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With the Olympics underway, Vintage Leaf remembers Canadian Olympian- goaltender Seth Martin and the Trail Smoke Eaters

When I was really young, probably seven years of age, I played a game on our living room floor with marbles. There was no carpet, and on my hands and knees I would go back and forth between the two “goals” I had set up (a door at one end of the room, a hall opening at the other) and play hockey games. I would pretend to be certain teams, and take “shots” and make big “saves”.

I remember pretending to be, among others, goaltender Seth Martin of the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Unless you were from that era, you may well not know where Seth Martin fits in Canadian hockey history and why I wanted to be like him. Now, I acknowledge I’m no expert on Martin or his career, but I raise his name today because of the ongoing Winter Olympics in British Columbia—home of the Smoke Eaters.

I was born in 1953 so I wasn’t greatly aware of Canada’s hockey efforts at the 1960 Olympics, held in the United States, though I do remember goalie Jack McCartan (like Jim Craig for the Americans twenty years later at Lake Placid) was the hero for the U.S. gold-medal winning team. We were represented by a senior team from Kitchener-Waterloo, with budding Montreal Canadiens star Bobby Rousseau and future Boston coach Harry Sinden part of that team

But a year later, I was a little more aware of what was going on in the hockey world. I became very aware of the Trail Smoke Eaters, a senior hockey team from British Columbia. Even though I was from Ontario, I knew about them from reading about their exploits in my local newspaper, because they were representing Canada at the 1961 World Hockey Championships. (I had some familiarity with senior hockey because the local senior team in my area, the Windsor Bulldogs, was very strong, too, and actually won the Allan Cup themselves, if I’m not mistaken, in the early 60s.)

This particular world tournament was held in the spring of ’61 over in Europe, at around the same time, or thereabouts, that the Maple Leafs were losing their semi-final playoff series to the Detroit Red Wings. I was probably more focused on how my Leafs were doing, but because of the success of the Canadian team, the name Seth Martin has always stuck out in my mind. I know precious few details about those World Championships other than the fact that Canada won that year, which was a pretty big deal, but I remember the “Smoke Eaters”, partly because they had a great name. One of his teammates on Trail and at the world championships was future Detroit Red Wing coach, the fiery Bobby Kromm. (In the picture we have included, Martin is the goalie in the middle of the front row, and I believe Kromm is the farthest player in the first row on the right. I’m guessing one of the trophies is the prestigious Allan Cup)

Martin played in the World Championships with Trail again in 1963, but Canada didn’t win that year. I know he played for the legendary Fr. David Bauer’s Canadian National team for a while, including at the 1964 Olympics (in Japan, as I recall?).

I also remember that Martin played one season in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, in 1967-’68, sharing time that year with future Hall-of-Famer and former Black Hawk star Glenn Hall. The Blues went all the way to the finals in the spring of ’68.

I’ll always remember the name Seth Martin fondly, because he was my first hockey hero who wasn’t an NHL’er. I liked him simply because he was a good goalie and he represented Canada.

I should add that I’m very aware that fans of the Smoke Eaters from the early ‘60s know way more than I do about the history of this club and its players. I invite any comments you’d like to share!

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