Trail Smoke Eaters Owner Purchases VIJHL Peninsula Panthers

By Jim Bailey – Trail Daily Times

The owners of the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BC Hockey League added another junior
hockey team to their line up with the purchase of the Peninsula Panthers of the
Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

The deal came into effect April 1, 2024, when Rich and Annie Murphy of Murphy
Canadian Capital Investments took majority ownership of the North Saanich based
team and son Ryan and daughter Madelyn Murphy-Homer minority ownership.
“We decided to buy a junior hockey team in 2016 (in Trail) because we are passionate
about developing these players, not only helping them grow as athletes, but as young
men and members of their community as well,” said Richard.
“I am looking forward to working with our coaching staff to ensure we are providing
these young men the best hockey program they can get in the VIJHL, one that will
support them as leaders on and off the ice.”
Pete and Coreen Zubersky have owned the Panthers since 1999, and will stay on for
the remainder of the year to ensure a smooth transition.
“We have been seeking the right person or group for the last year or two and wanted a
perfect fit,” said Pete. “The Panthers are very dear to our hearts and to the collective
heart of the community on the Peninsula.
“We are thrilled to have found the perfect fit with the Murphy family.”
The Murphys will retain current head coach and GM Tyler Stanton who finished the
season in fifth place in the five-team South Division with a 23-23-1-1 record.
“Tyler is an enthusiastic young coach with a passion for working with these young men,”
said Murphy. “I look forward to working with him and seeing all this team can
accomplish in the seasons to come.”
The VIJHL announced its independence from Hockey Canada and BC Hockey on April
29, making the league fertile territory for the independent BCHL teams to recruit and
affiliate players.
“The VIJHL will have an affiliation agreement with the BCHL by the start of the 2024-25
season,” Murphy told the Times. “The Trail Smoke Eaters, as well as all teams in the
BCHL, will be able to use the VIJHL players in AP situations.

“Further, the Trail Smoke Eaters will use the Panthers team as a feeder team, not only
to the Trail Smoke Eaters but to the BCHL in general.
“The Panthers will attract younger players 15-18 years of age in hopes of developing
them to play in the BCHL in the future.”
Murphy also clarified that there would be no conflict of interest when it comes to
recruiting and affiliating VIJHL players (AP).
“The purpose of the affiliation agreement allows VIJHL players to AP with any team, the
days of the assigned AP player is gone for now. If a player eventually makes a BCHL
team that is awesome and that’s what the ownership is looking for.”
Madelyn will oversee the business side of the Panthers as Director of Business
Operations. She has ample experience through her work with the Smoke Eaters,
including involvement in the team’s merchandising, annual budgets, special events, and
skill development program.
“I am incredibly excited to step into this role with the Peninsula Panthers,” Madelyn said.
“Wherever there is a junior hockey team, there is usually a wonderful community that
the team gets to call home.
“I am passionate about ensuring that we not only provide our athletes with a quality
hockey development program, but also that we deliver to the community fun, family
friendly game nights with the best hockey on the Island.”
Since the Murphys took over the Smoke Eaters, the business has greatly expanded,
with the Murphys investing in significant facility updates to the arena, locker rooms, and
weight training facility, as well as hiring on a full-time staff of passionate, skilled
The Times asked if North Saanich can expect the same?
“The answer to that question is an absolute YES!” said Rich. “We still have so much
work to do in Trail as we are not even close to where we want to be as an organization.
We need to attract more fans, we need to win more games, and we still need to win a
championship, so our work is not done here in Trail.
“North Saanich and the community will get the same dedication we have given to the
Trail community,” Rich continued. “We are dedicated to the development of the athletes,
the community and to any staff we have at the Panthers.
“We are extremely excited to get started and show the community of North Saanich who
we are and what we can accomplish.”
As in Trail, North Saanich can expect to see the new owners at the Panthers’
Panorama Arena at different games throughout the 2024-2025 season.
“My family is so excited to carry on Pete and Coreen’s hard work,” added Madelyn. “We
can’t wait to bring our own expertise and passion for hockey to the Peninsula
In addition to her role as the Director of Business Operations, Madelyn serves as the
Director for the Murphy Family Foundation, a Minnesota based foundation focused on
supporting organizations dedicated to youth development.
All four Murphys sit on the board, and the foundation has a track record of supporting
youth organizations in the communities where the Murphy’s businesses operate.