Peter Schaefer (centre) will not return as manager and head coach of the Surrey Eagles next season. Blaine Neufeld (below) will be taking over.

Peter Schaefer (centre) will not return as manager and head coach of the Surrey Eagles next season. Blaine Neufeld (below) will be taking over.

Coach’s exit part of ‘long-range plan’

Peter Schaefer will not return as manager and head coach of the Surrey Eagles next season

Last month’s announcement that Peter Schaefer would not return as the head coach and general manager of the Surrey Eagles is simply another step in the team’s long-range plan, according to team president Chuck Westgard.

Schaefer’s ouster – after just one year at the helm of the BC Hockey League team – had been rumoured since the team was bounced from the first-round of playoffs in the spring and Westgard bought out the team’s other ownership partners while also bringing Pro4 Sports personnel into the team’s front office.

Schaefer told Peace Arch News the decision was “mutual” and partly driven by finances. Schaefer will be replaced behind the bench by Blaine Neufeld, who was already with the club; in late-April he was named Surrey’s director of hockey operations.

Westgard said financial considerations “were part of it” but added that the move gives the team’s front office more stability. At the start of last season, Schaefer wore three hats with the club, as coach/general manager/president.

“This is just a more structured organization now,” Westgard said, adding that he will also be taking a more hands-on role with the club.

Westgard also said the grind of being the team’s top dog may have been a lot for Schaefer, a former National Hockey League forward who served as an assistant coach before taking over last summer, to handle.

“It was his first year as a head coach, and it’s a lot of work, day-to-day,” Westgard said.

“And he’s got a young family, so it was a little bit of everything.”

Despite rumours throughout the off-season, Westgard said the decision for the two parties to part ways was only decided recently.

“There were a lot of discussions,” he said.

Schaefer, who had one year left on his coaching contract with the Eagles, will stay aboard as a consultant. Talking last week, Schaefer wouldn’t comment on whether Neufeld’s hiring – which placed him above the general manager in the front-office food chain – was part of the reason for his exit, but Westgard admitted that it may have played a part.

“I don’t want to speak for Peter, but it might have had something to do with it, sure, but you’d have to ask him,” Westgard said.

With the team’s new focus on bringing young, local players onto the roster – the team has signed a handful of Surrey, Cloverdale and Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alums this offseason – Westgard said bringing a young coach aboard made sense longterm.

Neufeld is 27, and has junior ‘A’ coaching experience as a goaltending coach with the Winkler Flyers in Manitoba.

“Blaine is a young coach, but he’s got experience – he’s not coming out of nowhere. He’s a hockey guy,” said Westgard.

“And he will have a chance to grow (with a young team).”

Westgard pointed to the team’s hiring of Matt Erhart – Schaefer’s predecessor – in 2010/11 as an example of why he’s excited by Neufeld’s arrival.

“Matt was an assistant with us for just the one year when we hired him, and that worked out pretty good,” Westgard said, alluding to the team’s Fred Page Cup title and run to the RBC Cup two seasons ago.

“And I get a similar feeling about Blaine that we got with Matt back then. We’re excited about it.”

Westgard was equally bullish on the team’s commitment to icing a roster with local content, though he was quick to point out that it would not come at the expense of icing a competitive team.

“It’s a balance. We’d love to have a lot of (locals) on the roster, but we’re going to continue to bring in other guys, as well,” he said.

“Our main goal is to help get these kids scholarships, but a close second is to win, and we’re going to try and do that every year.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Volunteers from Semiahmoo Secondary joined with members of the Lower Mainland Green Team and the White Rock and South Surrey Naturalists Wednesday to remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park in March. (Contributed photo)
Green Team, South Surrey students mark Earth Day with invasive plant removal

Volunteers to be on site at White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park

rcmp
South Surrey neighbours’ calls to police lead to break-and-enter arrest

‘Prime example’ of RCMP and public working together, constable says

Members of the Wheeling 8’s dance group go on a roll at Surrey’s Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in 2018, during the club’s 45th-anniversary event. If not for the pandemic, such activities could be socially prescribed as part of a new program involving Fraser Health and DiverseCity Community Resources Society. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
‘Social prescriptions’ connect Surrey seniors to activities and other services they need

Fraser Health-backed program involves GP referrals to a Seniors’ Community Connector with DiverseCity

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Annis wants independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor says

SkyTrain’s end of the line, for now, in Whalley. (File photo)
Provincial budget watchers lament no mention of Surrey SkyTrain expansion

But $1.66 billion is earmarked for a second hospital for Surrey, in Cloverdale

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Most Read