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A look back at 30 years of BCHL hockey in Surrey

 

The Surrey Eagles are approaching 30 years in the BC Hockey League, as the team arrived in South Surrey in 1991. In that time, the Eagles have accomplished many things. They’ve won several league championships and also changed their name twice. The Eagles also produced several players who’ve played in the NHL.

The Eagles have also been the longest-tenured BCHL team in the Lower Mainland. Throughout the 1990s, they were a favorite of my late uncle. He used to travel from New Westminster to watch many of their games.

With this article, I want to look at the Surrey Eagles’ history. Included are the origins of the team that started in New Westminster, alumni who made it to the NHL, and a look at the team’s records.

A departure from New Westminster

Since 1911, there have been several hockey teams in New Westminster named the Royals. The original was a professional team that was part of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The junior Royals started in 1962 with the Pacific Coast Junior Hockey League.

New Westminster suspended operations and revived itself several times. The Western Hockey League’s New Westminster Bruins occupied Queen’s Park Arena from 1971 to 1981 and 1983 to 1988.

From 1988 through 1991, the BCHL’s Royals played their final three seasons in New Westminster. The Royals won the BCHL championship during the 1989-90 season by defeating the Vernon Lakers.

After the 1990-91 season, the Royals relocated. A new arena was under construction in South Surrey with an Olympic size ice surface. Comparatively, Queen’s Park Arena opened in 1930.

Team records

Since arriving in Surrey, the Eagles have undergone two name changes. In 1996, the team changed its name to the South Surrey Eagles to reflect its geographic location. In 2003, the club changed its name back to Surrey Eagles.

Those seven seasons saw some of the most famous Eagles play for the team. It also saw them win several championships. From 1996 to 1998, the Eagles went on two championship runs. They won the Fred Page Cup, Mowat Cup, and Doyle Cup. In 1998, the Eagles also won the RBC Cup by defeating the Weyburn Red Wings.

After the 2002-03 season, the team changed its name back to Surrey Eagles. Since 2003, the Eagles have won the Fred Page Cup twice, defeating the Vernon Vipers in 2005 and Penticton Vees in 2013.

Aside from championships, Eagles players hold several individual BCHL records. Fellow BCHLNetwork writer Patrick Pinter wrote about former Eagle Shane Kuss. During the 1996-97 season, Kuss scored 50 goals and 90 assists for 140 points. Kuss’s 90 assists are 10th all-time for most assists in a single season.

That season, Kuss was teammates with future NHLer Scott Gomez. In 58 games, Gomez had 48 goals and 76 assists for 124 points.

Famous players 

The Eagles have seen several famous players come through The Nest in South Surrey, including Gomez. Even though he only spent one season with the Eagles, Gomez made an impact. He would go on to play 1,079 NHL games for 16 seasons.

The Alaska product played for the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, and St. Louis Blues. Gomez finished his playing career in 2015-16 with the Ottawa Senators.

Another former Eagle is current Seattle Kraken forward Brandon Tanev. In his single season in Surrey, Tanev scored 11 goals and 22 assists in 58 games.

After finishing at Providence College, Tanev played for the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Kraken selected Tanev in the expansion draft in July.

Another former Surrey player is Devon Toews. Toews played two seasons in Surrey and was part of the last Eagles team to make it to the RBC Cup in 2013. Currently, he plays for the Colorado Avalanche after spending most of his career with the Islanders.

Then there’s goaltender Andrew Hammond. Hammond spent most of the 2007-08 season in Surrey before being traded to Vernon. While playing for the Vipers, Hammond won the 2009 RBC Cup hosted by the Victoria Grizzlies.

Affectionately known as “The Hamburgler,” Hammond has played for Ottawa, Colorado, and Buffalo during his NHL career. He currently plays for the Minnesota Wild’s American Hockey League farm team in Iowa.

More famous former Eagles

During the 1998-99 season, future NHL defenseman Shaone Morrisonn had a pair of assists in 19 games for the Eagles before making the jump to the Western Hockey League with the Kamloops Blazers.

After graduating from the Blazers in 2002, Morrisonn embarked on an 11-season pro career in North America. He played for six separate NHL and AHL teams before continuing his career in Europe and Asia, including most recently getting into one game with the Dubai Mighty Camels in the United Arab Emirates.

After two seasons with the Victoria Salsa, defenseman Greg Zanon played his final junior A season with the Eagles. In 59 games, Zanon scored 17 goals and 54 assists. His professional career stretched for a dozen years from 2003-15.

Zanon made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season with the Nashville Predators and finished his pro career with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL in 2014-15.

Forward Danton Heinen played his final – and lone – season in the BCHL with the Eagles as team captain. Heinen made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins during the 2016-17 season after spending two years playing NCAA hockey at the University of Denver.

The native of Langley, BC is a veteran of 272 career NHL games with Boston and Anaheim, and currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins after signing with them as a free agent on July 29.

Finally, defenseman Nathan Oystrick played in Surrey from 2000-02 before heading off to a four-year NCAA career. He was chosen in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers and turned pro with their AHL affiliate in Chicago in 2006 after finishing up at Northern Michigan University.

Oystrick made his NHL debut with the Thrashers during the 2008-09 season. He bounced between the NHL and AHL with six different teams over the course of four seasons before jumping to the Kontinental Hockey League from 2012-14.

He finished his career in the ECHL in 2015-16, playing his final season with the Elmira Jackals and scoring three goals and 18 points in 48 games.

The future

Earlier, I referenced my late uncle and how he was a fan of the Eagles. He followed the team since it played in New Westminster as the Royals. He saw players like Kuss and Gomez play at the South Surrey Arena. He was also there to watch several others of the best Eagles play for the team.

There will be many more future players who go on to play pro from the Surrey Eagles. Gomez, Hammond, and Tanev won’t be the last Eagles to leave The Nest.