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Each month the Smoke Eaters will highlight a former Smoke Eater and update you on where they are now. This month, Trail native, defenceman Travis Gawryletz.

Smoke Eaters Career:

Played 2001-2003 – 113 Games played – 13 Goals and 50 Assists.

Currently a linesman in the NHL, Travis Gawryletz played two full seasons with the Smoke Eaters and AP’d for 6 games during the 2001-02 season while he played with the Beaver Valley Nighthawks of the KIJHL. Gawrlyletz put up 63 points as a defenceman for the Smoke Eaters earning him a BCHL Interior first team All-Star nod in ’03. He then continued his hockey career by being drafted in the eighth round of the NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyer and moving on to the University of Minnesota Duluth where he played 140 more games. The younger brother to Brandon Gawryletz (also an NHL Official), Travis says his brother played a big role in where he is now.

Q: Where has life taken you since you finished playing hockey and how did the decision to become an official come about.
A: “It has been 6 years since I hung up the skates, I was ready to move on with life but I didn’t know what that meant exactly. I was willing to try any line of work, just get a job and go from there.  After a few let downs a friend recommended I try and get on with Tolko, a sawmill in Kelowna. I landed the job and turned out my foreman was Murray Caton, father of former Smoke Eater Blaine Caton. It was honest work but I felt I had more to offer. I started studying to get my 4th class power engineering ticket as the mill also had a steam plant. I was fortunate enough to get moved over there once I was certified. During these few years I watched as my brother Brandon was hired to the NHL. I would watch his games and think how good an opportunity it was to get back involved with hockey, the sport I loved. With my brothers encouragement I gave it a shot, and a couple years later I was hired as a NHL linesman.”
After his NCAA career ended Travis played another 120 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) and 87 more in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) tallying another 54 points at the pro level. Once his hockey career came to a close and path to becoming a linesman began, Travis is fond of the early memories, especially the ones where he worked games for his hometown team. “I worked one game in Trail just after Christmas so a lot of friends were home for the holidays. The crew were all veteran Trail guys who officiated when I was in the league. I will always remember sitting in the room after the game, a couple home town buddies came down to visit. Seeing my good friend Jon Hanley, former Captain of the Smoke Eaters who at one time was the most penalized player in the league, hanging out with the referees gave us all a good laugh”
Q: When you look back at your Smoke Eaters career what moment would you highlight or be your best memories?
A: “When I think back to my two seasons in trail, there are a lot of great memories and and off the ice. We had good teams so we were always competitive. Competing in the playoffs was always a highlight for me, the intensity is at another level and brings out the best in everyone. Our group of guys were together all the time away from the rink, I think that played a big roll in our on ice success. That season there were also a lot of guys from Trail on the team, so growing up playing with them and then being together on the Smokies is pretty cool to look back on.”
Travis went on to say that his  first NHL game was certainly one of his highlights so far. “Looking back it is a bit of a blur, a lot of nerves and excitement leading up to the game. It was great my family was there to share in the experience, since they were the ones that helped me get to this point.” He also highlighted the first game that he and Brandon got scheduled to work together, mentioning their parents were able to fly out for the game.

Q: If you could pass on some advice to today’s group of Smoke Eaters what would it. What is something you wish you had known when you were playing?

A: “I think most of the young men playing in the BCHL today are hopeful to earn a scholarship and continue their playing career at the collegiate level. I would encourage them to work on the little aspects of their game and individual skills before or after practice. Those little things can make a big difference during the course of a season and not only will it help you but help your team.
If there was something that could have helped me earlier in my playing career that I learned later on, is that you can’t get to high or to low. When you make mistakes or wish you would have done something differently on the ice, you need to learn from it and move on. The great thing about hockey is that if you make a mistake, you have the opportunity to bounce back right away. Letting one bad shift negatively affect your next one can be detrimental to your development and confidence. The game is just as mental as it is physical.”