Minor sports (yes, junior hockey qualifies) can be confounding.
This past weekend I attended games at the Hawks’ Nest and Smokies’ Station ( I know, lame, but someone should do better for the Smoke Eaters, because, “Hawks’ Nest,” is a cool home ice designation).
I am proud of Cominco Arena and all the Memorial Center represents around here, but a nickname on behalf of another local icon would not change that. It may be too late to matter, but maybe the Smokies Booster Club should run a contest that would engage creative types, especially kids.
Back to being confounded. Teams in both arenas grabbed two-goal leads. One of those teams was playing the top team in its division and could comfortably have been expected to cough that lead up. One of those teams was the top team in the league and had only once all season, with a lot of its stars missing, lost a game in which it had a two-score advantage.
Surprise, surprise, the third place squad, the Spokane Braves held on to close out the win despite being dominated in every statistic by the top place club, Beaver Valley. And the bottom place team, the Smoke Eaters, made a charge and knocked off the first place team, the Penticton Vees.
Neither result means much in the overall picture, but one could see on the faces of fans the emotional impact of the results. In Beaver Valley, heads were shaking and worried frowns about coming playoff action appeared. In Trail, the crowd was smiling and cheering despite the fact no playoff games will appear in Cominco Arena this year, again.
Confounding, yes, and that is why it is still worthwhile to turn out to watch the Smoke Eaters – they provide excellent entertainment value most nights. This time of year, of course, serious fans also look forward to guaging the talent which might crack next season’s roster.
Many local fans have staunchly felt that the Smokies, at full strength, could compete with any team in the league – despite the standings. Saturday’s game featured an under strength squad missing its top scorer and both regular netminders, but somehow that roster got the job done against a nationally ranked perennial power. Lots of, “what ifs?” around the town about now.
Confounding, even frustrating, given the way the season has transpired, but for a few minutes there it was a lot of fun. Sports are supposed to be about that, aren’t they?
That same Trail roster, again it is confounding, got down 3-0 after 12 minutes, despite holding every statistical advantage, but could not come all the way back against Merritt.
Six more home games left, beginning tonight.
The Nitehawks have just one more regular season tilt in the Hawks’ Nest, on Friday 13th, no less. Beaver Valley has playoff passes on sale, however.