Valley West head coach to join Trail Smoke Eaters’ staff

Jessie Leung leaves Valley West Hawks for assistant-coach post in BC Hockey League

After six years behind the bench of the BC Major Midget League’s Valley West Hawks, Jessie Leung is leaving the team and heading east.

The Hawks’ bench boss – who spent a total of six years with the team, including the first three as an assistant coach – is set to join the BC Hockey League’s Trail Smoke Eaters as an assistant coach.

“It’s equal parts excitement and sheer terror, but any good adventure requires both,” Leung told Peace Arch News Friday afternoon.

“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. Coaching in the major-midget league is a high level, but you always have what I call the safety net, a (day job) or whatever. It’s at that point where you’re going to jump in and do it full-time, or you decide that’s the highest level you want to coach and stay where you’re at.

“For me, where I am in my life, I’ve been working hard to get into this position, so I decided to go for it.”

In three years as head coach with the Hawks, Leung compiled a record of 73-35-10-4 (win-loss-tie-overtime loss), highlighted by a BCMML title in 2015/16.

Leung’s coaching resume extends beyond the major-midget circuit. He’s also been involved with the BC Program of Excellence, helping coach regional tryout camps as well as BC Cup teams. It was at the BC Cup last month that he first connected with Trail Smoke Eaters head coach and general manager Cam Keith.

“I knew the opportunity was there with Trail’s assistant coach, Curt Toneff, leaving, and I got to work with (Keith), and that sort of started the relationship and the conversation, and here we are,” Leung said.

Leung said he’s planning to move to Trail this summer.

“We felt that with Jessie’s work ethic and commitment to player development, he would be a terrific addition to the Smoke Eaters’ coaching staff,” Trail’s director of hockey and business operations Craig Clare said in a news release.

A new Valley West head coach has not yet been announced, and though Leung “has a pretty good idea” who it will be, said it wasn’t his place to make such an announcement.

“What I can say is that I would not have moved on if I wasn’t confident, 100 per cent, in the person and the people who are coming in to take over,” he said. “It’s been six seasons with this team, and I feel like I’ve done a lot to help build this program to where it is today, and I wouldn’t have walked away if I didn’t think somebody would be able to come in and keep it going onwards and upwards. I wouldn’t have done that to the team.”

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