Saturday, May 26, 2012

Smokies AP Martin Commits To Vernon

Craig Martin ducks around former Smokies Matt Larose and Daniel DelBianco for one of his 5 BCHL goals (Randy Emery photo)

The Vernon Vipers announced yesterday they've secured the commitment of Beaver Valley forward, and Trail AP Craig Martin for the 2012-13 BCHL season. Martin put up 96 points with the KIJHL champion Nitehawks last season, adding 5 goals as an affiliate with the Smokies.

The full release from the Vipers is available here.

Congratulations to Craig on making the jump up. Anyone who had the opportunity to see him play at either the Junior "A" or "B" level last season knows full well he could have been a full-timer in the BCHL as a sixteen year-old, but a full season tearing apart the KIJHL with Ryan Edwards and Chris Derochie worked wonders for his confidence too. I'm told several teams (including Trail) were interested in procuring Martin's services, no doubt he will be an impact player in Vernon next season just as he was in limited time with the orange and black.

All the best in Vernon and I'm sure we'll see you around the rink next year!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Smokies Announce Golf Tournament Details

The Smokies are now accepting registrations for the 8th annual Alumni Golf Tournament, set for July 6th and 7th at Rossland-Trail Country Club.

The full release and registration information is available on the Smokies website.

I'm told of the 108 spots originally available, only 66 remain at a cost of $125 per person.

The registration deadline is June 30th.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Smoke Eaters Post Loss; Look To 2012-13

The Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey Club Society has announced expenditure over revenue, or loss of $31,035 for the year ending March 31, 2012 at tonight's annual general meeting in Trail. The team's struggles on the ice last season have been well-documented, and the lack of results on ice resulted in losses at the gate and seasson tickets.

But it's not all bad news. Trail saved over $70,000 on travel last season and while some of those savings were negated by bus costs, the fact the team is in possession of their own vehicle and no longer reliant on charter service is a big step forward in terms of keeping rising travel costs down.

Smoke Eaters president Tom Gawryletz called the decline in revenue a "huge disappointment" (the team's overall gains were down about $94,000 last season when compared to 2010-11, but admits given the team's record, things "could have been a lot worse."

"To make it work we need to put a better product on the ice," Gawryletz added, "and our coaching staff is already hard at work to make sure that happens."

There was also considerable discussion on the (lack of) local players on Trail's roster (with only one greater Trail product barring APs). There is definitely an element of the fanbase that I'm sure would love to see the Smokies made up of predominantly Trail-born players, but is that realistic? Let's examine the three other community-owned teams and take note of the local products on their 2011-12 year-end rosters:

Merritt Centennials (34-18-2-6, reached Interior final): 1 - Payton Schaefer

Powell River Kings (40-16-2-2, reached BCHL final): 1 - Sean Maguire

Prince George Spruce Kings (33-21-2-4, reached Interior semi-final): 2 - Sean Landrey, Tyson Witala.

Now let's examine the West Kootenay-born players who were on a BCHL roster to end the 2011-12 season.

Castlegar (2): Aaron Hadley (Vernon), Ryan Renz (Vernon).

Montrose (1): Luke Bertolucci (Trail).

Nelson (1): Adam Wheeldon (Trail).

Shoreacres (1): Joren Johnson (Trail).

Trail (4): Steve Koshey (Surrey), Logan Proulx (Cowichan Valley), Travis St. Denis (Penticton), Danny Vlanich (Langley).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having local players and believe there are several Trail, and by extension West Kootenay products (like Johnson and Wheeldon) that will play prominent roles on this team next season. And there really should not be any blame, in my opinion, attributed to either the Smokies for lack of perceived effort in recruiting nor the kids themselves for playing elsewhere. That said, the players that do represent this team, and this community that come from all points east, west, north and south do so with pride and their contributions to this franchise shouldn't be seen as any less important.

Tip o' the Cap: There is a slight reduction in the number of board members for the 2012-13 season, as vice-president Cory Ross did not seek re-election. Ross had been on the Smokies board for six seasons and invested thousands of hours in the day-to-day operations of the team, but will be stepping aside (somewhat) to spend more time with his family and minor hockey coaching responsibilities. Thanks for all the hard work and I'm sure we'll see you 'round the rink nonetheless this fall!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Smokies Add To Hockey Ops Staff

The Smoke Eaters announced yesterday they've hired Randy Buffie as the team's new director of scouting and assistant general manager. Buffie was previously with the Spruce Kings as a BC scout and is a former part-owner of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The full release put out by the team is available here.

On first blush, I really like the move. Buffie brings a wealth of experience to the Smoke Eaters organization and along with an ever-growing scouting staff will take some of the off-ice workload away from head coach Bill Birks. I chatted with Buffie Wednesday morning and to me it sounds like he's excited about the potential of the 2012-13 Smoke Eaters, both in terms of returning players and new commitments.

The team has also added former Merritt sniper Brent Demerais and Bill Spring as BC regional scouts. Demerais scored 124 points during the 1983-84 season.

AGM: The Smokies Annual General Meeting is set for Tuesday night (7:00 pm, MacIntyre Room). Follow me on Twitter (if you aren't already) for any news items that may come out of that.

World Wide Who?: Over the course of the summer both this blog and the Smoke Eaters website will be undergoing a redesign. Anything in particular you'd like to see? Shoot me an email at

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Heaven Hired As Smokies Assistant Coach; Three New Commits

The Trail Smoke Eaters have reached into their own backyard, hiring former Castlegar and Creston Valley head coach Brent Heaven as the team's new assistant.

Heaven spent one year with the Thunder Cats, posting a 30-17-0-5 record after a five-year stint in Castlegar that included three as head coach. He was named the KIJHL Neil Murdoch division Coach of the Year in 2010 with the Rebels and has also spent time with the major midget Kootenay Ice.

The full release from the team was put out yesterday and is available here.

To hear head coach Bill Birks' thoughts on the move, click here.

For Heaven's take on moving up to the BCHL, click here.

The comment from Birks that stuck out most to me was Heaven's dedication. Brent was the head coach in Castlegar when I started volunteering with the team and even as a newbie it seemed apparent that he was well-liked by his players. He was also noticeably present and active in Trail's main training camp last season and coached several Smokies APs including 16 year-old blueliner Dane Birks.

New Commits: Trail has added three new names to the new recruit roster for next season. '95-born forward Anthony Conti and '95-born goaltender Braden Krogfoss both come from the successful Vancouver Northwest Giants program. Conti put up 30 points (11-19) last season and was a Coquitlam Express AP, while Krogfoss posted a 1.47 GAA. Also new is Ontario forward Bryce Knapp ('94) who scored 52 (27-25) points and was captain of his midget AAA team in Thunder Bay last season.