Greater Trail minor hockey honoured one of its longest-running volunteer coaches in a small but deserving ceremony on Monday night at the Trail Memorial Centre.
The City of Trail opened the rink to a handful of masked and socially distanced family and friends to attend the award ceremony for Ken Koshey, who has spent most of the last five decades as volunteer coach in minor hockey.
“We gathered to honour a truly outstanding volunteer,” said minor hockey president Trent McNabb. “When organizations such as Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association puts a call out for volunteers, such as coaches, we hope at best that these people will be able to help out for a few years.
“Ken volunteered as a coach with the now Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association for 47 years. That is remarkable.”
Koshey coached generations of West Kootenay players, and his passion and love for the game is only surpassed by his humility, kindness and generosity of spirit.
“It was quite a surprise, but there’s so many people you want to thank along the way in getting this recognition,” Koshey told the Times. “It starts with family, my wife Lois was an inspiration to me and what she did was support me all the time, and of course the kids, they were just awesome. And the coaches I worked with, the directors, minor hockey, the team moms, everything – it just snowballed and it was just a really, really special day.”
Few, if any, have spent as many years behind a bench, and for coach Koshey, a run of almost 50 years will come to an end this year.
“I’m sort of winding down now,” said Koshey. “I’m 76 years old now and things are getting a little bit harder to do, and I think I just want to settle down and maybe help out in some other capacity in minor hockey.”
Koshey was born and raised in Dauphin, Man., where he grew up skating on the prairie ponds before heading west at age 15 to play for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Weyburn Red Wings.
Following a tryout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, Koshey made his way to Trail in 1965 to suit up for the Trail Smoke Eaters and to continue playing the game he loved.
“Hockey’s been my life, I’ve enjoyed it ever since I was a kid growing up on the prairies.”
Over the years he raised a family, worked at Teck, and since the early 70’s has coached minor hockey at all levels, from Atom to Junior, male, female, and co-ed in Rossland, Trail, Fruitvale, and Castlegar.
“Ken left a real impression on the kids that he coached,” said McNabb. “Noted for taking time for each and every kid, Ken always remembered every kids name, even the ones that weren’t on his teams.”
Koshey also enjoyed his share of success over the years. He was awarded the 2013 Ernie Gare B.C. Coach of the Year award and named a hockey hero by Kraft Hockeyville the same year.
Yet, those personal accolades and awards take a back seat to the time spent coaching young players and focusing on their development on and off the ice. He encouraged hard work, and was known for his fine skating teams.
“We didn’t dwell on winning and losing, we had fun, and everyone played well. So it was about complimenting each player after a game and telling them how great they played, that’s all we wanted,” said Koshey.
“Just being involved with the kids is my highlight.”
Koshey describes one memorable moment in Kaslo while tightening up a young novice player’s skate.
“I had a boy on my team by the name of Derek Ferraro, and one of the compliments he said to me was, ‘Mister Koshey, when I make the NHL, I’m taking you with me’.”
Koshey credits the parents whose tireless work and support for their kids has made the Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association one of the finest in the province.
And not to be overlooked, he gave a special thank you to all the men and women who worked at the arenas and kept the ice cleaned and keen for his hockey players.
Coach Koshey ends his career during a very difficult COVID season. In better times, there would have been a banquet, speeches, fond reminiscences, a puck drop at centre ice of a Smoke Eaters game …
Yet, in a year when no one could play meaningful games, it made the game more meaningful.
A fitting time to recognize Trail’s longest serving coach.
“When Ken was contacted to let him know that we were planning to honour him, he said, ‘Why me?’,” added McNabb.
“And that is precisely why we are honouring you. You are exactly the type of volunteer coach that every organization is looking for, and we were lucky enough to have you.”
Read: Kraft Hockeyville contest picks Trail coach