The Surrey Eagles announced Friday that former Trail Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Cam Keith has been hired to lead the BCHL’s junior A hockey team.
“He’s well-respected in our league and somebody we’ve brought in here to help recruit and put a winner on the ice for us,” Eagles General Manager Blaine Neufeld told the Peace Arch News.
“He’s hit the ground running here already, (trying to recruit) a couple players, who he thinks will be here next season.”
The Eagles had been without a permanent head coach since firing Peter Schaefer last November, midway through the just-completed season. Assistant coach Linden Saip served as interim head coach during the second half of the season after Schaefer was relieved of his duties.
Keith, 38, joins the Birds after just one season in Chilliwack, where the Nelson native was an associate coach and associate GM to Chiefs’ head coach and GM Brian Maloney. The Chiefs finished as the top team in the BCHL during the regular season, but were swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Prior to his tenure with the Chiefs, Keith spent two season as the head coach and general manager of the Trail Smoke Eaters, leading the Smokies to an overall regular-season record of 58-47-9-2, earning a spot in the playoffs both years. Keith was let go in April 2018, days after taking the Smoke Eaters on an unprecedented run to the BCHL semifinals.
Before taking the reins of the Smoke Eaters, Keith spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones.
He is also a former BCHL player, having played for the Victoria Salsa and Smoke Eaters over a three-year period, before moving on to play four seasons in the NCAA at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
From 2003 until retiring as a player in 2014, Keith bounced between the ECHL and the American Hockey League, and also played professionally overseas.
“He has a great track record of developing kids and moving them on (to the next level),” Neufeld said. “We’re just really excited because we think he can come in and immediately help our group.”
Keith will certainly stabilize a head-coaching position that has been something of a revolving door since training camp last August.
Just prior to the Eagles opening camp, head coach Brandon West abruptly quit, with the team saying he had “mutually agreed to part ways with the team.”
In a news release at the time, the team cited “personal reasons” for West’s departure, though a week later, in a text to a PAN reporter, West said that personal reasons were not the reasons for his resignation, though he declined to go into further detail.