Smoke Eaters: Toneff named assistant coach

The Trail Smoke Eaters will see former player Curtis Toneff join the coaching staff as an assistant this weekend.

The Trail Smoke Eaters will see former player Curtis Toneff join the coaching staff as an assistant this weekend when the team plays Langley and Salmon Arm at the Cominco Arena Friday and Saturday.

The 22-year-old Nanaimo native coached in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League with the Campbell River Storm last season, and helped lead the team to a Keystone Cup, Western Canadian championship appearance.

“We heard a lot of good things with his working for their defensive core, and he’s eager to start his coaching career,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “At this point everything is in place, systems are in place, and the foundation is laid, so I think he’s eager to come in and learn and work and it’ll be a good contrast as far as some of the youth he brings, and maybe a different perspective so we’re excited to have him on board.”

Toneff played 24 games with the Smokies in 2013-14 as a defenceman, and collected 13 points and 42 penalty minutes.

Trail announced the hiring of Rockie Zinger Oct. 2, but after a brief stay, the team determined that the former coach of the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Hockey League wasn’t a good fit.

“He wasn’t what was needed as far as an assistant coach goes,” said Deschenes. “He has the credentials as a head coach, but I don’t think he would be capable to come in and be an assistant . . . so it was better to nip that in the bud before anything went further.”

Toneff will join Deschenes and assistants Barry Zanier and Craig Clare on the coaching staff this week, as the team gets set to play Vernon Vipers tonight in Vernon before returning home for a pair of matches this weekend. The 4-6-0 Smokies are coming off victories over the Prince George Spruce Kings, 7-3, and Coquitlam Express, 2-1, and face a 5-6-0-1 Vipers team that lost 4-3 to Prince George at home on Saturday following a 6-2 victory over Nanaimo Clippers on Friday.