Cam Keith – who spent last season as an associate coach with the Chilliwack Chiefs – has been named the head coach of the Surrey Eagles. (Garrett James photo)

Surrey Eagles hire former Chiefs assistant as new head coach

Cam Keith will serve as head coach and associate general manager with BCHL club

The Surrey Eagles have a new head coach.

The BC Hockey League team announced Friday that former Chilliwack Chiefs associate coach Cam Keith has been hired to lead the South Surrey junior ‘A’ squad.

“He’s well-respected in our league and somebody we’ve brought in here to help recruit and put a winner on the ice for us,” Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld told Peace Arch News.

“He’s hit the ground running here already, (trying to recruit) a couple players who he thinks will be here next season.”

The Eagles had been without a permanent head coach since firing Peter Schaefer last November, midway through the just-completed season. Assistant coach Linden Saip served as interim head coach during the second half of the season after Schaefer was relieved of his duties.

Keith, 38, joins the Birds after just one season in Chilliwack, where he was an associate coach and associate general manager on head coach/GM’s Brian Maloney’s staff.

The Chiefs finished as the top team in the BCHL during the regular season, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Prince George Kings.

Prior to his tenure with the Chiefs, Keith spent two season as the head coach and general manager of the Trail Smoke Eaters, leading the Smokies to an overall regular-season record of 58-47-9-2, earning a spot in the playoffs both years.

Before taking the reins of the Smoke Eaters, Keith spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones.

He is also a former BCHL player, having played for the Victoria Salsa and Smoke Eaters over a three-year period, before moving on to play four seasons in the NCAA at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

From 2003 until retiring as a player in ’14, Keith bounced between the ECHL and the American Hockey League, and also played professionally overseas.

“He has a great track record of developing kids and moving them on (to the next level),” Neufeld said. “We’re just really excited because we think he can come in and immediately help our group.”

Keith will certainly stabilize a head-coaching position that has been something of a revolving door since training camp last August.

Just prior to the Eagles opening camp, head coach Brandon West abruptly quit, with the team saying he had “mutually agreed to part ways with the team.” In a news release at the time, the team cited “personal reasons” for West’s departure, though a week later, in a text to a PAN reporter, West said that personal reasons were not the reasons for his resignation, though he declined to go into further detail.

West – who led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance in four seasons – is now the head coach of the West Kelowna Warriors.

To replace West, the Eagles promoted Schaefer to the top job. He’d had a previous stint as both an Eagles assistant and head coach, and had been re-hired by the team as an assistant only a few months prior, in late July.

Schaefer was fired in November, and replaced with Saip, after the team stumbled to a record of 7-23-0-1 (win-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss).

Team owner and president Chuck Westgard said in a news release Friday that he was excited to turn his young team over to Keith.

“This is a very exciting day for us,” he said. “We wanted to make a statement by finding a coach who can instantly aid in recruiting and developing our young players. We have hopefully taken care of some rumours about the direction of our hockey club with this decision, and I can assure that Cam allows us to carry out our vision of bringing a winning culture back to South Surrey.”

Westgard’s comments about the direction of the team echo what he told PAN in a conversation earlier this month. At that time – with the team just a few weeks removed from a league-worst finish – Westgard promised change, noting that the constant coaching turnover during the 2018/19 season was not ideal.

“We brought Peter in, then Brandon left… we can second-guess ourselves over and over again, but things just didn’t work. Every time we turned around, things seemed to go wrong. It was (a season) we’d just kind of like to move on from,” said Westgard, who has owned the team since the 2010-’11 season.

”There will be some changes, no doubt about that. We’re going to look at every part of the organization… you can’t just stick your head in the sand – that’s not going to work, either.”

From a Chiefs point of view, head coach Brian Maloney

Just Posted

Purple Light Nights committee of Chilliwack is rolling out exciting new events starting Oct. 1

Key message is still that intimate partner violence has no place in our community

Agassiz administrator to teach ‘psychological first aid’ course

ACE principal Sandy Balascak will be sharing how to help others deal with a mental health crisis

Shandhar Hut of Chilliwack wins bragging rights for best Indian cuisine in B.C.

The popular family restaurant saw an outpouring of testimonials and voting from adoring clientele

Vokes range in Chilliwack River Valley reopens to military marksmenship training

The rifle range shut down last summer due to safety concerns about richochets, according to DND

Armed ERT officers respond to firearm report near Chilliwack middle school Friday

School put in hold-and-secure in the afternoon as incident was resolved

VIDEO: “How dare you?” Greta Thunberg addresses UN climate summit

‘We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money.’

Pettersson has 4 points as Canucks dump Ottawa 6-4

Vancouver wins NHL pre-season tilt in Abbotsford

British man returns to Yukon to tipple his own toe in long-running tradition

So-called sourtoe cocktail is a shot of whisky with a mummified human toe in it

Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news

Province announces $3.5 million in funding for community solutions to overdose crisis

Grants up to $50,000 will be available for municipalities working with a regional health authority

Conservatives’ plan to ease mortgage stress-test rules may raise debt and prices

Andrew Scheer vows to loosen rules around stress test and remove it altogether for mortgage renewals

B.C. mom urges patience after rude comments while out with toddlers

People asked to be better and to help each other

U.S. wrestler says viral speeding ticket video was staged

WWE wrestler Lacey Evans says she does not condone disrespecting law enforcement officers

‘Own a piece of history’: Beachcombers location Molly’s Reach up for sale

‘This is one of B.C.’s most photographed buildings’

Most Read