Thursday, September 23, 2010



Thanks for stopping by over the last 3 years. It's been fun.

Monday, September 20, 2010


After that puppy picture I think I lost some street cred. This one should toughen the blog up on my final post. Really glad to see the big win by Trail yesterday by the way. A terrific start to Matt Larose's career in the BCHL. Is Sam Mellor on fire or what? 6 goals in 5 games on pace for a mere 72!

Well I made it to Swift Current. Now I start to build new relationships with a new team, a new station and a new community of fans. I'm very excited about the opportunity, but it's also bittersweet. It's tough to say goodbye to all the people I've had the privilege of getting to know in the last four years. Here comes the rambling sentimental part...

I came to Trail from Ontario knowing very little about the Smoke Eaters and the BCHL. All I knew was that it was a chance to call hockey games for a living and nothing else mattered. That has been my dream since I was 5 years old watching Hockey Night in Canada with my dad in the living room. I never really wanted to be a player, I wanted to be the guy telling the story of the game.

I quickly realized what kind of amazing hockey history and legacy Trail has. It is a legacy we celebrate this year on the 50th anniversary of the 1961 World Champions. It is a legacy that makes the Smoke Eater name, logo and players famous from BC to Europe. It is a legacy that helped motivate some great athletes who have come from the Kootenays and gone on to great things. It is a legacy the current Smoke Eaters are carrying on today.

We justifiably talk a lot about the 39 team, the 61 team and all those great legends. They're great guys too. I count people like Norm Lenardon as friends I am very proud to have met and gotten to know. However, sometimes what is lost in all that talk of the past is how much goes into making the current Smoke Eaters tick. It's true we haven't seen any Royal Bank Cups in Trail yet, but just operating and advancing young players in one of the league's smallest and most remote markets is an accomplishment. I know when I first heard the concept of community ownership I really didn't think about the kind of commitment that those involved have to make for the non-profit society to survive.

After my time as the Smokies broadcaster and the last 6 months as the Smokies marketing/sales guy I have really come to appreciate what those involved as volunteer directors with the team have to do. I talked to Tom Gawryletz this spring and summer more than anyone but my own girlfriend as we went through the sales and marketing process. He doesn't want any recognition I'm sure, but I just have to mention how much of his personal time he gives to make BCHL hockey happen in Trail. You know the kinds of things that some teams hire 2 to 6 office people to take care of? That falls on Tom's desk. He is essentially working two full time jobs as he runs his own business and stays on as President of the Smoke Eaters. I don't know how he does it. Passion for hockey I guess.

That's the same thing that drives the other members of the board of directors. They give their time for bi-weekly meetings, fundraising events and as part of the arena staff for every single Smokies game. Those men and women selling the 50/50 and running the Sud Shack? Volunteers who barely get to watch the games they're at every weekend. That's true also for any number of other volunteers who give their time before, during and after games. They are the reason the BCHL franchise is now playing a 16th season in the league. It just shows you how much this club means to the most die hard supporters. Next time you see a member of the board or a volunteer why not say thanks for what they do. This team wouldn't be here without them.

Heck instead of saying thanks why not volunteer yourself? When people ask me why the team doesn't do more promotional activities or events in the arena the bottom line is that there is only so much man power. If there was a larger army of people willing to help make things tick there is a lot more they could accomplish.

Trail's attendance is never going to be at the top of the league, but their fans are some of the most loyal There are hundreds of faces that you can count on seeing at every game no matter when they are or what else is going on in town. They're some of the most informed fans I've ever met who always want to talk hockey. They're also some of the most gracious fans. Ever since the news got out that I was moving on to the WHL I've had so many of them stop me at the rink or on the street to congratulate me and compliment my work. It has been overwhelming. The way those fans treated me it was as if I had been here for 30 years and was moving on. I'm so lucky I've been able to work with and for people with that much passion and respect.

Now I hope that you'll (and I'm sure you will) offer that same level of support to Jon Zacks. He's a talented professional who is way ahead of where I was when I started in Trail. I'm sure three years from now he'll be ahead of where I am now too. You're in for a treat with Jon at the helm.

