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Trail Smoke Eaters seek extended ice season

Trail’s junior hockey club is asking the city to continue to leave the ice in the main rink at the Cominco Arena until the end of April each year.

In a letter to council, the team’s director of business and hockey operations says the BCHL schedule has been modified, which includes a regular season start date a week later than before and a later playoff start date for all teams.

Next year the first round is expected to run from about March 31 to April 10, with the league champion crowned between May 12 and 22.

In the letter, Craig Clare says having the ice until later in the year will let the club “continue to make a positive impact in the tourism sector even in into April.”

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“Trail Smoke Eaters playoff hockey brings excitement and reasons why residents frequent the downtown corridor,” he wrote.

He added that scheduling changes will also allow them to continue to hold their annual ID camp and two spring tournaments in April, which each bring hundreds of players and families to town.

Council will consider the request on Monday.

A staff report recommends they agree to the request providing they book a minimum number of hours, but notes the longer ice season could affect other events traditionally held in the Cominco Arena.

They said in previous years, the ice has come out between the end of March and mid-April depending on how deep the team’s playoff run is.

For the last two years, the ice did remain in until the end of April due to the effect of COVID on the regular hockey season. In 2021, the city agreed to the request based on the team’s commitment to booking 30 to 50 hours of ice time.

This year the club booked about 100 hours of ice in April between the kids rink and the Cominco Arena. Before that, the kids rink ice was usually removed in March.

City staff note that Silver City Days is normally held just before Mother’s Day, and depending on when it falls, leaving the ice in until he end of the month could affect the event’s ability to use the arena floor for its sidewalk cafe and other activities.

They also said that while there is a public benefit to leaving in the ice in longer and offering skills camps, the financial benefit is primarily to the team.

City manager Colin McClure says council is “in a challenging spot” in balancing support for the team with the additional costs of operation, both directly and indirectly related to the request.

He recommended going ahead with the request for 2022-23, with the decision to be reviewed in the summer to see if the costs and benefits make the arrangement worth continuing.

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