Former Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman and assistant coach, Kyle Chernenkoff, returned to the Silver City last week with a new team and a renewed purpose.
The Creston native is the assistant coach of the Thompson Blazers of the BC Major Midget League, and made his way back to Trail for two games against the Kootenay Ice Major Midget team on the weekend.
“It’s a special feeling for sure,” said Kyle. “I got to catch the Smokies game on Friday night, but to be back in this rink, and to be on the coaching side of it now is truly phenomenal.”
Chernenkoff’s hockey career was cut short in January of last year due to concussions. But rather than cutting him loose, the Smoke Eaters appointed him assistant coach and ‘Cherny’ finished the season with the team. Not only did he prove a coaching asset, but he brought a thoughtful and relaxed element to the team, particularly through an online post-game show called “Cherny’s Corner.”
A return to coaching earlier this year was a bit of a surprise for him, as he entered the Police and Justice Studies program at Thompson Rivers University in September. Chernenkoff was involved with BC Hockey camps over the summer when he met the Blazers head coach Chris Murray.
“They found out I was going to be in Kamloops and gave me a call,” said Chernenkoff. “You know what, I was just happy to get the opportunity to quench the thirst that I have for the game that I love to play.”
Chernenkoff was a solid, stay-at-home type of defenceman, who played a physical game. Despite the career-ending injuries and difficult adjustment, Cherny maintains a positive attitude in his approach to coaching and life in general.
“Coaching in itself is rewarding beyond belief. I really do miss playing, and sometimes I do get quite emotional during games, but the opportunity to be involved with these young players, where I was only a few years ago, but to see them progress and watch them grow into careers is really rewarding.”
The Smoke Eaters undoubtedly missed number-5 on the blue line particularly in their playoff run, but the 21-year-old coach looks comfortable standing behind the bench.
“Hockey will always play a vital role in my life, and if I can coach, then I’ll coach as long as I can.”
The Blazers went on to beat the Ice 4-0 Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday, and head into the holiday season in sixth place with a 10-15-0-1 record. Despite a tough start, the Blazers and Chernenkoff remain confident going into 2020.
“We’re happy to finish off (2019) this way, and we got off to a shaky start, but I think we’re finally starting to get into our groove here,” added Chernenkoff. “We told the kids to enjoy their Christmas, but we definitely still have a lot of work to do in the New Year.”