More even than the fans and the hockey I'm going to miss my friends. When you go on the road with a hockey team you spend so much time with each other it's impossible not to become friends. For me that was especially true with the coaching staff. We ride together, eat together, sleep in the same rooms and experience the ups and downs of every season's roller coaster ride. I know the most important thing for fans is generally winning, but I can tell you without question that the most valuable quality of Trail's coaching staff is the quality of their character. I couldn't think of a single bad thing to say about any of them.

I know in talking to people around the league that Jim Ingram's quality of character is well known. I don't know if there is a better man in hockey. As a broadcaster you couldn't ask for anyone more accommodating. I must have called him up randomly a hundred times and he always set aside whatever he was doing to help me do my job. I'm very thankful for the support Jim, Barry, Brian and now Bill have given me. They're always available to talk, give their insight, answer questions and anything else I might need. Younger even pulled a bit of a fast one on Laura and I to help set us up. Two years later we're still together and I don't think anyone has ever done me a bigger favour. I'll miss those guys.

That includes my roommate and Smokies Trainer Steve Mears who I'm sure is happy to know that there won't be a computer light on in his room now until god knows when. Another great guy. Thanks for being so patient!

Travelling with the players you also get to know them and I know more than hoping they win games I'm always cheering for them to get what they want out of the sport. It is so rewarding to see someone like Nick Sandor chase that Division 1 college dream and see it come true. However, it is clear that those accomplishments are just a piece of what these guys get out of junior hockey. I watch those friendships build and you know that those bonds will last a life time. These young men are getting an experience they'll take with them forever. The guys I've seen come through Trail are of the absolute highest quality. Some I've come to know better than others, but I'm proud to have covered them.

I want to also say a quick special thanks to Randy Emery. If you don't know what he does with the club he takes all the pictures used on my blog and the official website/facebook page. He sifts through hundreds of pictures to find the best ones for the team and the players themselves. Randy finalizes game sheets and is very dedicated to making sure any errors are corrected. He also keeps detailed statistical records on the team's history that have been a fantastic resource for a young broadcaster walking into the middle of a team's history. I've spent many an hour chatting hockey will him and I'll miss it. I hope to god there are some Randy Emery types here in Swift!

I don't mean to single anyone out. Everyone there has been so amazing to me. From Daryl in the video booth to Ike on the arena staff I've had so much support in Trail I've been spoiled.

The quality of the Smokies organization extends throughout the entire league as well. The coaches, players, executives, volunteers and league staff have always been fantastic to deal with. How about the quality of broadcasters in the BCHL? I had no idea how professional the people in this league would be. There are guys in the league who call a better game than some of the play by play people in the NHL. Enjoy them while you can! The BCHL is churning out the future of the sport in more ways than just on the ice. It also has some very talented people covering it in print media like Trail's own Guy Bertrand who has proven to be a very good radio guest on top of a quality reporter.

Want to say a quick word about the radio station as well. I've heard from time to time people say to me or to other people I know that they were surprised the Smoke Eaters were on the "Castlegar" station. Some have even said they wished the games were on "Trail's station" instead. I'm not going to comment on anyone else's work, but all I'll say is that ever since I came to Mountain FM we have been busting our butts to make sure that the people in Trail and each of our other communities realize that the station is for the whole West Kootenay Boundary. In my opinion we covered Trail sports, news and community events quicker and better than anyone. What is more important... the location of an office or the content and commitment to the community?

Mountain FM gave me the opportunity to live out my dream. I will forever be grateful to them for that. I learned so much from those I worked for and with there. How can you not learn when your news director used to read the national news in South Africa or your two program directors have worked at what must be a combined 20 stations across multiple countries? The same way Smokies players are bonded for life after their experience together is the way that people who work together to make a small market radio station work come together. My friends there are some of the best I've had and that will never change.

