Trail Smoke Eaters director of hockey and business operations Craig Clare (right) welcomed the Smoke Eaters new head coach and GM, Tim Fragle, to the Silver City last week. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters director of hockey and business operations Craig Clare (right) welcomed the Smoke Eaters new head coach and GM, Tim Fragle, to the Silver City last week. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters new coach/GM settles into Silver City

Smoke Eaters coach/GM Tim Fragle is hopeful for new season and confident in returning on-ice product

Trail Smoke Eaters new head coach and GM Tim Fragle expected some surprises, but didn’t foresee the wild welcome he received when he arrived in Trail last week.

While house-hunting in Rossland, a black bear introduced himself, leaving scratches and minor damage on Fragle’s vehicle. There was no food or garbage in the SUV, so just a random ‘keep your head up’ and ‘welcome to Trail’ from local wildlife.

In the age of the coronavirus, Fragle’s task will be a daunting one as he takes over from former head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. But the former Smoke Eaters player is slowly and safely re-acquainting himself with the team, the city, and its culture – and settling, in the end, on a house in Glenmerry.

“I’ve just been taking it all in, seeing how the organization works, trying to manage both with the big move our family has and getting up to speed on the current roster and what our needs are moving into next year,” said Fragle.

Related read: Smoke Eaters hire former player as head coach/GM

Related read: Tampa Bay Lightning hire Trail Smoke Eaters head coach

The Edmonton native and former NAIT coach will have to replace a dozen Smokies players that graduated or went on to NCAA and college last season. Finding replacements for the BCHL’s top scorer and MVP Kent Johnson, and leaders like captain Philippe Lapointe, Powell Connor, and Jameson Murray is just the start of the rebuild. Fragle, however, says he likes the returning talent and is up for the challenge.

“I look at the guys coming back, from what I’ve observed and been told, and watching a number of games; I still think there is enough to say that it’s not going to be considered a rebuild. Good teams in this league have turnover year after year and if you see the way teams have been trending I think that’s our goal. So we aspire to be a good team in this division and just settling for a rebuild is not in our mindset.”

The Smoke Eaters will have their share of highend talent return including forwards Owen Ozar, Max Kryski, Matt Osadick, Jaden Senkoe, Chase Dafoe, Connor Sweeney, and Braden Costello; defencemen Trevor Isaksson, Kyle Budvarson, Cody Schiavon, and Kyle Pow, and Logan Terness in goal.

Unfortunately, eight of those are 20-year-olds, which exceeds the BCHL’s five-player limit for overage players.

“Our roster is a little heavy with 20-year-olds, so we have to make some decisions,” explained Fragle. “With that, we hope to strengthen or add some depth on defence, because they lost some really good defencemen from last year, and lost a boatload of offence too. So if we can add depth at both positions with guys that have played junior hockey, that would certainly help our team.”

The Smoke Eaters also have committed at least eight players from the Major Midget and Canadian Sports School Hockey League ranks to compliment the returning players. Although, it remains uncertain when Trail Memorial Centre ice will be available, players who reside in larger centres have been able to work out on and off the ice.

“I see there’s lots of potential in a lot of our returning guys to make that next step,” said Fragle. “And you need that in junior hockey. In my time at Sherwood Park (AJHL), we invested in some 16 and 17 year olds, and they really pay off at 18 and 19.”

In addition to the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic, BCHL teams are also embracing a whole new platform. With the addition of the Cranbrook Bucks, the league will move to a two conference configuration with a unique schedule.

“I guess until we see and know what that schedule is going to look like it’s a little uneasy, I’m a planner,” said Fragle. “If I could look at our year plan, by this time we’d already have our schedule, you could make those types of plans for your training. But right now we’re just waiting for the schedule, and then boom we can get to work on when we want to implement things.”

The Western Hockey League and the KIJHL submitted an Oct. 2 return to play plan, however, the BCHL has yet to name a startup date. Hockey Canada announced last week that it will allow each league to make that decision based on their respective health scenarios.

“It has been determined that the best approach for a return to hockey in Canada is to allow each Member the opportunity to work with authorities in their respective regions to determine when it is safe to return to the ice in areas that fall under their jurisdiction,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said in a release. “We expect the timing of each Member’s return to hockey will be different, but will be based on the advice of their government and public health authority.”

What a return to hockey will look like for the BCHL and the Trail Smoke Eaters is still uncertain, but Fragle is hopeful.

“Our first step right now is to hopefully get some camps going. We’re hopeful we can have an ID camp, which is a good step, because I know there are a lot of kids out there waiting to decide which program they’re going to go to, while all these camps have come to a screeching halt.”

“So that would be good to get us going in August and also do some minor hockey development camps, from a community standpoint, and also an opportunity get those kids on the ice too, because who knows what that is going to look like?”

And he is more optimistic than he was a month ago, in the midst of the pandemic.

“I think we have to be understanding; it might not be a normal year from a players and coach’s perspective,” added Fragle. “We may have to pivot, if our games are all in-division or play less games, we just have to spin a positive and be happy we’re getting a chance to play hockey still, given everything that’s going on.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo: Trail Historical Society circa Aug. 1, 1924.
Trail Navy Cadets of yore

Check out our Trail Blazers historical feature every Thursday in the Trail Times newspaper

The Trail library has two radon test kits available for loan to patrons with a library card. With Covid restrictions tightening, calling first is advisable. Photo: Trail Times
Radon screening kits available for loan at Trail library

November is National Radon Action Month/Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Email your letters to
Concern over permanent shelter in Trail

Letter to the Editor from P. Crain, Trail

Trail Ferraro Foods recognized for diligence during pandemic

Letter to the Editor from Joslyn Sharp of Trail

The Rossland Rotary is banding together, while staying six-feet apart, for another community fundraiser this holiday season with the ‘100 Rosslanders Who Care project’. Photo: Submitted
Rotary seeks 100 Rosslanders Who Care!

“One Hundred Rosslanders Who Care” each pledge $100 to fund a community project

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read