The Trail Smoke Eaters legacy transcends time and place.
Judy Kurtz, daughter of ‘39 Smoke Eater Dick Kowcinak, reached out to the Trail Times last week from Ontario sending a letter and photos of her father commemorating his world championship year with the Smoke Eaters.
The letter coincided with the city proclaiming March 12 as “Trail Smoke Eaters World Championship Teams Day.”
Born Richard Benedict Kowcinak on May 25, 1917, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Dick had a long and successful hockey career.
He played for the Winnipeg Monarchs and won a Memorial Cup in 1937, before joining the Trail Smoke Eaters for their Allan Cup win and 1939 World Championship victory in Switzerland.
“When the Smoke Eaters won the Allan Cup in the 1937-38 season, he and Johnny McCreedy were bunkies,” Kurtz shared.
“Dad has pictures of the German army on patrol, taken from the train, when they were on tour in Europe.
“You know their history on that trip, they were world champions!”
Kowcinak played in the American Hockey League from 1943 to 1946 and then played in the International Hockey League from 1947 to 1951.
He won the league scoring title in 1947-48 and 1949-50 and won the James Gatschene Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1949-50. The left-winger has also been inducted in the Sports Hall of Fame in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario.
He retired in 1951, but was “still skating into his 90s, sometimes four, five times a week,” said Kurtz.
“I proudly display his Trail Smoke Eaters jersey and Canada shirt in a shadow box in our home in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario.”
Like many households of yore, Saturday night was “Hockey Night” in the Kowcinak household.
“Dad, mom, my sister and I, all watched the NHL game together, with dad always enhancing the game with his knowledgeable comments about players and the game itself,” ” Kurtz reminisced. “He played in the ‘glory’ years of hockey, when the game was enjoyable to watch and the players did not set out to maim one another.”
Another member of the Trail Smoke Eaters ‘39 team, Mel Snowden, is Judy’s godfather.
Dick Kowcinak lived in Sarnia, ON until his death at the age of 94 years, on Sept. 6, 2011.
The husband, father, great grandfather, and friend to many, was laid to rest in Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Sarnia.
Rest in Peace.
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