The Smoke Eaters and Mountain FM are both great organizations that survive because the people involved give everything they can to make them work. I couldn't tell you how many hours a Smokies coach or a Mountain FM staffer works. I promise you it is no where close to 40 a week. They're both classy organizations with hard working people who deserve your support. I was just a small part of both of them for a brief time, but I will always remember my time here fondly. I'll miss it.

They say once you've been a Smoke Eater you're a Smoke Eater for life. I never wore the jersey but I know I'll always care about the team. I'm no longer the broadcaster but today I become a fan.

I can only hope my experience in beautiful Swift Current is just as rewarding. May the Smokies and Broncos both play well into the spring! If you want to follow my coverage of the Broncos check out my new blog by clicking on this link. It is a major work in progress as I get settled here in Swift Current. I hope I can do the team and fans justice. I'll also post a link on this blog once Jon has his new Smokies blog up and running.

Lastly if anyone wants to stay in touch with me feel free to e-mail me at I'd be glad to hear from any of you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Audio

New Smokies Broadcaster Jon Zacks on Mountain FM's Overtime

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Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

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New Smoke Eater Matthew Laboucane

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Smokies Captain Paul Mailey

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Smokies Forward Cullen Bradshaw

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Trail hosts Westside tonight in a 2009 and 2010 playoff re-match. It should be a good test for the Smokies against a perennial contender. Westside will be playing desperate after going winless in their first two games of the season, but the Smokies don't want to lose at home when they've got a 6 game road trip staring them in the face.

Make sure there is a bigger crowd there tonight and please welcome new broadcaster Jon Zacks as he checks out his first Smoke Eaters game. Also tonight it'll be my final episode of Mountain FM's Overtime so check that out from 6pm to 8pm on Mountain FM and The Bridge.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Smokies Radio Voice

The question I've been asked most since announcing my departure (outside of whether or not I bought a winter jacket yet) is who would be replacing me. We now have an answer.

Here is the press release from Mountain FM:

"We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jon Zacks to the positions of BCHL Smoke Eaters Play by Play Announcer, Sports Director & Overtime Host.

He replaces Shawn Mullin who is off to Swift Current’s The Eagle to do mornings & be the play by play voice for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL.

Jon joins us from Moose FM in Fort St. John BC, and spells his first name weird. Jon has 3 years play by play experience calling junior & senior hockey.

He will join the team in the next couple of weeks, and will be made to use an H."

I didn't think spelling Jon like that was all that strange...

I personally got the chance to listen to some of Jon's work and talk to him for a while on the phone. He's talented, enthusiastic, experienced and ready to jump right in as soon as he can get here from his other job. He is also coming from the same place that groomed Ryan Pinder for the great job he does in Penticton. For all of those who had such kind things to say to me over the weekend I appreciate it, but the coverage of the Smokies will not suffer. Jon is going to be his own guy, he'll do a terrific job and Trail fans won't miss a thing.

Congrats Jon and I'll be listening as a fan to your broadcasts this year.

As for the blog, Jon will be starting his own blog with his own look. I felt selfishly that I'd like to keep this blog as is for an archive of my experience in Trail. Call me sentimental (I'm guilty of that) but I'd like to be able to look back on it years from now and sort of relive these days. A new blog also gives Jon a chance to forge his own identity with Smokies fans online. As soon as he gets it started I'll post a permanent link to it and my new Swift Current Broncos blog at the top of this page.

Again thanks to everyone for the kind words over the past couple of weeks. It has been overwhelming. Jon is in for a real treat working with a world class radio station, hockey club and fan base.

Home Opener Video & Highlights

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Game 2: Trail 6 Merritt 4

TRAIL, BC - The top line struck again for the Smokies in a 6-4 victory against the Merritt Centennials. Each of Scott Jacklin, Sam Mellor and Travis St. Denis scored and the line combined for 6 points. The three players are now tied for the BCHL scoring lead after the first weekend of the season.

Trail was also lifted by the first multi-point effort of Cullen Bradshaw's BCHL career. The 20 year old former leading scorer of the AJHL's Brooks Bandits put up 2 goals and an assist in his second game with the Smokies.

