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Trail Smoke Eaters documentary premieres Friday

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A new documentary about the Trail Smoke Eaters debuts this week at The Royal Theatre in Trail.

Trophy Towns celebrates the 1939 and 1961 teams, who each won the World Hockey Championship in Europe.

Filmmaker Robert Barrett says he became interested in their stories after hearing about them from his friend Steve Sweeting, who was asked the appraise the sports collection at the Trail Museum. Barrett says Sweeting was amazed with amount of archival footage, souvenirs, and ephemera that existed.

“I kind of consider the team supernatural,” Barrett says. “Their ability to come from this remote town and take on the world was just too good a story to pass up. The fact they were able to do it twice really pulled me in.”

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Barrett says the film devotes about one-third of its running time to the ’39 team and the rest to the ’61 squad, of whom a number of players are still alive and “could take us into the action and era first person.”

The film recounts both the teams’ wins and their relationship to the town they came from.

“It seemed like a fantastic David and Goliath story. The fact the team spent so long getting from their homes to ice arenas in Europe just was a huge odyssey,” Barrett says.

Members of the 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters pose outside the Kremlin. Courtesy Dave Rusnell

“The heart that these guys had and this incredible journey they went on. I love hockey, but I approached this as a piece about community. Not about the team so much but about the support the team had, where these guys came from. I feel it’s a celebration of a place and community and the teams that represented that community.”

Barrett and his crew came to Trail three times to interview surviving players and family members, who provided him with footage and stills shot overseas, providing their perspective on the Soviet Union and Germany during the Cold War.

The filmmaker says he was “blown away” by the support they received in making the film. “As Trail supported their teams, they’ve completely supported this film. People have let us into their homes and shared these mementos and photos and imagery. It’s really helped to make the story so personal. I really think that comes across.

“I hope this film inspires a new generation of players to wear the orange and black and hit the rink and play for the town.”

The film will screen at the Royal from Nov. 12-18. For times and to get tickets see:

You can hear the whole interview with Barrett here:

And you can watch the trailer for the film here:

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