Peter Schaefer is adding boardroom duties to his current job behind the bench of the Surrey Eagles.
The former National Hockey League forward, who joined the BC Hockey League team last season as an assistant coach, was named president of the hockey club earlier this week. He will also remain as an assistant coach to head coach/general manager Matt Erhart.
“We really took another step this year, both on the ice and off, and have become one of the league’s premier organizations, and Peter had a lot to do with that,” Eagles’ majority owner Chuck Westgard told Peace Arch News.
“He really enjoyed himself last year, and expressed an interest to us in having an expanded role – he showed a keen interest on the business side.”
Schaefer, Westgard said, will oversee all day-to-day operations of the club, while also still having input in the hockey operations department as an assistant coach.
“It was a fun first year in the organization, and I’m looking forward to being more involved with the team,” said Schaefer in a press release. “I think we have a great opportunity to reach out to the community and have a larger impact off the ice while also improving and growing our hockey club on the ice.”
Schaefer, a native of Yellow Grass, Sask., brings plenty of hockey experience to his new role. He spent his junior hockey career with the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings – playing in two Memorial Cups – and played 635 games in the NHL, for Vancouver, Ottawa and Boston. He also spent time playing in Europe, and retired as a player at the end of the 2010/11 season.
The move puts Schaefer and Erhart at the top of the club’s front-office hierarchy, as far as day-to-day operations go, Westgard said.
“I just don’t have time for (the day-to-day stuff),” said Westgard, a local real-estate developer. “But Peter and Matt will do a great job.”
Regarding Erhart – who was on vacation and not available for comment – Westgard said he expects him back behind the Eagles’ bench next season, despite a suggestion floated in the Vancouver media last month that the 34-year-old Delta native would be a good fit for a vacant assistant-coach post with the Vancouver Giants, who are looking to replace the departed Glenn Hanlon.
The Eagles are coming off their most successful season in 15 years – advancing all the way to the Royal Bank Cup. The last time the team won a BCHL title, in the 2004/05 season, the team also had to deal with a coach departing for the WHL, albeit midway through the season, rather than in the following offseason. Just before Christmas that season, head coach Ryan Thorpe left the team to take an assistant coach position with the Kamloops Blazers. He was quickly replaced by Rick Hillier, who led the team to the Fred Page Cup.
Erhart does have ties to the Giants’ organization, as he’s worked with the South Delta Secondary hockey academy, which is run by Giants’ strength coach Ian Gallagher.
“We heard those same rumors, but we are fully expecting him to be back with us next season,” Westgard said, adding that Erhart has one year left on his contract with the Eagles.
“That said, if Matt ever got an opportunity to advance his coaching career, we would support him 100 per cent, and never stand in his way.”