Peter Schaefer is in his first season as head coach/general manager of the Surrey Eagles.

Schaefer learning on fly behind Eagles’ bench

Former NHL forward adjusting to new career as BCHL head coach in Surrey.

When he retired from pro hockey, Peter Schaefer admits, he never saw himself here at South Surrey Arena early on a Wednesday morning, trying to get the office fax machine to work.

But the 36-year-old former NHL forward with a trio of titles with the Surrey Eagles – head coach, general manager and president – is busy trying to file paperwork with Hockey Canada and the BC Hockey League to complete a few player acquisitions… so fax-machine repair man has been added to his business card, for this week at least.

Nobody else is around anyway, save a visiting Peace Arch News reporter.

Schaefer, a native of Yellow Grass, Sask., is in his second year with the Eagles and first as head coach – he was an assistant coach last season – and he admits the career path isn’t one he thought he’d take when he retired from the ice in 2011.

“It’s not something I ever thought I’d do. I thought maybe I’d coach minor hockey, helping out friends and family,” said Schaefer, a father of three. “But I never thought I’d be here doing this. It’s all progressed naturally and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Schaefer, who played professionally from 1997-2011 – including two stints with the Vancouver Canucks – has known members of the Surrey Eagles ownership group, including current majority owner Chuck Westgard and former owner Ronnie Paterson, for years, dating back to his NHL days.

It was during a golf trip to Mexico a few years ago that the idea of coaching in Surrey was suggested to him.

“Chuck wanted me to come out and give it a try but, at the time, I wasn’t really interested. But after enough hounding, I figured I would give it a try,” Schaefer laughed.

He spent last season as an assistant coach to Matt Erhart and – during the off-season – added president to his job description. When Erhart left the Eagles in June for a coaching job with the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants, Schaefer took over head coach/GM duties, too.

“There’s a learning curve, for sure. Coaching hockey is the easy part, and I really like working with the kids, but it’s stuff like learning the Hockey Canada registry, getting guys signed to cards – that kind of stuff – that you have to figure out,” he said. “But last year with Matt, we kind of shared some of those duties, so it wasn’t completely new to me.”

The hardest part of the new job, Schaefer said, is having to tell players they’ve been traded or released. Schaefer isn’t used to being the bearer of such bad news, but is rather familiar with being on the other side of the table.

Through a long pro career in which he’d been bought out, released and traded – from the Canucks to Ottawa in 2002, after a contract dispute that included then-Canucks GM Brian Burke famously threatening to “drive him to the airport,” if he wished to play elsewhere  – he knows what it’s like to hear the words he now delivers to his teenage players.

“When you have to cut a kid or tell him he’s been traded or scratched from the lineup – I don’t enjoy that part of it. It’s the part of the game I really didn’t like when I played, and I don’t think that will ever change.

“It’s always going to be an uncomfortable scenario. And at the end of the day, you just try to be honest and upfront with them.”

Schaefer’s players-first mentality likely stems from the fact that’s it’s been barely two years since he last laced up skates professionally – after playing 16 games with Vancouver in 2010 he was released and finished the year playing in Europe – and the fact that, deep down, he knows he could have continued his career there for a few more seasons.

Instead, he said, he was frustrated by the business side of the game and decided to come home.

He spent just over a year for family time before taking the Eagles’ offer to get back into the game.

“I have three kids under four, so it’s probably harder being at home than it was being at work every day,” he laughed. “But it was a lot of fun, too. I wouldn’t change a thing. And now we live like two minutes down the street, so it’s still great to be nice and close.”

So far, for the first-year coach, it’s been a fairly successful season behind the bench. The team is retooling its roster on the fly after last season’s run to the Royal Bank Cup, and though currently on a three-game losing streak, the team’s been competitive and sits with a 5-6 record in the BCHL’s Mainland Division, just five points out of first place.

Schaefer admits he probably has a little bit more roster juggling to do – assuming the fax machine co-operates – before he’s completely satisfied with his lineup.

“I’m just trying to be the best coach I can be, and trying to get the most out of each of the players.”

Just Posted

Structure fire destroys Surrey tire shop, closes section of Fraser Highway

RCMP have closed Fraser Highway down to traffic from 152 Street to 88 Avenue

Winners to come to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre

Former Zellers to also include a gym and daycare

UPDATE: Missing 17-year-old girl found

Mikayla Logan was last seen in Guildford on Tuesday, May 14

Surrey to begin ‘public engagement process’ on policing transition next week

First in a series of public events set for May 23 at Cloverdale rec centre

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly threatening another youth with a knife in Cloverdale

This was Thursday at a park in the 17200-block of 61A Avenue, Sergeant Chad Greig told the Now-Leader

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

UPDATE: Multi-vehicle crash on Highway 1 east of Chilliwack

First responders on scene with multiple patients from four vehicles involved in westbound lanes

Police watchdog investigating motorcycle crash in Kamloops

A Kamloops Mountie had stopped the driver for speeding, but they raced off from the 0fficer

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read