One of the worst-kept secrets around the BC Hockey League – that Peter Schaefer will not return as the head coach and general manager of the Surrey Eagles next season – was confirmed Tuesday by Schaefer himself.
“No, I won’t be going back as the coach and GM,” he told the Peace Arch News, adding that the decision is a “mutual” parting of the ways between the club and himself.
With Surrey Eagles president/owner Chuck Westgard taking sole control of the team in late April – buying out his old partners and bringing Pro4 Sports into the fold – Schaefer characterized the coaching decision as one based, at least in part, by finances.
“There’s no animosity, nothing like that,” he said. “But it’s tough to make (a profit) in junior hockey, so the team’s looking to tighten things up.”
Though Schaefer was removed from the team’s website earlier this week, he said the situation was not yet official, and thus, did not want to comment further nor speculate on who may replace him.
Westgard was not reachable Tuesday but by the afternoon, the team announced via Twitter that Blaine Neufeld – who was named the director of hockey operations when Pro4 Sports came aboard in April – would take over as head coach, as well.
During April’s front-office reshuffling, Westgard and others within the Eagles organization said Schaefer was expected back for the 2014/15 season, noting that the coach had one more year left on his contract with the team.
In June, Westgard again told PAN he expected Schaefer to be back behind the team’s bench in the fall.
Schaefer said he still plans to help the team out this summer in a consultant capacity.
“I’ll be helping them during this transition,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s about the kids (on the team). There’s a lot of guys coming back from last year, and I still enjoy working with them. I want to see them succeed.”
Schaefer served as the team’s head coach/GM for just one season, though he was an assistant coach during the team’s Fred Page Cup championship run two seasons ago.
Schaefer would not rule out a return to coaching down the road.
“I really learned a lot, and who knows, right? If the right opportunity knocks, then I’ll look at it. If not, I’ll move on into the next phase of my life.”