A Chilliwack Chiefs legend is moving into hockey ops with the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jeff Tambellini has accepted a post as NCAA free agent recruiter and pro scout for the big league squad.
He leaves the Trail Smoke Eaters, where he served as head coach and general manager the last seasons. Tambellini led the Smokies to a 70-46-15-1 record during his tenure, eclipsing several team records along the way.
Tambellini maintains a tie with Trail even as he departs. He is the acting general manager for the moment and will serve in the role of ‘special advisor’ for the 2020-21 season, helping the organization find his successor.
“My staff and I have recruited and acquired the majority of players for the next season and it is crucial that we find the right person to lead this elite group of players going forward,” he said in a Smoke Eaters news release.
“I had two main goals when I came to Trail; first, build a championship team and second, to build the Smoke Eaters into a top franchise focused on the development and advancement of elite players to the NCAA. I am proud to say that we were on our way to a championship season in 2020. More importantly, the Smoke Eaters are now regarded as one of the top development franchises in the CJHL.”
Now 36 years old, Tambellini is viewed as one of the very best players in Chilliwack Chiefs history.
Over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 BCHL seasons he produced 101 goals and 230 points in 122 regular season and playoff games.
After three years at the University of Michigan, Tambellini launched into a 12 year pro career that included NHL stops in Los Angeles, New York (Islanders) and Vancouver.
He also spent several seasons in Europe, playing in Switzerland and Sweden.
“Jeff displayed confidence in our program as well as his players, and was able to get the most out of each and every player and push them to be their best selves, on and off the ice,” said Trail owner Rich Murphy. “Our loyal fan base has come to expect great things and Jeff was a significant part in helping us get there. Although we will greatly miss Jeff, we are absolutely thrilled to see him move to the NHL.”