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Alumni Report – Travis Roche

The Trail Smoke Eaters have a long standing history not only in the City of Trail, but in junior and international hockey. With that history comes a long list of alumni who have gone on to play college hockey, play or work in the NHL or follow another passion in life once their Smoke Eater career comes to end.

This month the Smoke Eaters are excited to feature to feature Travis Roche, from Grand Cache, Alberta, who played in Trail for two seasons from 1996-1998.

Q: Since you finished playing hockey, where has life taken you, what have you been up to since you finished playing hockey?

A: Since retiring from hockey in 2016 I have been continuing to build on my real estate company that my wife and I started in Minnesota while I was playing hockey.  We made Minnesota our home since the start of my professional career in 2001.  We started buying 1 house per year while I was playing and that has slowly morphed into buying storage facilities and commercial property.  I’m also the owner/operator of a commercial liquidation company with a hockey teammate from my Minnesota Wild days.  It currently occupies a majority of my time as well as being the general contractor on an expansion we’re doing at one of our storage facilities.  My wife works for Target Headquarters downtown Minneapolis as a buyer and we have two amazing, red haired boys that are 8 and 10.  We’re busy daily with their hockey schedules but it has been great to be able to coach them and it’s fun seeing them fall in love with the game.

During his two seasons in Trail, Roche put up 107 points in 98 total games as a defenceman, scoring 28 goals and adding 82 assists. He then earned himself a NCAA scholarship where he attended the University of North Dakota for three seasons.

Q: You’re a NCCA, AHL, 2x NLA and Spengler cup champion. What did those championships mean to you and do you hold one above the rest? 

A: I was really fortunate to be on great teams at the college and NCAA levels.  NCAA Championship with North Dakota was probably the coolest overall experience.  The city of Grand Forks loves their Fighting Sioux and it was basically a party for a month in the whole city after we had one.  It is such a difficult championship to win in that you can’t lose a single game, so every time you play there’s the feeling that this could be the last time this team plays together.  The Calder Cup championship was so gratifying because the process to win one is such an emotional, physical and mental grind.  We won game 7 in the Western Finals on the road and we won the Calder Cup in game 7 on the road as well.  The two Swiss titles we won were also amazing. The title we won in 2013 in Bern was memorable for me because I played 3 series with a broken thumb.  The worst part of that was that they had to re-break my thumb for every game in order for me to play. The Spengler Cup was so cool because of the history and tradition that goes along with winning it.  The year we won that was also special because it was played in the NHL lockout season which meant our team was unbelievable.  To put it into perspective, Matt Duchene was our 4th line center for that tournament.  

Q: When you look back at your Smoke Eaters career what moment would you highlight or be your best memories?

A: My best memory of Trail as far as hockey went was the teammates that I had.  We had such a unique group in both my years.  Trail at that time wasn’t a place that a lot of top players wanted to go to because it was so new to the league.  Glen Sanders, Mike Mondin, Dennis McKinnon and Sandy Santori did such a great job of finding quality players to bring in.  When we beat Vernon in game 7 was the ultimate for me during my time in Trail.  We had a few songs we would sing after every win and it felt even more special to sing outside the locker room in Vernon.  Then moving on to the series that followed against Penticton, the Memorial arena had not been that packed, or that loud in a long time, and that feeling of skating out onto the ice with the people of Trail’s support was something I will never forget.

Q: What made being a Smoke Eater special or memorable to you?

A: Being a Smoke Eater was one of the most special times of my entire career.  The city is so special and the people were unbelievable to our team.  There was some tension from the Rocky Mountain days, the year I went there all the guys that went to school at J.L Crowe worked so hard to make the culture there and with the community great and some of my best friends from my time there weren’t players.  We had such a fun time whether at school, the rink, or out in the community.  I lived with two amazing families that we’re still in touch with today and I get to Trail every few years to visit.

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

A: Being a Smoke Eater was one of the most special times of my entire career.  The city is so special and the people were unbelievable to our team.  There was some tension from the Rocky Mountain days, the year I went there all the guys that went to school at J.L Crowe worked so hard to make the culture there and with the community great and some of my best friends from my time there weren’t players.  We had such a fun time whether at school, the rink, or out in the community.  I lived with two amazing families that we’re still in touch with today and I get to Trail every few years to visit.

A: The advice that I try to give to any young aspiring hockey player is always the same.   Play every year for one more year.  Nobody knows where hockey may take you, if you always play to play one more year, whether it’s Midget or Bantam or Junior or professional.  Play for one more year.  I was blessed to have a 16 year professional career that took me all over the world.  The people I met, the things that I saw and the relationships that came out of playing the great game of hockey was the most rewarding and gratifying thing for me personally.