Players and fans were motivated on Saturday to contribute to a cause greater than the game of hockey.
The exhibition match between the Trail Smoke Eaters and Thompson River University Wolf Pack Saturday at the Cominco Arena was organized to raise money for Kolby Zanier, daughter of Smokies’ assistant coach Barry.
By the end of the night, the team raised over $11,000 for the 13-year-old who is awaiting a heart transplant in an Edmonton hospital.
It was one generous and heartfelt gesture after another, said Smoke Eaters’ president Tom Gawryletz.
Organizers were initially concerned with the turnout but supporters eventually trickled in and filled the building.
“At 6:30 we were all depressed because there was nobody in the rink but the lineup was outside and by game time there was 500 or 600,” said Gawryletz.
And they kept coming.
Over 1,000 people paid $6 at the gate to watch an inspired Smokies’ team skate to a 9-3 victory over the Wolf Pack.
In addition to the gate proceeds, a puck toss, donations jars, a silent auction for an autographed Taylor Hall jersey courtesy of Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini, as well as personal donations from the Wolf Pack players, Bob Moffet’s Spud Shack all contributed.
But one incredible gesture by the guys working the clock typified the evening; Tiger Milburn’s crew won the 50/50 draw and donated the full $1,200 amount to Kolby’s Trust Fund.
“It was remarkable and money is still coming in. I came to work the other day and there was an envelope slipped under the door,” added Gawryletz.
The organizers video taped the game to send to the Zaniers who are with Kolby in Edmonton.
The team will also have a silent auction at the home opener Friday. Up for grabs are a John Tavares autographed stick, a Jason Bay jersey and a limited edition wildlife print.
As for the game, Brent Baltus netted a hat trick and captain Logan Proulx added two to lead the Smoke Eaters.
Dallas Calvin, Luke Bertolucci, Rajan Sidhu, and Brendan Long rounded out the scoring.
In the Smoke Eaters final BCHL exhibition game on Friday against Vernon Vipers, the Smokies lost 4-2.
Their opening season game goes Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Trail Memorial Centre against the Westside Warriors.