 35 years before a Canadian team won another world title – at a time when many of the best players from Europe were involved in NHL playoff play – and Trail played against the best that Russia, Sweden, Checkoslovakia and other European powers had to offer.

People have funny, fuzzy memories of that Allan Cup run, most remembering it as easy pickings for a defending world champion whose roster contained most, if decidedly not all, of the talent from the previous season.

Not so much.

It’s true the Smokies’ swept the Alberta champs three straight, albeit the final game was a one goal affair.

Against the Saskatoon Quakers, however, Trail was down three games to two on home ice before rallying to take the last two games and the western title. Game six was a 7-6 nailbiter, game seven was like game one, a 6-0 blitz for the Smokies. Every winner in that series scored at least six goals. The final tally was, Trail 36, Saskatoon, 26, the difference that pronounced only because of those two six-goal shutouts.

Against the Montreal Olympiques, Trail was more comfortably in command – except for game two, when Montreal rebounded from an 8-0 shellacking for a 5-2 win to even the best-of-seven.

The Smokies responded in turn, however, and took the next three, 4-2, 4-1 and 5-3 for the title that matched the accomplishments of their 38-39 forebears.

Montreal featured a Richard (yes, that family) who surprisingly wasn’t a great skater, and a burly defenseman name Noel Picard who went on to play for Scotty Bowman, and eventually alongside Seth Martin, with the St. Louis Blues after the first NHL expansion.

The Richard present, however, possessed a howitzer of a slap shot, the equal of any I have seen in person, and the team itself was very strong on the power play.

Several players on that Smoke Eater team were coveted by various (only six in those days) NHL clubs. The most notable among those would have been Warfield’s Harry Smith – strong, fast, skilled and tough – although none of them took the bait.

In the pre-expansion NHL days, there was similar money and better security in good local jobs and business ownership than now exists in pro sports, plus those Smokies liked living here.

Many still do, and you know who they are.

Happy anniversary guys.