It didn’t take long for Trail Smoke Eaters owner, Rich Murphy, and Trail’s Director of Hockey and Business Operations, Craig Clare, to assemble a ‘Special Ops’ team to guide, promote, and care for the Smokies organization off the ice.
Clare announced the addition of Steven Robinson as Operations Manager, Allison McCarthy as Corporate Sales and Event Manager, and Angie Hurley as the team’s new athletic therapist earlier this week.
“We’re excited for the investment that Rich has made to the team and the community,” said Clare. “We’re building a small team to run this program professionally, promote our players to move on to the next level, bring added value to our corporate sponsors, and make the game-day event exciting for our sponsors and fans.”
Murphy made his intentions clear when he first took the reins of the team on Nov. 1 and pledged to hire “good, quality people” and make the Smoke-Eater experience an exciting and fun family event. He returned to Trail last weekend from his home in Minnesota to spend almost a month in the Silver City implementing his plan and getting to know his new staff.
“I think we have a really good team, we just have to get organized,” said Murphy. “We’re literally starting from scratch. I mean I’m downstairs cleaning the laundry room, but I’m jumping in full force, and over the next three weeks we’re going to get organized.”
Both Robinson and McCarthy are well-suited for their respective positions. Robinson brings a wealth of Smoke Eater experience to the post of operations manager and dealing with day-to-day business. The Rossland native sat as a volunteer Smoke Eater director for the past four years, while working for Retriev Technologies, a waste-management and environmental consulting company.
“It gives me a chance to do something that I personally think, for the community, is going to be a very positive thing,” said Robinson. “I’ve looked around and seen what is going on and the chance to go feet first into something that is going to make a difference, and provide the families in town with something to do on weekends, is something I want to be involved in.”
As for McCarthy, her involvement with the Canadian Cancer Society and other non-profit groups has given her a unique skill-set of event planning and understanding of how best to engage the community.
“I hope to bring a new home-game experience to Trail and our surrounding communities,” said McCarthy. “We hope to create a night out that will be fun for the kids, cool for teenagers, enjoyable for adults, even those that are not die-hard hockey fans. Our home games will include a fun night out including a variety of theme nights, good music, community involvement, exciting games and entertainment and of course some amazing hockey.”
The Smoke Eaters also were in desperate need of an athletic therapist, and risked fines from the league if unattended at games. Through the first 26 matches the team managed to fill the role with local and out of town therapists. The addition of Hurley is not only a relief for injured players, but finding someone to treat the players and attend games will no longer be a distraction for Smoke Eaters coaching staff.
“We’re very excited to have brought her (Hurley) on board full time,” said Smoke Eater assistant coach Curtis Toneff. “She’ll be good for our bunch, and it kind of takes some of the weight off us. It’s going to be a very positive thing for our group especially at this time of year.”
Murphy is confident that the additions to the Smoke Eater organization will pay dividends down the road. After a number of years in the red, many doubted whether the Smoke Eaters, or any BCHL team, could generate financial success. But, the Orono, Minn. entrepreneur is determined to address the bottom line and build the Smoke Eaters into a successful business model.
“The goal is to make money,” said Murphy. “The key is first of all we have to support each other, support the coaches, and the coaches need to support us. We need to get organized and once we get going, we have the infrastructure, we just have to start doing things the way I do things with my other companies.”
Externally, renovations on the new Smoke Eaters office on the ground floor (in the former museum) and the players’ weight room and lounge begin next week. Renos to the locker room, coaches’ office, and trainer’s room will start at the end of the season.