The first Surrey Eagles team to capture a Royal Bank Cup national title has been inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame, along with a handful of others – including Surrey hockey pioneer Karen Wallace, who helped advance the women’s game in both B.C. and across the country.
The 1997-98 Eagles – who won a national junior ‘A’ hockey crown in Nanaimo after dispatching the Weyburn Red Wings in the championship game – were inducted into the hall of fame’s team category, while Wallace, who passed away in 2018, will join the hall in the ‘builders’ division.
“We’re very proud,” Norman Wallace, Karen’s husband, told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
Other inductees in the 2019 hall-of-fame class include former Vancouver Canuck superstars Henrik and Daniel Sedin, longtime St. Louis Blues defenceman Barret Jackman; former NHL player and longtime Canuck scout and executive Ron Delorme and veteran NHL official Shane Heyer.
Shortly after the news was announced Monday, Mark Holick – a South Surrey resident who was in his first season as head coach of the Eagles during the ’97-98 campaign – called the induction “a tremendous honour.”
The 1998 Royal Bank Cup title is the only national junior ‘A’ championship the Eagles have ever won, though the team has multiple BC Hockey League titles, and did return to the RBC Cup tournament in 2013, where they lost to the Summerside Capitals in the semifinals.
A year before they won in ’98, the Eagles – led by Semiahmoo Minor Hockey coach and all-time BCHL scoring leader Shane Kuss – also advanced to the Royal Bank tournament, but finished second after a 4-3 loss to Summerside in the final game.
Last spring – which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the ’98 championship team – team captain Kris Wilson told PAN that the team wasn’t expected to contend for a BCHL title, let alone a national one, considering they’d lost many veterans, including Kuss, from the team that finished second the year before.
“There’s just so many memories I have with that team – and especially that year, because of that success we had that season, and really, weren’t supposed to have, I guess… in the preseason polls, I want to say we were ranked like third in our own division,” Wilson said. “On our part, we felt that was kind of a slight.”
Other players on the RBC Cup team included Matt Erhart – who coaches with Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alongside Kuss – Langley’s Brian Herbert and a slew of players who went on to play pro, including Alberta native Mike Bishai, who ended up playing 14 games in the NHL with his hometown Edmonton Oilers.
Wallace, according to a BC Hockey Hall of Fame news release, “was an integral part of women’s hockey development in British Columbia.” She was secretary of both North Delta Minor Hockey and the Pacific Junior ‘B’ Hockey League, director of BC Female Hockey and the winner of the 1999 Breakthrough Award.
Among her achievements was the successful launch of the Under-18 women’s championships and Hockey Canada’s girls program of excellence, the release notes. Wallace – who first got involved in youth hockey in North Delta where daughters Teri and Aimie played – served on the council that was instrumental in bringing women’s hockey into the Olympics.
Norman credit his late wife, a long with others who helped move the women’s game forward in the late 1980s and early ’90s, for helping boost the sport to where it is today. In addition to a high-profile on the international stage – with the Olympics and world championships – there are also currently two professional women’s leagues in North America.
“Karen got involved at the grassroots of female hockey here in the Lower Mainland, and over a period of time, she became a (provincial) director and looked after female hockey with Hockey Canada, too,” Norman said.
“Getting young ladies to play hockey – that was important to her… Over the years, it’s just grown immensely – it’s just incredible.”
In addition to her hockey accomplishments, Wallace was also involved in golf, and was involved as an administrator at South Surrey’s Morgan Creek Golf Course as well as the Adam Hadwin Charity Golf Classic.
The BC Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner is set for Penticton’s Lakeside Resort on Friday, July 19.
— Mark Holick (@coachholly68) February 11, 2019
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