Former Smoke Eater player Tim Fragle was named the new head coach and GM of Trail’s BCHL franchise on Thursday.
Fragle bled Smoke Eaters orange for almost three years as a player for Trail from 1997-99 and is thrilled to be returning to the team.
“It feels good,” Fragle told the Times from his home in Edmonton. “I’m definitely excited, and look forward to getting to work.”
As a coach with over a dozen years experience, the 40-year-old Edmonton product has accumulated an impressive array of hockey accomplishments.
Fragle began his coaching journey at the Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton, then spent seven seasons as coach and GM of the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL. He joined the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks in 2016, where he won four regular season titles, and earned Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Coach of the Year award three times in four years, while amassing a 95-21-9-2 record.
He has also worked closely with Hockey Canada, coaching Team West for two seasons and winning gold as head coach at the 2015 World Jr. A Challenge.
“Tim has always been someone I had hoped to be able to work with and I’m excited that now is the time Tim can come to our organization and continue to grow this program,” Director of hockey and business operations Craig Clare said in a release. “Having a background of playing in Trail and knowing the community, he embraces the opportunity to come back and strive for a BCHL Championship.
“The community of Trail is adding a great coach, person and family to its community today.”
Despite his success at the college and international level, Fragle decided to return to coaching Junior A hockey and move his wife Terra and two children, Ben and Madison, to the Silver City.
“First, I really like that level of hockey, I have a passion for working with the athletes at that level, they’re really keen and want to move on to the next level,” explained Fragle. “The second one is, I like the mixture of games and practices. In college hockey there are a little bit less games.
“But probably the most important factor is just the direction and the way the Smoke Eaters have been trending the last four or five years, and the good people that are working for the organization now that makes you feel comfortable to make the move.”
For Smoke Eaters owner Rich Murphy, Fragle’s experience and impressive winning record were definite factors in choosing him over a number of other applicants. Yet, in replacing Jeff Tambellini, who was hired as a scout and college recruiter by the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning in April, character was key.
“I was pretty impressed with Tim,” said Murphy. “He’s been in the head coaching business for a while and he has a lot of experience, he comes very well respected. And it’s not often you get a college coach come down to Junior A hockey. This guy is coming to Trail to work with younger men and to help develop them to move on. He’s excited to get here and get his family here.
“And on the communication side, this is a coach that has never been fired, so I know there’s no issues with him. There’s really nothing that’s not good about Tim Fragle, to be honest with you.”
Navigating the future of hockey in Trail is loaded with uncertainty given the current pandemic, but Fragle is confident that with the help of longtime friend, Clare, and the coaching staff, the team will be prepared for the start of the season, whenever that is.
“I’m going to lean on the current staff for player personnel and some decisions that we have to make with regards to the roster, but in light of the current pandemic that will create some issues. But at the same time, we’re all in the same boat, all the junior hockey teams, and it’s not like there could be an advantage for one so obviously for me there is time to sort things out, but I look forward to the challenge.”
And there are some things that won’t change. Fragle’s fondest recollections of playing in Trail include the lasting friendships made, the fan support, and also helping the Smokies create one of the most enduring rivalries in the BCHL.
“The guys, we still stay in touch as a group, the guys from the 98-99 and 97-98 group,” said Fragle. “But probably the fondest memory was playing in front of a packed Cominco Arena. It would have been the division semifinal against Penticton that year. We ended up losing that series, but to be a part of that team and to get over the hump to get deeper into the playoffs and see the way the town responded is definitely a lasting memory.”
Welcome back to Trail, Tim.