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

BCHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Homeless count is coming to the Fraser Valley to help track the numbers

Training Feb. 27 in Chilliwack to help volunteers adopt respectful and compassionate approach

Fun workshop in Chilliwack will have tips on becoming nature stewards

Fraser Valley Conservancy is holding a Chilliwack session on how to help wildlife on Feb. 29

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Reaction to banning the strap

In 1973, students celebrated the end of corporal punishment while school admins felt anxiety.

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

IIO called to Chilliwack after man goes into medical distress in RCMP cells

Male was arrested for assault at CGH, cleared by hospital, then had medical issue next morning

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Abbotsford mosque gets online hate for exhibit on Jesus

Event meant to bring community together gets attacked teaching religous differences

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

‘Usain Bolt he was not’: B.C. gang police seize drugs, cash after foot chase

‘The man took off running when he saw our officers approaching,’ CFSEU BC says

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton

Most Read