Trail Smoke Eaters assistant coach Craig Clare was named Director of Hockey Operations by new owner Rich Murphy on the weekend.
Murphy pleasantly surprised attendees of the Smoke Eater players-parents banquet on Saturday at the Colombo Lodge with the announcement.
“Craig he’s not a local guy, he played hockey here, came back and got a job here, the people in this community really liked him, and he is very involved,” said Murphy.
Clare said it was a difficult decision to leave his job at Fortis and take on the full-time position with the Smoke Eaters, but in the end, he viewed it as an incredible opportunity.
“It was tough,” said Clare. “I’ve been at that job for 12 years, and they (Fortis) treat me really well, and still do. I talked to my family, of course, and my dad said, ‘this is a once in a life-time opportunity to do something you really like to do.’”
Murphy was also helpful and generous in convincing Clare to accept the position, and the Minnesota businessman was more than impressed with Clare’s work ethic and the respect he commanded from the community.
“He has a job, and all the time he spends with the hockey team,” said Murphy. “But he does much more than that, he’s confident, and this is a guy who is on the go from eight in the morning to 10 o’clock at night – he’s always giving. I could tell when I announced it (Saturday), the 300 people that were there (at the banquet) were ecstatic.”
Clare will act as bridge between the hockey and the business interests of the Smoke Eaters and work with sponsors, game-day promotion and marketing, fiscal growth, as well as addressing scouts, promoting players and taking care of their best interests.
“We’re a small enough organization where a lot of it is we’re going to have to help each other, we have to come up with creative ideas and help each other out,” said Clare. “But it’s really just about maximizing the player’s experience, maximizing the fans experience, and the bottom line is taking care of our company and the employees that we’re going to have, and sharing the continued success of the Smoke Eaters in the community.”
Clare, a former Smoke Eater player, also likes the direction Murphy is taking the team and is excited about the team’s newfound potential.
“I think from the changes we’re going to make and the resources that Rich is going to provide, there’s no reason that this can’t be a very successful story, and a new era of the Trail Smoke Eaters.”
Clare played for the Smokies from 1997-99 and in 112 games had 50 goals and 37 assists for a total of 87 points. He played and graduated from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology acquiring a degree in business while scoring 90 points in 70 games, and began his coaching career with the Smoke Eaters in 2013.
With Smoke Eater blood coursing through his veins, Clare is optimistic and ready for the new challenge.
“There’s a lot to do, but it’s small details that go a long way at first. Promoting the city and the town, getting kids to come. It’s the little things that these kids see that will make these kids come to Trail over somewhere else.”
Clare will officially take over the position as Director of Hockey Operations on Nov. 11.