A familiar face is returning to the Surrey Eagles’ bench for the upcoming BC Hockey League season.
Longtime National Hockey Leaguer Peter Schaefer – who was an assistant coach with the Eagles’ during their Fred Page Cup-winning season in 2012/13, and the team’s head coach for one year after that – has re-joined the South Surrey-based junior ‘A’ club as an assistant coach, general manager Blaine Neufeld confirmed to Peace Arch News Thursday.
The former Vancouver Canuck forward will join head coach Brandon West and returning assistant coach Linden Saip on the Eagles’ bench.
“You can’t not appreciate Peter’s playing experience and we’ve seen that he’s a great instructor, as well,” Neufeld said.
“We hope he can share his experience and expertise with our boys.”
Schaefer could not be reached for comment Thursday.
After having just two coaches on the bench last season, Neufeld said the organization was looking to bring aboard a third coach, and team owner/president Chuck Westgard’s previous relationship with Schaefer – from the latter’s first go-round with the team – made the choice easy.
“(Chuck) has obviously kept that relationship and that allowed us to approach Peter this summer to see if there was any interest,” Neufeld explained.
“And the response was that he was eager to do it, so that was exciting for our group.”
Schaefer left the team in 2014 – telling PAN at the time that the parting was a mutual one – and was replaced as head coach by Neufeld, who had been brought aboard a few months before in a front-office role. Neufeld served as head coach until last year, when he relinquished the coaching reins to West in order to focus solely on the GM job.
A number of factors played a role in the 2014 coaching move – including financial factors – with Westgard saying at the time that the decision was made as part of an organizational reshuffling.
“This is just a more structured organization now,” he said shortly after the moves.
The addition of Schaefer is the latest in a flurry of off-season moves for the Eagles, who head into the upcoming season looking to improve on last year’s effort, which saw them return to the BCHL playoffs after a four-year absence.
Earlier this month, the team acquired 19-year-old forward Chase Stevenson from the West Kelowna Warriors in exchange for defenceman Cory Babichuk.
Stevenson has scored 22 goals and added 21 assists over 76 career BCHL games.
“We are excited to acquire an experienced forward in Chase Stevenson,” West said in a news release. “He will be a key contributor to our offence and is a player I’m very familiar with. We felt this would be a good trade for both teams as both players are quality young men.”
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) July 12, 2018
The move was made, Neufeld said, with an eye toward restoring the team’s offence after losing top forwards Desi Burgart and Jeff Stewart to the NCAA, and last season’s team leading goal-scorer Johnny Wesley to Windsor University.
Prior to the Stevenson addition, Surrey picked up defenceman James Orr from the Central Canada Hockey League’s Cornwall Colts. Orr, 19, had four goals and nine assists in 39 games for Cornwall last season, and also played three games for the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings.
With training camp less than a month away – the team hits the ice Aug. 20 – Neufeld said he hopes to make a few more roster moves in the days ahead.
“We still feel like there’s a few bowling pins to knock over,” he said, referring to in-progress deals.
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