An opportunity that was too good to pass up has prompted Matt Erhart to leave the Surrey Eagles.
The 35-year-old Cloverdale resident is stepping down as head coach of the BC Hockey League (BCHL) team to accept an assistant-coach position with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.
“It’s a bittersweet day when you have to leave a program that you’ve been a part of as a player and a coach,” Erhart said in a news release. “The Eagles gave me a great opportunity to be a head coach and general manager in the BCHL, and I’ll always be thankful for that.”
Erhart leaves South Surrey’s Junior A team after his most successful season behind the bench. He guided the team to a BCHL championship, a Western Canada Cup championship and an appearance at the Royal Bank Cup national championship tournament in P.E.I., becoming the only person to participate as both a player and coach. Erhart played for the Eagles in the 1997-’98 season, when the team won the Royal Bank Cup.
He rejoined the Eagles for the 2009-’10 season as an assistant coach and became head coach a year later.
Rumoured for several months as a candidate for the assistant-coach position with the Giants, it was made official Monday.
“With the Giants, it’s a chance to further my coaching career, and I couldn’t pass it up,” said Erhart. “I am really looking forward to working alongside and learning from (head coach) Don Hay and the staff.”
Eagles president Peter Schaefer will take over the roles of general manager and head coach. He was an assistant coach last season.
“We’re sad to lose (Erhart), as he’s been fabulous over the past few years, but at the same time, we’re very confident with Peter taking over,” said Eagles majority owner Chuck Westgard.
“He (Schaefer) showed this year that he’s passionate about coaching, and we’re excited to have him as our head coach and general manager for the upcoming season.”
After a lengthy playing career in the professional ranks that included NHL stops in Vancouver, Ottawa and Boston, Schaefer joined the Eagles as an assistant coach at the start of the last season. He was named president last month.
“I’m excited,” said Schaefer. “I learned a lot from Matt this past year, and we had a long and successful season. Now I’ll have to take that knowledge and apply it going forward. With Matt moving on, I’m looking forward to working with the returning veterans and the up-and-coming new recruits.”