Tight Lines

Tight Lines

Tight Lines: I hate sad endings

Ancient Greek drama can’t compete with the emotional roller coaster the Trail Smoke Eaters have played out the past few months.

Ancient Greek drama can’t compete with the emotional roller coaster the Trail Smoke Eaters have played out the past few months.

Well, maybe one.

The “Iphigenia,” by Euripides is a tragedy where the Greek King, Agamemnon, is compelled to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the gods so they’d allow the 1,000 ships to set sail for Troy to fight an epic and protracted battle. The metaphor being, Smokies coach Nick Deschenes had to be sacrificed (fired) so the hockey gods would let the Smokies sail into the playoffs after an epic and prolonged absence.

Maybe a stretch, but when the axe came down on the Trail Smoke Eater head coach and GM last week with just five games remaining in the season, and the team still in the mix for a playoff spot, I was surprised and a little saddened.

Something sinister happened after Christmas that stalled a Smokies team that was poised if not destined by the gods for a playoff berth. The Smokies lost 14 of 16 games in the New Year, and crucial losses to Surrey (the last place team in the league) and Prince George (second last) didn’t help, but the devastating setback to Powell River, blowing a three-goal lead in the final five minutes, was pure agony. And once the losses mounted – it became clear, the Smokies were cursed. I doubt anyone killed the sacred deer of Artemis, but for some reason, the team couldn’t get back on track.

The action taken by president Tom Gawryletz and the Smokies executive was a message to the fans, to the players, and the coaching staff, that what was happening had to stop, that going forward without Deschenes, whose contract was up at the end of March, was better than going forward with him.

The firing was a necessary evil, born out of necessity. And to borrow a Greek proverb, “Not even the gods fight necessity.”

Nick wasn’t your typical “player’s coach,” and for some players his expulsion will be a welcome change to the chilly climate of the Cominco Arena.  Deschenes was cerebral, unapologetically tough on those whom he deemed underachieving and/or lazy. But he tried desperately to squeeze as much effort as he could out of a team not exactly saturated in talent. He was a fierce competitor, wore his whale-size heart on his sleeve, and didn’t pull many punches when it came to expressing himself to the refs – often to his team’s detriment.

I’d heard his communication skills with his players and the Smokies executive were lacking. But players (or owners) don’t have to like their coach for teams to be successful. In the case of Scotty Bowman, many hated the winningest coach in NHL history, but they always couched their jaded remarks with an admission of respect.

I’m not saying the Smokies players didn’t respect Deschenes, but they definitely weren’t playing like they did the second half of the season.  And for that to happen 30-40 games in, it’s the players who must be held accountable. With four games remaining and five points out, the team will need a Trojan horse to make the playoffs, but you never know.

Deschenes was handed a difficult task when he came over from the Grand Forks Border Bruins and took over the reins in November 2013 in what was essentially his second coaching job.   Yet, his teams improved in wins every year, and the Alberta native made significant strides, focusing on  high-tech teaching strategies and introducing systems that were sophisticated and successful when applied.

His recruiting skills brought in exciting talent like far off prospects Charlie Zuccarini, Bailey MacBurnie, and Nick Halloran, and thanks in no small part to Nick, more than 25 players benefitted from scholarships over those two-and-a-half years.

He helped the Trail Smoke Eaters engage the community, and genuinely cared about his players, the Silver City, and its hockey culture and rich sporting tradition. He hoped to guide the Smokies into the playoffs and tried his best to make that happen.

I like Nick. He always returned my calls, which had to be hard at times especially after a lengthy losing streak. And, to me at least, he always had lots to say, sometimes too much when it came to editing his comments – but for a sportswriter that is a good problem to have.

Coaching is a tough business, with little job security; and after over 27 months of talking to the former coach almost weekly, I’ll miss him.

Good luck Nick.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

“Our language and hence our ability to communicate is being distorted and impeded by the use of COVID catchphrases,” writes Dave Carter. Photo: Brett Jordan on Unsplash
COVID catchphrases impede our communication

Letter to the Editor from Dave Carter of Castlegar

Jasmine Smith is ready to start cracking the case to the summer reading program at the Trail and District Public Library. Photo: Sheri Regnier
‘Crack the Case’ at the Trail library this summer

Summer Reading Club runs July 5 to August 20.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Most Read