Change is in the air as Westgard takes over Eagles

The Surrey Eagles are taking a new approach to the business of running the Junior A hockey club.

Majority partner Chuck Westgard has bought out his fellow co-owners and now wields complete control of the B.C. Hockey League club.

The club announced the move last week and Westgard said the ownership change is the first of many structural and philosophical changes to be made by the Eagles.

“In the last four years that we’ve owned the team we’ve lost a substantial amount of money,” Westgard said. “Junior hockey is a tough business model and I had great partners who came to the table and funded those losses for four years. Some of them were getting tired of it, which is to be expected after four years.

“The bottom line is, if you run a team like a hobby, you’ll pay for it like a hobby. So basically I decided it wasn’t viable financially and rather than sell the team and have who knows what happen to it, I wanted to ensure that it stayed here.”

With Westgard paying all of the bills now, the Eagles business operation will be overhauled. Westgard said the head coach and general manager Peter Schaefer will retain those duties, but a management company will handle the day-to-day operations of the club.

Westgard said his goal is for the Eagles to remain a “vital, integral part of the community.” To that end, he said more attention will be paid to recruiting players from local minor hockey organizations instead of letting them slip away to rival teams.

“The biggest things fans will notice is there will be a lot more local content on the team,” Westgard said. “There’s a lot of good hockey players coming out of the local associations like Semiahmoo, Surrey, Cloverdale, North Delta and Langley. These are local kids and the community will support them.

“To win in this league there’s no doubt you need elite talent, but at the same time, on lines three and four and with defencemen four through seven, the talent is pretty close. There are lots of good local kids who would like to play here and we’re going give them a chance to do that. If it’s close between a local kid and an import player, we’re going to go with kids from around here.”