The Trail Smoke Eaters announced the hiring of a new assistant coach for the upcoming BCHL campaign on Friday.
Former BC Major Midget League (BCMML) coach Jessie Leung officially joins the orange and black today, and will take over the role vacated by assistant coach Curtis Toneff at the end of the season.
“We felt that with Jessie’s work ethic and commitment to player development, he would be a terrific addition to the Smoke Eaters coaching staff,” said Director of Hockey and Business Operations, Craig Clare. “We met him before and he’s very detail oriented, a hard worker, he loves the game, he loves developing the players, and we got a lot of great recommendations throughout the BC hockey world.”
Leung coached the past six seasons with the Valley West Hawks of the BCMML, leading the Hawks to the league title in 2015-2016, while building a 73-35-10-4 record over the past three seasons as Valley West’s head coach.
Clare says that Leung’s ability to develop players impressed Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith and the rest of the Smoke Eater coaching staff. The Lower Mainland resident has evolved as a coach and gained valuable experience through his many years dedicated to the BC Hockey Program of Excellence, where he was part of the U16 BC Team coaching staff and the 2012 Western Canada Challenge Cup, the 2015 Canada Winter Games as video coach, and, most recently, was the assistant coach for the 2016 Western Canada Challenge Cup.
“In the end it came to his player development, his love for the game and his hard work, and even just by talking to him the last week or so he’s come as advertised and he’s excited for the opportunity and he’s excited to come to Trail,” said Clare.
Following the Hawks 2015-16 championship season, Leung moved 13 of 20 players on to the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League, and six of those were still eligible to play midget. Clare is confident that Leung will prove vital in helping the Smoke Eaters challenge for a championship and Trail players move on to the next level.
“He had really good success with them (the Hawks), he helped build the program,” said Clare. “He’s got a lot of contacts in the hockey world and he’s getting to work so we’re excited.”
Leung visited Trail during Silver City Days and was impressed with the improvements to the arena, the passion of local volunteers and fans, the commitment of owners Rich and Annie Murphy and the Trail Smoke Eater staff and players.
“I am excited to be joining the coaching staff of the Trail Smoke Eaters as an assistant coach and embarking on the next chapter of my life with such a storied franchise,” said Leung in a Tweet. “To the people of Trail … there is something special happening to the Cominco Arena. I’m honoured to become a part of your community and help write another exciting chapter in the history of the Trail Smoke Eaters.”