Long time volunteers and world title anniversary saluted
Anywhere the Trail Smoke Eaters play, they conjure up visions of world championship teams long before any of the current players were even born.
But when the team skates out for its final regular season home game tonight at the Cominco Arena, the past and present will come together as the club honours the 50th anniversary of the Smokies 1961 world championship.
For tonight’s game, the players will be donning replica jerseys that the Smoke Eaters wore on their quest to a world title in Switzerland.
Although the official anniversary isn’t until March, Smokies president Tom Gawryletz said the final home game of the regular season provided the perfect opportunity.
“This is a way for us to recognize the 50th anniversary,” said Gawryletz, adding there are still plenty of members from the world championship squad who continue to support the junior franchise.
Cal Hockley, who captained the ’61 team, will be on hand for the ceremonial faceoff prior to the start of the game against Salmon Arm.
“It’s still a thrill to see the Orange and Black,” he said.
“If we’d been able to skate like these kids we would have been the Stanley Cup champions not just the world champions.”
Paul Mailey, the current captain of the Smoke Eaters, has a long family history tied to the club.
“To put on any Smokies’ jersey is really amazing,” he said.
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“Obviously everybody growing up in Trail knows about the history that they have.
You look up to those guys and what they accomplished was so great. And to be able to wear one of these replica jerseys that they wore and play for them in a sense is also important.”
Gawryletz said Friday’s game will also be an opportunity to acknowledge some of the club’s long time volunteers prior to the start of the match against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
“We’re honouring all our longtime volunteers before the game,” he explained.
“We have a core group of some guys who have put in time not just with junior hockey but senior hockey. We’re just going to say thank you to them. They’re not just volunteers, they’re supporters that buy season tickets too.”
Gawryletz said the replica jerseys will be up for auction as of Saturday morning online as well as at the souvenir booth in the Cominco Arena.
“We’re probably going to wear them in the first two home games of the playoffs. So people get a chance to see them again,” he added.
On top of the pre-game salute to the ’61 Smokies and longtime volunteers, game sponsor Pacific Coastal Airlines will offer prizes including return airfare to Vancouver.