Lanz returns to Surrey Eagles as assistant coach

Veteran bench boss coached team to BCHL title in 1997.

One of the most successful coaches in Surrey Eagles history is returning to the nest.

Longtime BC Hockey League coach Rick Lanz – who coached the Eagles to a 47-7-6 record and a league title in 1996/97 – was hired this week as an assistant coach.

Lanz will replace assistant coach Colin Hemingway, who had to leave the team recently for family health reasons.

“He’s got a lot of great experience, and brings so much insight on the finer details of the game,” said Eagles head coach and general manager Blaine Neufeld.

“He was here in our league a long time and in our community even longer, so he’ll add a lot to our group.”

After coaching the Eagles to a BCHL title, the 55-year-old Lanz – who played more than 500 games in the National Hockey League with the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1980s – moved on to the Western Hockey League, where he coached the Tri-City Americans for one season.

He returned to the BCHL the following year, coaching the Langley Hornets for four seasons and the Burnaby Express for one.

Since the mid-2000s, Lanz – who was born in the former Czechoslovakia but defected to Canada with his family in the late 1960s – has been a western scout for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, but left the team in the summer in order to stay closer to home in the Lower Mainland, Neufeld said.

The wheels for an eventual return to the organization began to spin in the summer, as members of the Eagles front office reconnected with former players and coaches in advance of the team’s alumni game last month.

“It really came about through that game. There was a good chemistry and that opened the door,” Neufeld explained.

“I think we’re trending in the right direction, and Rick is only going to help us.”

The Eagles are 1-6-1-0 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) so far this  season, but are coming off a weekend in which they took three of a possible four points from their Mainland Division-rival Chilliwack Chiefs.

This weekend, the Birds head north, for a pair of road tilts against Okanagan competition. On Friday, they’ll face off against the Vernon Vipers before playing the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday night.

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