This victory over Merritt wasn't nearly as convincing as the first. It was apparent early the Centennials were a different club on the night as they got out to an early shot advantage and wouldn't go away all game.

Trail got the only goal of the first when the top line connected on Sam Mellor's second of the season. Merritt actually out shot Trail in the period 11-8, but the Smokies were able to kill off a 5 on 3 to keep the Cents off the board.

The teams traded goals in the second period with Bradshaw and St. Denis striking for Trail while Jeff Jones and Dustin Johnson answered for Merritt. It was a much more inspired effort from Merritt's top gunners in this game as they were united on a line rather than playing on separate units.

Trail appeared to put the game away in the third as Jacklin and Paul Mailey scored 1:39 seconds apart to extend Trail's lead to 5-2. However, the Cents wouldn't go quietly into the night as Johnson took advantage of a 5-3 to cut into the lead and Regan Soquilla scored a late short handed marker to get the hearts at the Cominco Arena racing a little faster.

The Smokies held on in the end as Bradshaw chipped his second of the game into the empty net to wrap up the victory.

Kiefer Smiley made 22 saves to pick up his second win of the season for Trail while Tyler Steel stopped 24 pucks in his first career BCHL start.

It wasn't as pretty as Friday, but the Smokies finished the weekend with 4 big points and 14 goals over 2 games. Their next action will be a home and home with Westside starting at the Cominco Arena on Friday.

ON THE TRAIL: The top line is a big part of the story early but 5 other Smokies also finished the weekend with at least a point per game ... Trail better enjoy home ice while they can because after Friday's game against Westside they play six straight games on the road ... Smokies fans can again catch their road games on Mountain FM this season at 104.1 FM in Trail. The games will be brought to you this year by the Arlington.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Home Opener: Trail 8 Merritt 2

TRAIL, BC - Trail got goals from 7 different players and points from 14 different players in an 8-2 opening night win over Merritt. The line of Travis St. Denis, Sam Mellor and Scott Jacklin did the most damage with a combined 9 points. St. Denis scored twice with Mellor had a goal and 3 assists and Jacklin contributed a goal and 2 assists.

Trail fans also got introduced to new members of the club as 7 of them picked up their first points as Smoke Eaters. Adam Boytink and Logan Proulx scored their first BCHL goals on the night as well.

It was a dominant display by the Smokies with scoring from all four lines. They also out shot the Centennials 43-20. Merritt will look to bounce back when the two teams meet again at the Cominco Arena on Saturday night.

Trail opened the scoring when Steve Koshey's point shot was tipped in by St. Denis for his first of the season. Curtis Tonello struck next on a point shot blast set up by rookie Dylan Tappe.

Merritt got one back when goaltender Kiefer Smiley misplayed the puck leading to Max Vallis scoring for the Cents. Smiley rebounded with a solid 18 save performance in picking up the win.

The Smokies added another marker at the end of the first period as Boytink knocked in the rebound of Jacklin and Mailey's shots.

Trail put the game away early in the second period as they scored twice in 41 seconds. Jacklin put in his first of the year from Mellor and Graeme Strukoff blasted a wrist shot top corner to make it 5-1 only 15 seconds later.

Goals from Proulx, Mellor and St. Denis would put the game further out of reach.

The play got chippy in the third period perhaps setting the stage for a physical affair when Merritt comes back to the Cominco Arena for a second game on Saturday night.

ON THE TRAIL: Members of the 1961 World Champion Trail Smoke Eaters signed new anniversary merchansie throughout the game. This season Trail is marking the 50th anniversary of that club with numerous celebrations. The captain of that team Cal Hockley dropped the puck in a ceremonial face off tonight ... Paul Mailey enters his fifth season with the Smokies and second as captain. As long as he stays healthy he'll become the all time leader in games played for the BCHL version of the Smokies. The other players wearing letters were Scott Jacklin, Graeme Strukoff and Logan Proulx. One of the letters will likely rotate though ... The game marked the 15th birthday of the BCHL Smoke Eaters who first dropped the puck at the Cominco Arena in September of 1995.