HUMBOLDT — Curtis Toneff said as an 18-year-old rookie playing in Humboldt for the Battlefords North Stars, he was maybe a bit intimidated by the Elgar Petersen Arena.
“I remember the fans and they were certainly backing their team and I hear they definitely still do,” he said.
When Toneff returns to Humboldt this fall, those fans will now be on his side and the EPA will be like a second home. The 26-year-old has been hired as the Humboldt Broncos assistant coach for next season.
“We are very excited to have Curtis on board with the Humboldt Broncos,” head coach Scott Barney said. “After numerous phone calls back and forth, it became more and more evident that we share the same principles and philosophies. He checks off all the boxes we were looking for in an assistant coach and will be a great asset not only for our organization but also the community.”
Toneff joins the Broncos after two seasons as the head coach of his hometown Nanaimo (BC) Buccaneers in the Junior B Vancouver Island Hockey League. Previously he had served as an assistant coach for the Junior B Campbell River Storm and Junior A Trail Smoke Eaters, both of which are teams he had played for. As a coach, he helped the Storm win championships at the league, provincial, and Western Canadian levels.
As a Junior B head coach, Toneff said he learned about the business side of the game and many important little things from the Buccaneers’ owners while taking the team to the league semifinals twice. However, he is excited for the opportunity to get back into the Junior A ranks with the Broncos.
“It just seems like the right fit at the right time,” said Toneff, who noted he felt himself and Barney were on the same page.
His time as the Buccaneers bench boss helped reiterate what is needed from an assistant coach. “You want a guy who is engaged and dialed in … You want someone to be loyal and have the head coach’s back.” He also said assistants need to be approachable for the players and to help them on the ice and personally.
Toneff recalls that when the North Stars played in Humboldt, he might have been a health scratch for a game for one of only a few times in his career.
“I am used to wearing a suit there,” he joked.
The North Stars were one of nine junior teams in five leagues Toneff played for during his career. This exposed him to a variety of coaching styles. He said there is a quote that says the best coach is a bit of a thief.
“I took what I liked from a lot of coaches,” he said, noting that he uses drills and cues based on how coaches treat their players.
However, Toneff said it is also important to be your own person.
“The one thing that I am, is I am real with the players and I’m there to support Scott,” he said.
Toneff said he is looking forward to learning from Barney, who played in the NHL, and returning to the SJHL. Toneff recalls the SJHL game being “a bit heavier and a bit more in your face” than the BC Hockey League.
“It wasn’t an easy league to play in. I’m going to take that thought with me. You have to be hard to play against.”