By Nick Greenizan
The first Surrey Eagles team to capture a Royal Bank Cup national title has been inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame, along with a handful of others who helped advance the women’s game in both B.C. and across the country.
The 1997-98 Eagles – who won a national junior ‘A’ hockey crown in Nanaimo after dispatching the Weyburn Red Wings in the championship game – were inducted into the hall of fame’s team category.
Other inductees in the 2019 hall-of-fame class include former Vancouver Canuck superstars Henrik and Daniel Sedin, longtime St. Louis Blues defenceman Barret Jackman; former NHL player and longtime Canuck scout and executive Ron Delorme and veteran NHL official Shane Heyer.
Shortly after the news was announced Monday, Mark Holick – a South Surrey resident who was in his first season as head coach of the Eagles during the ’97-98 campaign – called the induction “a tremendous honour.”
The 1998 Royal Bank Cup title is the only national junior ‘A’ championship the Eagles have ever won, though the team has multiple BC Hockey League titles, and did return to the RBC Cup tournament in 2013, where they lost to the Summerside Capitals in the semifinals.
A year before they won in ’98, the Eagles – led by Semiahmoo Minor Hockey coach and all-time BCHL scoring leader Shane Kuss – also advanced to the Royal Bank tournament, but finished second after a 4-3 loss to Summerside in the final game.
Last spring – which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the ’98 championship team – team captain Kris Wilson told PAN that the team wasn’t expected to contend for a BCHL title, let alone a national one, considering they’d lost many veterans, including Kuss, from the team that finished second the year before.
“There’s just so many memories I have with that team – and especially that year, because of that success we had that season, and really, weren’t supposed to have, I guess… in the preseason polls, I want to say we were ranked like third in our own division,” Wilson said. “On our part, we felt that was kind of a slight.”
Other players on the RBC Cup team included Matt Erhart – who coaches with Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alongside Kuss – Langley’s Brian Herbert and a slew of players who went on to play pro, including Alberta native Mike Bishai, who ended up playing 14 games in the NHL with his hometown Edmonton Oilers.