Trail Smoke Eaters
The Trail Smoke Eaters have a storied history in the world of Canadian junior league hockey. Founded in 1926, this small-town team from the West Kootenay region of British Columbia has produced some of the most talented players in the sport. But what sets the Trail Smoke Eaters apart from other junior hockey teams is not just their impressive roster, but their strong coaching leadership.
Through the decades, the Trail Smoke Eaters have had a long line of skilled and dedicated coaches, with one name standing out among them all: the legendary coach, Bob Boucher. Boucher was at the helm of the Trail Smoke Eaters from 1961 to 1972, leading the team to numerous championships and securing their place in hockey history. But even after his tenure, Boucher’s impact on the Smoke Eaters program continues to be felt, as his coaching legacy lives on through the team’s current head coach and former player, Jeff Tambellini.
Tambellini has been with the Trail Smoke Eaters since the 2016-2017 season, but his connection to the team goes back much further. His father Steve Tambellini played for the Smoke Eaters in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and his grandfather Addie Tambellini was a former coach and general manager of the team. So when Jeff Tambellini took over as head coach, he not only had a deep understanding of the history and culture of the Trail Smoke Eaters, but also a desire to continue the strong coaching legacy that had been passed down through his family.
Under Tambellini’s leadership, the Trail Smoke Eaters have seen remarkable success and growth. In his first season as head coach, the team made a strong playoff run and secured a spot in the BCHL Finals. In the following season, the Smoke Eaters finished with a franchise record of 32 wins. And in the 2019-2020 season, the team put up another impressive performance, winning the BCHL Interior Division title and making it to the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
But it’s not just wins and statistics that make Tambellini a standout coach. He has also implemented a strong culture within the team, emphasizing the importance of hard work, dedication and a team-first mentality. This approach has not only resulted in on-ice success, but has also fostered an environment of respect and camaraderie among the players.
One of the hallmarks of Tambellini’s coaching style is his ability to develop young players. As a former NHL player himself, Tambellini has a wealth of knowledge and experience to pass on to his players. He focuses on individual skill development and works closely with each player to help them reach their full potential. This dedication to player development has led to several Smoke Eaters players being drafted into the NHL, including Kent Johnson, a projected top-10 pick in the 2021 NHL draft.
But Tambellini’s impact goes beyond just developing players’ skills on the ice. He is also dedicated to helping his players excel off the ice. He emphasizes the importance of education and encourages his players to pursue post-secondary schooling while playing for the Smoke Eaters. This has resulted in several players earning scholarships to prestigious NCAA Division 1 schools, including University of Michigan and Cornell University.
The positive effect Tambellini has had on the Trail Smoke Eaters organization has not gone unnoticed. He has received numerous accolades for his coaching, including being named the BCHL Coach of the Year in 2018 and 2020. His coaching style has also drawn the attention of other junior and professional teams, with Tambellini being invited to coach at the prestigious Team Canada World Junior A Challenge in 2019.
As the Trail Smoke Eaters continue to excel under Tambellini’s leadership, it’s clear that his coaching legacy is firmly cemented in the team’s history. He embodies the true spirit of what it means to be a Smoke Eater – hard-working, dedicated, and driven to succeed both on and off the ice. And with Tambellini at the helm, the future of the Trail Smoke Eaters looks brighter than ever.