Nestled in the corner of the Smithers Civic Centre sits a wealth of historical hockey treasures.
Countless trophies from when teams in Smithers have made it to provincials sit neatly on shelves, while two autographed sticks hang in the window from when Joe and Jim Watson won the Stanley Cup with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1973-74.
The walls are lined with signed photos of NHLers Dan Hamhuis, former Anaheim Ducks netminder Mike Wall, and Rob Flockhart who played for the then-Minnesota Stars and his brother Ron Flockhart who played with the Flyers and St. Louis Blues.
The appropriately-named trophy room is also home to the oldest trophy in town which dates back to 1928.
Despite the fact that there are invaluable trophies, autographed photos and other hockey memorabilia carefully displayed, many of these items are not openly accessible to the public.
These items represent a large part of Smithers’ long and storied hockey past and are part of an on-going project that Tracey Groot has taken on to help preserve Smithers’ hockey past.
Over the past eight years, Groot has single-handedly archived most major hockey events in the town dating as far back as the 1950s up until 2013.
The archives include a variety of newspaper articles including the raising of the first trusses during the construction of the civic centre in 1958, the Smithers’ Mighty Midgets winning the northern B.C. championships in 1960, photos from the bilingual hockey game between a Smithers bantam team and a team from Quebec, and the Smithers Storm capturing their first provincial banner.
“Ever since the ‘60s, we’ve been well known for our hockey,” said Groot, who currently sits under the umbrella of the B.C. Historical Federation.
“If you look up in the trophy room, we’ve won x amounts of provincial banners, but we also have a lot of trophies — I can’t even tell you off-hand how many trophies were awarded to minor hockey for not only the way the kids played on the ice, but the way they acted off the ice. We’ve always been really well known for that.”
She noted that Smithers was also the first town in the surrounding area to allow girls to play on the boys teams.
The project began in 2007 leading up to the 50th anniversary of the civic centre.
“I knew it was going to be a really big job. At the time, I had basically gone through all the micro-films and had just under 4,000 articles . . . I really tried to keep the first of every big event that went on,” said Groot.
She went through years worth of The Interior News, cutting out clippings, indexing them according to date of publication and forming a detailed timeline.
According to Groot, one of the most defining moments that put Smithers on the map as a hockey town was in the early 1960s when the first NHL scout came to town.
“That’s kind of how Joe Watson ended up getting picked up,” she said. “From then on, we had one boy who was quite involved with hockey and he climbed the ranks into junior and it didn’t matter where you went, the minute you said you were from Smithers, they knew exactly what Smithers had produced.”
It has been a true labour of love for the volunteer, who has put thousands of hours into the project, archiving roughly 5,000 articles from the past six decades.
Over the last two months, her time has been dedicated to digitizing the archives, scanning them and putting them onto a USB drive.
But there are a few things she believes are still missing from the collection.
“The one thing I am missing and I’m hoping to get is the very first provincial banner that Smithers Minor Hockey won. I’d really like to get the photographs and the names and pictures of all those players at the time,” she said.
Groot also hopes that she can put the archives online for the public to view.
“It would be nice if our local museums such as Smithers, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, places where we have at least played hockey can have copies of it,” she said. “It would be nice to have it online to have the public look at it.”