Former Valley West Hawks head coach Jessie Leung – who led the major-midget hockey squad to a provincial championship in 2015/16 – is leaving his current post as an assistant coach with the BC Hockey League’s Trail Smoke Eaters.
The BCHL team announced Leung’s departure in a news release Thursday afternoon.
The 34-year-old New Westminster native spent two seasons with the Kootenay-area junior ‘A’ team.
“The Smoke Eaters would like to thank Jessie for all of his hard work and dedication over the past two seasons with the organization and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours,” the news release noted.
Leung was at the helm of the Hawks – since rebranded as the Valley West Giants – for six seasons, compiling a record of 73-35-10-4 (win-loss-tie-overtime loss) before leaving for the junior ranks in 2017.
“It’s an opportunity and something I’d been thinking about for the last little bit – whether or not to jump in with both feet and try to make a go of coaching as a career,” he told Peace Arch News at the time.
In his first season in Trail, Leung helped lead the Smokies to the BCHL’s Interior Division final. This past season, they advanced to Game 7 of the divisional semifinal before being knocked out.
Despite the team’s success, Leung told Black Press Media on Thursday that he and the Smoke Eaters could not come to terms on a contract extension.
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t come to an agreement for an extension,” said Leung. “They explained to me that the coaching and managerial staff is changing and consequently with those changes there wasn’t a place for me.
“I enjoyed my time in Trail and loved the people that I worked with and coached with and loved the town and how the community embraced me.”
Leung was originally hired to join the staff of then-head coach Cam Keith, but Keith was fired by the Smokies last April, and replaced with Jeff Tambellini, who remains as the head coach/general manager.
Keith spent this past season as an associate coach with the Chilliwack Chiefs, and in late March was hired as the new head coach and associate general manager of the Surrey Eagles.
– with files from Jim Bailey/Trail Daily Times