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WIHL reunion, 1999

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

On Sept. 4 and 5, 1999, Trail hosted a reunion of Western International Hockey League players and officials.

The senior league existed from 1946 to 1987, succeeding the West Kootenay Hockey League. The mainstays were the Trail Smoke Eaters, Nelson Maple Leafs, Spokane Spartans/Flyers/Jets/Chiefs, Kimberley Dynamiters, and Cranbrook Royals. Other teams included the Rossland Warriors, Elk Valley Blazers, Portland Buckaroos, Calgary Stampeders, Los Angeles Ramblers, and East Kootenay Rams.

A selection of WIHL sweaters displayed at the league reunion in Trail in 1999. From left: Los Angeles Ramblers, Spokane Jets, Nelson Maple Leafs, and three variations of the Trail Smoke Eaters from the 1970s and ‘80s. The sweater at far right is unidentified, but belonged to a different league.

I recorded several impromptu interviews with players and others at the reunion (several of whom have since died), which are posted below, along with the banquet speeches. I recently wrote about my joy at rediscovering the player photos seen here, after having lost them for years.

FRANK SULLIVAN (1917-2007)

Played for: Kimberley 1940-42, 1945-51, 1953-54

Frank Sullivan as seen in Cominco magazine in March 1954.

Frank also spoke at the banquet. You can hear that speech by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.


Played for: Trail 1952-54, 1957-60, 1961-62, Rossland 1956-57, 1960-61


Played for: Spokane, 1952-61, 1963-72, 1974-75, 1976-77

This interview was interrupted, but you can hear Tom’s banquet speech by scrolling down further.


Played for: Spokane 1946-47, Kimberley 1947-48, Trail 1948-50, 1952-56

MIKE SHABAGA (1922-2002)

Played for: Trail 1951-54, 1955-57


Played for: Trail 1949-51, Nelson 1951-54, Spokane 1955-56

TOM MABLESON (1922-2018)

Broadcaster for: CKLN Nelson, CJAT Trail, KXLY Spokane

Tom died in June 2018, age 95. You can read more about his career here.

Tom Mableson and Garry Ferro

GARRY FERRO (1942-2017)

Played for: Trail 1963-73


Played for: Trail 1955-56, 1961-63, 1967-68; Rossland 1956-61, 1963-64, 1965-67

I neglected to get a photo of Hal.

MOE YOUNG (1928-2014)

Played for: Trail 1952-55

Moe Young seen receiving the Howard Anderson Memorial Trophy in Cominco magazine, April 1954.


Executive director of BC Amateur Hockey Association. Failed to get a photo of him.

VERN KNEESHAW (1922-2012)

Played for: Los Angeles Ramblers 1946-47, Spokane 1947-49, Nelson 1949-50

I neglected to get a photo of Vern as well, but just realized that in the photo at the top of the page, his Los Angeles Ramblers sweater is at far left. It’s an incredibly rare artifact, probably the only one that survived. The new Trail museum had a replica Ramblers sweater made for its permanent exhibit on local hockey history.

Not mentioned in the interview, but of note: Vern was one of the very few players generally and goaltenders especially to wear glasses, as seen in the Los Angeles Ramblers team photo above.


For the speeches, each former player or executive represented a different team (even though they may have played for several). The emcee was Sandy Santori.

Tom Hodges, Spokane Flyers/Jets

Cal Hockley, Trail Smoke Eaters

Frank Sullivan, Kimberley Dynamiters

Jay Nelson, Cranbrook Royals

John Paolone, Rossland Warriors

Leroy Huestis, Elk Valley Blazers

Red Koehle, Nelson Maple Leafs

Terry Cavanagh, Los Angeles Ramblers

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