September has barely started but the Surrey Eagles will be playing their first meaningful games of the 2012-13 B.C. Hockey League season this weekend.
For the first time, the BCHL is kicking off the new campaign with a special showcase event designed to make it easy for college scouts to check out the west coast talent. All 16 BCHL clubs will gather in Chilliwack beginning Friday where they will each play two games that will count in the standings.
Judging by the early feedback, the scouts love the concept. Eagles coach Matt Erhart said he has already heard from more than 30 schools that plan to be in attendance when the first puck drops Friday.
"With their recruiting budgets, not every school can make it out to B.C.," Erhart said. "Some of the smaller colleges can't afford that unless they've really zeroed in on a player. This showcase is different though and just about every school I've talked to has put this in their budget because they can watch every single team play twice in three days.
"It's going to be really good for players on teams that aren't located near a big market and it's good for guys who haven't gotten much interest from schools in the past. There's going to be a lot more eyes on them this weekend than the usual 15 or 20 schools that have the budgets to scout in B.C."
Erhart added the interest from the scouts has a spin-off effect on the players, who are already getting amped up about their upcoming moment in the spotlight.
"It's obviously the first year for this and the guys are pretty excited about all the colleges that will be watching," he said. "I actually had to warn them that you can't go out there and play like an individual and think you're going to get noticed. You have to play your game and let the chips fall where they may."
The Eagles open the showcase on Friday at 7 p.m. against Powell River, the team that has ousted them in each of the last two years in the Coastal Conference finals. Surrey's second game goes Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. against the West Kelowna Warriors.
Erhart said getting his players up for the Powell River game will be not be difficult but he admitted West Kelowna may be harder due to the Eagles relative unfamiliarity with the Interior Conference squad. Fortunately, the Surrey coaches will get to scout the Warriors when the Okanagan club plays Saturday.
"Powell River has become one of our biggest rivals lately so we're happy to be getting a look at them early," Erhart said. "They've lost some of their big guns up front but there will be other guys ready to step up and play that kind of role. They're always well-coached with Kent Lewis there so it should be a good game to start with.
"I really don't know much about West Kelowna. We only played them once last year and that was right at the end of the season. It's almost like a different league."
The Eagles kick off the season in more traditional fashion with their home opener on Sept. 14 against the Chilliwack Chiefs at 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena.