SPORTS N’ THINGS: Important start for Smokies and fans

"It was a nice start for the Smoke Eaters, but the real heavy lifting begins tonight."

It was a nice start for the Smoke Eaters, but the real heavy lifting begins tonight.

All the interior teams did pretty well, most of the mainland/island teams did not, so there is little indication of the relative merits of Interior teams in the outcomes at the, “Showcase.”

Tonight, when the Penticton Vees hit Cominco Arena, will be the first true measuring stick placed against the Smokies’ potential. And on Saturday they will face another first place team (entering the weekend) in the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Strong results the next couple of nights would do a number of good things for Trail.

It  would indicate to what is shaping up to be a large crowd for the first home game that this is a team that will compete for playoff positioning from the get-go.

It would really kick start the 2014/15 campaign in the Interior Division positively, especially given that the schedule has Trail playing its following four games against the seemingly weaker western clubs – giving the Smokies an opportunity to run up and stay up in the early season standings.

It would inspire confidence within the brand new roster and relatively new regime, and the fan base.

All of those good things are possible, but it won’t be easy. The Vees are perennially powerful contenders in the BCHL and, despite the six-point heroics of two Smoke Eaters last weekend, boast the Player of the Week in 16 year-old Tyson Jost and a combined four players – to Trail’s three – in the early season’s Top 20 scoring list.

And, it is very early, so nothing that happens in the Trail Memorial Centre tonight and tomorrow can foretell the season-long future for the Smokies or the league.

I am hopeful for this season, with all the work and worry and outreach the team has gone through in their own hopes of claiming a needed playoff run. It might take at least two points out of the four on offer this weekend to light that optimist fire in the hockey crowd around here.

It is a critical season for the franchise. Tonight and tomorrow are a bright opportunity for the team to get a jump on success. We all should, if we can, be there to encourage them.