As the Trail Smoke Eaters’ camp hits the ice, team organizers are feverishly preparing for the start of the season and the biggest concerns are billeting, bussing and filling the building.
The first preseason game drops the puck in Salmon Arm in just over two-weeks but the Smokies have no place to house new recruits.
“Billeting is where we need some help, we need about five billets right now which for us is desperate,” said Smokies president Tom Gawryletz.
Smoke Eater players range in age from 16- to 20-years old and all that’s is required of the billet is a bed and meals. The team provides a $350 monthly stipend/per player to the billeting family and also throws in season tickets.
“They (the players) are away a lot too, so if you look at the schedule they’re gone for about two months of the season, it just helps compensate part of it.”
Most of the players also attend high school and are responsible for their own transportation to practices and games and must abide by team rules and curfews.
“I don’t know what it is this year, there just seems to be some kind of shortage,” he added. “Some of our long-time billets, you know, they need a break.”
The Smokies have also extended the summer season ticket sale to the end of August. The tickets entitles families, adults, students and seniors to all 30 regular season home games plus playoffs at a discounted price.
“We extended it to the 31st, mainly because we were fighting all summer with raising the prices, trying to come up with a budget that was going to work for us and we ended up with a slight increase in a couple areas but overall the response has been excellent.”
The Smoke Eaters new bus also ran into a licensing roadblock that has delayed its inaugural run.
“We’re finding that getting the bus licensed wasn’t as easy as we thought, at the beginning we thought it was a slam dunk, much like a regular car you import.”
Because the bus is not privately owned and the Smoke Eaters hockey club is a society, they had to develop a safety plan for the passengers and driver, in addition to numerous inspections.
“It’s a bit of a learning experience . . . When it’s all said and done, the government is working with us and I don’t see it being a problem.”
The bus should be ready for the Smokies first preseason road game in Salmon Arm.
Season tickets can be picked up at ReMax All Pro Realty in Trail.