Sports ‘n’ Things: Smokies’ survival depends on you

"Trail’s Junior A squad is coming off a dire on-ice season, with little evidence the team has buoyed its talent pool..."

Outside of the Junior B level, this is becoming a tough time for local hockey fans. The Smoke Eaters, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers – which  covers the interests of most local puck devotees if one goes by logos seen around town – are all in disarray.

Of all of the above organizations, the Smoke Eater situation is most dire (the pro squads all have owners whose bottom line is all-important – and all are making money despite poor results on ice).

Trail’s Junior A squad is coming off a dire on-ice season, with little evidence the team has buoyed its talent pool to the level needed to be competitive. It is also coming off a major fundraising drive with which it found marginal success.

The road to prosperity for Trail is a winding one, and involves a lot of switchbacks. Survival as a Jr. A franchise requires more income than they have been raising, but raising more income requires elevating the team’s play to encourage more fans and sponsors to pony up on behalf of that prosperity.

Elevating the team’s play needs to happen soon, on behalf of that needed income, but, regardless of their considered opinions, team managers cannot show evidence of better play until the next season begins – after their season ticket and advertising drives are mostly complete.

It has to be getting tough for a small but dedicated group of volunteers to keep the faith that the Smoke Eaters can, or even should, continue in the BCHL,

I am one who strongly believes the area is much better off having a Jr. A team than without one, but not one who has much in  the way of answers the executive can, as it were, “take to the bank.”

Like that executive, I can only hope that local hockey fans turn out to be just that, and become supportive, even if just on hope and faith, in terms of buying season tickets, ads and sponsorship slots.

However poor the results for the Smokies have been of late, there is no doubt the team has had and continues to have a strongly positive impact on local minor and Jr. B hockey and the general economy, especially downtown.

The loss of the team, or its reversion to Jr. B status, would have a strongly negative effect on all fronts, including the ability of Cominco Arena to act as a draw for the downtown area.

So, please keep the faith. Buy tickets, ads, sponsorships and souvenir merchandise, and consider turning out for some volunteer work. The Jr. A squad adds economic and sporting value to the area and gives local and out of town players a way to stay in the area and still play at and against a high level of hockey and qualify for post-secondary scholarships.

Have no illusions, we are at a make-or-break point for the Smokies’ survival and the team would be sorely missed if it folded or re-located. Supporting local endeavours may never have been more important, so consider it strongly.