The summer was far too short for the Surrey Eagles, but that's the price you pay when you embark on a deep playoff run that takes you all the way to the semifinal round of the Royal Bank Cup national championship tournament.
Eagles head coach Peter Schaefer had to rebuild on the fly this summer and the proof of his work will be on display this weekend in the B.C. Hockey League's annual showcase event in Chilliwack.
"We only have five or six guys returning but we are still a veteran team," Schaefer said. "We have a lot of players who may be new to our team but they've played junior before on other teams and in other leagues. We also have some good young guys coming up so we'll try and install some of the systems we used last year.
"It's a long season and there will be teams gunning for us because we are the defending champions, but we'll be ready for that. Guys need to be ready to play every night because there won't be any off nights for us."
The BCHL showcase event is now in its second year and has proven to be a big success with hockey scouts. The format brings all 16 teams in the league to Chilliwack for the weekend. Each team plays two games with the points counting in the regular season standings.
The aim of the event is to make the league and its players more accessible to college recruiters and pro scouts, who can view every team in one stop.
Surrey plays West Kelowna at 7:30 p.m. Friday night followed by Vernon Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. "It's a little different," said Eagles forward Brett Mulcahy, who captained Surrey to BCHL Western Canada Cup championships last spring. "It's the first couple of games of the year and one of the games is officially a home game, but we're playing on the road. It's the first time we will play a game as a group and there are a lot of challenges in that. There's also a lot of pressure on kids to play well because there are going to be a ton of scouts there from colleges and the pros.
"There's guys with clipboards standing all around the glass and it's hard to ignore them and just focus on playing hockey. Everybody wants to show well but for younger guys, all the scouts there can make it really intimidating."
The scouts won't be the only ones lining up to have a look at the Eagles. With only six players returning from last season's championship team, the Birds' roster has undergone wholesale changes since the last time their rivals saw them.
Schaefer did not tip his hand at all in the pre-season, opting mostly to dress a mix heavy on prospects and light on veterans for three exhibition games with the Chilliwack Chiefs. Surrey won the first game at South Surrey Arena 7-4 before tying the Chiefs 3-3 and losing 3-2 in Chilliwack.
"We dressed kind of a stronger lineup for the first game because it was at home and the guys played well in that one," Schaefer said. "The next two games were in Chilliwack and those were both tight, close games. We didn't dress many veteran guys in those games and we still did all right. The first one was a tie and in the second one Chilliwack scored late in the game to win 3-2. A lot of credit has to go to our young guys they didn't have much veteran help in those games and they played hard."
The Eagles will raise five championship banners to the rafters of South Surrey Arena when they play their home opener on Sept. 13 against the Langley Rivermen. Game time is 7 p.m.
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