With training camp well underway for Surrey Knights, a new voice is being heard by players with the Pacific Coast Junior Hockey team.
Gerry Leiper is now the bench boss and assistant general manager of the Knights as they look forward to a fresh start – wearing new jerseys – at the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex.
On Thursday, Sept. 5, the team’s new “castle,” located at 12780 110th Ave., south of Scott Road SkyTrain station, will host a home-opener for the 2019-20 season against the visiting Port Moody Panthers starting at 7 p.m.
Ahead of that, the Knights will play Aldergrove Kodiaks at Surrey Sport & Leisure Centre on Sunday, Sept. 1, in an exhibition game that starts at 7:15 p.m. The team’s complete schedule is posted at surreyknights.ca.
The rink in Fleetwood is where the Knights have held a training camp that began on Aug. 20, with daily skates ever since.
“Camp is going great,” Leiper told the Now-Leader. “I worked hard at it since March recruiting, calling and emailing. We did camps all summer and it generated a lot of buzz.”
The Knights Lair is nearing completion! pic.twitter.com/rJQ2wWDKts
— Knights Hockey (@SurreyKnights) August 23, 2019
A sense of optimism surrounds the Knights as the team looks to bounce back from record-setting losses over the past three seasons, since the franchise moved to Surrey from Langley.
On the bench, Leiper replaces John Craighead, who remains co-owner of the team.
“We are going to be better this winter,” Leiper said. “I’ve recruited a number of players, and traded for five or six new guys from other teams. There are eight or nine returning guys.”
Leiper has been with the Knights franchise since it operated as North Delta Devils early this decade.
“My son Parker played on and off through those years,” he noted. “I’ve been assistant coach, scorekeeper, registrar, etc. All those years I was coaching midget AA and AAA in Cloverdale and Burnaby.”
On the bench this season, he’s joined by assistant coach James Gartshore.
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) August 21, 2019
On the ice, Leiper likes what he sees so far.
“Takumi Sakai from Burnaby has been ripping it up. Great shot and super fast,” he explained.
“Ben and Sam Wasmuth, who I picked up in a trade a week ago, are playing fantastic on D,” he added.
“Ethan Winters, who I got a week ago in another trade, is playing great and will be a shark for us this season. Brad Collins is a force out there too, on D.
He added: “And I have four really good goalies in camp right now. It’s tough to decide who is best.”
At the new North Surrey rink, the players can look forward to what Leiper and Craighead call “the best change room lounge – best setup – in the league.”