The Trail Smoke Eaters are scheduled to open the extended exhibition season against the Cranbrook Bucks on Oct. 3. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters to host Cranbrook Bucks to open exhibition season

The BCHL announces a 100-plus game exhibition season

The Trail Smoke Eaters are set to play their first home game on Oct. 3 against the Cranbrook Bucks.

The BCHL announced the schedule for the extended training camp that will run from Sept. 25 to the end of November.

Trail will play 12 games from Oct. 3 to Nov. 27, in a cohort of four teams, however, the Smoke Eaters will play all but three of those games against the BCHL’s newest member Cranbrook. Trail plays two games versus the Merritt Centennials on Oct. 9 and Nov. 18 and one against Prince George Spruce Kings on Nov. 15.

“It’s exhibition and really that’s all we could do,” said Smoke Eaters director of hockey and business operations Craig Clare. “That was kind of our only option, and we’re okay with it, we’re just happy to be playing.”

Trail will carry a 30-man roster through its exhibition season, but there will be restrictions that many teams still have to figure out. Teams will not be allowed to have fans in the stands, but games can be watched online. And, according to Clare, the teams are only allowed five players on the bench, as the bench is determined to be on the field of play.

“There are still some hurdles to cross,” said Clare. “We have a plan to play a regular season come Dec. 1 and hopefully we can have that, but if not we have a (alternate) plan to continue playing.”

With the extended training camp, the exhibition season will be significantly expanded compared to years past, with over 100 games scheduled across the league. Some teams will start play as early as Sep. 25, while others will delay until October and November, depending on their training camp model.

“We believe it’s important to have our players playing meaningful games during this extended period before the start of our regular season, in order to stay engaged and game-ready leading into December,” said BCHL Executive Director Steven Cocker in a release. “Our teams are working within the guidelines to provide our players with a high level of development on and off the ice.”

Heading into its inaugural season, Cranbrook is a relative unknown entity, however, carry a couple names that may be familiar to Trail fans. The Bucks signed on Cam Reid former defenceman of the Kimberly Dynamiters of the KIJHL and Nelson native Noah Quinn, who played with the Kootenay Ice of the BC U18 AAA League the past two seasons.

The league has yet to release a regular season schedule or how many games will be played. In addition, due to the border closure, the Wenatchee Wild is not included in the exhibition schedule, and their status is uncertain for when the BCHL returns to ice in December.

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