Bruins coach departs to take over Junior A Trail Smokies

After a year and two months at the helm of the Border Bruins, head coach and general manager Nick Deschenes is moving on.

Border Bruin coach Nick Deschenes will be leaving the team to take over the Junior A Trail Smoke Eaters.

After a year and four months at the helm of the Border Bruins, head coach and general manager Nick Deschenes is moving on.Deschenes accepted the same job with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the Junior A BCHL and will start immediately. Under Deschenes guidance, the Border Bruins went from 1-49-0-2 in 2011-12 to 8-40-1-3 last year.So far this year, the Bruins have a 6-7-1-0 record good for 13 points and fourth place in the tough Neil Murdoch division.“We as a board of directors met with coach Deschenes on the weekend and were very impressed with his approach,” said Smoke Eaters President Tom Gawryletz in a press release. “He comes to our organization with a terrific hockey background and was doing a great job with the club in Grand Forks.”Deschenes joined the Border Bruins at the tail end of the 2011-12 season after his final season of professional hockey with the Federal League’s Danbury Whalers.He replaces Bill Birks, who was head coach of Trail for two and a half years after being an assistant for one year. Birks was released two weeks ago after the Smokies lost five straight games.Deschenes told the <i>Gazette that the whole process went very quickly and came out of the blue.“It all happened over the course of three days, over the weekend,” he said. “I accepted the offer on Monday.”Deschenes said he really enjoyed his time in Grand Forks but is looking forward to the challenge in Trail at the Junior A level.“It’s what the KIJHL is about: promoting players, and coaches, to the next level,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, and I wouldn’t have been as willing or as prepared, if I hadn’t been given the chance in Grand Forks.”Deschenes is quick to compliment the community, the players, and the board for all the support he’s received as coach and general manager. “To be able to work with these players, some for almost a year and a half, everyone’s played their part,” he said. “From a personal standpoint, obviously, it’s a promotion career-wise, but it’s also a reflection of how Grand Forks has a lot of potential and can be a stepping stone to the next level for a player or coach.”Deschenes is pleased to be able to stay in the same region to coach. He thinks the Smoke Eaters are in a similar situation to the Border Bruins when he arrived.“I’m comfortable with the area,” he said. “Trail’s trying to turn things around. Obviously, they’re in a bit of a losing skid. I’m going to work as hard as I can to help them get back on track.”Team president Martin Vanlerberg told the <i>Gazette that the board was taken by surprise and is currently scrambling to find a replacement.In the short term, vice-president and assistant coach Matt Zamec will take over as head coach and general manager on an interim basis.“We definitely weren’t expecting it,” said Vanlerberg. “I think the organization had invested a lot into Nick Deschenes as a coach and team leader, and we weren’t expecting it to go that route. This is one of those things – it’s not routine. It’s not often heard of or seen is sports. It would surprise any organization, I think.”Vanlerberg added that the board of directors would be working hard to find and hire a full-time coach.“Ideally, we would like to hire someone local,” he said. “We’ve got some amazing hockey talent in this region. But I think it’ll be one of those situations where we have to go into survival mode and hope in the interim process we can have a collective group of people that can be cautious. We need the right person at the helm. We though Nick was that person, but he’s gone on to better his career. That’s obviously great for him (but not so great for us).”Vanlerberg said the timing of Deschene’s departure one month into the season is particularly distressing for the team.“I thought we were developing as a hockey team and as a board (with Nick) we were bringing some new fresh ideas,” he said. “I really do feel whole heartedly that Nick offered a lot to the kids as part as coaching philosophy and everything else to the boys, but that those boys in the room offered a lot to Nick to get to where he is professionally.”Vanlerberg said he is very proud of the Bruin players and expects the veterans to lead the team through the coaching change.“We’ve got a good thing going,” he said. “In the last two games alone, to be so close to Nelson and Castlegar. These are one goal games that people are excited about. The message I told the boys in the dressing room Monday night is that the community is behind them. There’s a great buzz around town. I’d love nothing more than this next game Saturday at the Grand Forks Arena against Castlegar to be packed.”

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