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Trail Smoke Eaters Allison McCarthy earns top BCHL marketing award

The BCHL marketing award was voted on by fellow marketers and league staff
Smoke Eaters head of marketing Allison McCarthy. Photo: Sheri Regnier

In a first for the Trail Smoke Eaters, corporate sales and marketing manager Allison McCarthy received the well-deserved BCHL Marketer of the Year Award.

“On behalf of the Trail Smoke Eaters I would like to congratulate Allison McCarthy on being named Marketer of the Year,” said Smoke Eaters director of hockey operations Craig Clare. “Allison has built our game night experience to Smoke Eaters home games to what we believe is the best in-house experience in the BCHL. This recognition is long overdue.”

Owners Rich and Annie Murphy turned the Smoke Eaters franchise around when they bought the Junior A team in November 2016. Their restructuring of hockey operations, staff and support resulted in the hiring of McCarthy five years ago, along with a marketing team that turned the Smoke Eaters’ game nights into a can’t miss event.

The league marketing award was voted on by fellow marketers and league staff, based on professionalism, marketing impact on the nominee’s team and on the league, creativity, willingness to work as a team, and overall representation of the BCHL.

“I was very pleased to be chosen as there are some amazing marketers in our league doing great things within their organizations,” McCarthy told the Times. “Being successful is possible because I get to work alongside incredible coworkers, the best coaching staff and owners who care about our city and hockey team, allowing our organization to continually do more and bring more to every hockey season.”

McCarthy helped the Smoke Eaters go from an average of just over 800 fans per home game in 2014 to more than 2,000 in 2019-20 and one of the top-5 teams in league attendance.

Creating a fun-for-fans environment with themed nights, intermission activities, draws and events has benefited both the Smoke Eaters hockey team and the communities of Greater Trail.

“Marketing plays a huge role within a hockey organization,” explained McCarthy. “We work hard to create a night out that is ideal for all ages, even for those that are not die-hard hockey fans.

“A Trail Smoke Eaters game is an experience that is memorable for kids, cool for teenagers, fun for adults and enjoyable for seniors. Home games include a fun night out including a variety of theme nights, good music, community involvement, entertainment and of course some amazing hockey.”

McCarthy and the marketing team spend a lot of time in brainstorming sessions and researching various sporting organizations to ensure the Smokies game night entertainment is fresh and new.

Part of what makes McCarthy so successful is her more than 20-years experience and a warm and engaging personality.

“The favourite part of my job is that I am lucky to be surrounded by incredible people,” said McCarthy. “Not only the people I get to work with daily but also top-notch volunteers, game night staff and to be around the best fans in the BCHL.”

“So my job is pretty easy because we have great people in place and incredible community support from all of our fans and corporate partners who support us each and every season! We could not do what we do, without the support of our generous corporate partners.”

McCarthy’s enthusiasm is contagious and part of what makes the experience enjoyable for fans, her coworkers and volunteers. While fresh ideas are vital, some tried and true favourites keep fans coming back and participating.

“We have a lot of fun events that we put on, but one of my favourites is when we host the Wiener Dog races. It is always a hilarious and memorable night. We will be hosting another race this season, so if you have a wiener dog that you would like to put to the test, we would love to have them take part in the 4-legged fun.”

BCHL head of marketing Barry Douglas is impressed with the progress the Smoke Eaters have made and recognizes the vital role Allison plays within the organization.

“Allison personifies what a sports marketer should be,” said Douglas, chairman of the BCHL’s Marketing Committee. “She is creative, has a team mentality and a passion to fill the Cominco Arena with Smoke Eaters fans.”

COVID dealt a significant blow to the BCHL and the Smoke Eaters organization, cancelling the 2019 playoffs and the following season, while keeping restrictions in place for most of the 2021-22 season. Although fans were allowed back in the building, attendance understandably fell to an average of about 1,150, which is surprisingly good considering the team’s struggles on the ice.

McCarthy is determined to help the Smoke Eaters recover from its impact and return to pre-COVID numbers.

“The pandemic did bring its challenges but it forced us to get creative and think outside of the box.

“When we had a season without fans, we reached out to the community and marketed cardboard cut-out fan faces that we put on the glass throughout the arena. This showed our players that even if we couldn’t have fans in the building, they were still cheering them on from their homes.

“Our creative marketing strategy and the effort we put into our game nights along with our supportive community will allow us to return to pre-COVID numbers and once again pack the Cominco Arena with fans bleeding orange for their home team.”

The Smoke Eaters marketing team is hard at work this summer as they prepare for the fans return without restrictions, excited about the upcoming season, which promises to be better than ever.

”We have been busy during the off-season putting together a promotional calendar full of fun theme nights, and interactive intermission contests, all while putting some top-secret plans together for exciting new changes to the game night atmosphere.”

McCarthy adds that fans can buy season tickets at the early bird season ticket rate of only $279 until June 30.

”You don’t want to miss out on the fun and we hope to see all of Trail and our surrounding communities at the Smoke Eaters home opener, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30 and every other home game,” says McCarthy, the consummate promoter.

Fans can purchase season tickets online at

Read: Trail Smoke Eaters primed for ID Camp

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Jim Bailey

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