After a second straight season in which they failed to win more than nine games

Nowhere to go but up: Eagles’ owner

BC Hockey League team "exploring all avenues" in effort to improve after second straight losing season.

After back-to-back BC Hockey League seasons with fewer than 10 wins, the Surrey Eagles are about to undergo a thorough “top to bottom” review of the organization in an attempt to right the listing ship.

Co-owner and team president Chuck Westgard told Peace Arch News this week that the organization is “regrouping and taking a look at things,” after the Eagles wrapped up a disappointing 7-48-1-2 season (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) – the worst record in the league by far.

In the last two BCHL regular seasons – under head coach Blaine Neufeld – the team has 16 wins in 116 games.

“Believe me, after nine wins and seven wins, we’re exploring all our avenues to make not only the on-ice product better, but management better and the organization better,” Westgard said.

Westgard – who, along with childhood friends Gary Nylund and Scott Bradley bought the team from Ronnie Paterson in 2010 – acknowledged the recent record could hurt the team’s ability to recruit top players.

“It’s a concern. After last season, with nine wins and going with the all-local roster, we thought we should change things up. We had high hopes at the start of the year, but we could never really attract all the players we wanted,” he said.

“We thought we had players this year… but we found out pretty early in the year that we really didn’t, and we took a bit of a step back.”

Westgard wouldn’t lay the blame entirely on hockey operations, saying instead it was “an organizational thing,” noting that attracting players is a priority.

“You have to be able to convince the kids, the families, the universities that this is a good place to play. It takes years to build that, but only takes one bad season to unravel it,” he said. “No doubt about it, it’s something we have to look at, and we are.”

Wins and losses aside, the 2015/16 season was also marked by the the mid-season resignation of Nylund as assistant coach, and the December departures of Westgard’s son, Ty – who left the team for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals – and fellow forward Darius Davidson, who was traded to the Penticton Vees. (Davidson is the son of Bill Davidson, whose Pro 4 Sports company owns a stake in the Eagles.)

“Obviously it was a little different this year, with the people involved, and (our) own kids leaving,” Westgard said. “With Ty, we would’ve liked him to have stayed and finished Grade 12 here, but it was his decision. We tried to promote the college route. He had full-ride offers from (NCAA) Div. 1 schools but wasn’t accepting them. So I just asked him what his plans were for next year and he said he was going (to the WHL).”

The team’s struggles played a part in the decision, Westgard said.

“You know, I think if we had the team we had in 2013, he’d have stayed for sure. But these were the circumstances.”

Nylund – who sold his minority stake in the team to Westgard a few years ago – left due to disagreements over how the team was being run, Westgard said.

Nylund had been an assistant coach with the Eagles in 2013 when Matt Erhart coached the team to a league title, but he left for family reasons. This past season under Neufeld – who was employed by Pro 4 Sports prior to coaching the Eagles – was Nylund’s first back behind the bench.

“Gary and I are the best of friends, and I know he loved the boys, but there were a few conflicts with how he wanted to run things. Not conflicts between him and I, but between the different ownership groups, myself and Pro 4,” Westgard explained. “When things aren’t going that well and the product on the ice is not competitive, it’s a tough situation. I just think it got to the point where it wasn’t the same type of environment as it was when he first was here, and it just didn’t really work.”

Coaching philosophies aside, Westgard brushed off the suggestion of internal conflict at the ownership and management level.

“I don’t think it’s unstable at this point… it’s stable enough. We’re just in a bit of transition, and obviously I’m involved – I’m hoping to get back to where we were a couple years back,” he said.

Though a decline in on-ice performance often correlates to a decline in ticket sales and a team’s finances, Westgard suggested the team is “alive and well, financially.”

Last December, in an email to PAN, the BCHL head office reiterated as much, writing that “as far as the league is concerned, the Surrey franchise is as committed to their operation in the BCHL as they’ve ever been.”

“Rumours do go around, but as long as I’m involved, there will be a team on the ice here,” Westgard said. “But everything needs to improve. It has to. There’s not much lower to go, so we need to figure out a way to go up from here.”

Just Posted

Surrey Eagles to retire Humboldt victim’s number Friday

Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 will be raised to the rafters prior to BCHL game against Prince George

Retired football kicker wanted play hockey as a kid, but ‘it just wasn’t in the budget’

Surrey-raised Paul McCallum now backs KidSport and its annual fundraiser set for Friday

3 ‘Dream Home’ lottery prizes located in South Surrey

Proceeds support BC Children’s Hospital

Surrey First vows to create ‘Mayor’s Youth Council’ if elected

Youth ages 16 to 24 would ‘weigh in’ on decisions regarding everything from affordable housing and transit, to recreation programs and public safety

Surrey Students NOW slate plans SOGI info session

Event aims to to ‘address concerns and misinformation about the resource being used in our schools’

Ottawa area residents take stock of tornado rubble as Ford tours the ruins

A tornado on Friday afternoon tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que.

Newfoundland’s popular ‘merb’ys’ calendar is back

The calendar of burly, bearded mermen posing against scenic backdrops for charity returns

Less than half of Metro Vancouverites feel they can influence government: study

SFU researchers suggest most people believe elected officials don’t care

Cap rent increases at inflation rate, B.C. task force recommends

MLAs say drop annual increase that would allow 4.5% rise next year

School, church and old mining site make Heritage BC’s 1st ever ‘watch list”

The list includes sites in need of protection to maintain B.C.’s culture and history

5 to start your day

Maple Ridge students send books to fire-destroyed school, teen stabbed in Surrey park and more

Yowza! Twerk, emoji and facepalm are added to Scrabble dictionary, OK?

Merriam-Webster has announced 300 new words have been added to the spelling game

LGBTQ activists, allies in Victoria counter anti-SOGI protest with rally of their own

Lower Mainland activists plan to protest SOGI on legislature lawn, Sept. 29

Three people attacked on Queensborough Bridge

Man in custody following incident occurred Sunday

Most Read

l -->