The Surrey Eagles have yet to play a game that counts in the BC Hockey League this season due to the COVID-19-related shutdown, but the show must go on – off the ice, at least.
While the BCHL has been delayed since November, the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline, which was Thursday, remained in place – which meant the Eagles and other teams across the country made a flurry of deals without knowing when they might play next, or if they’ll play at all.
The Eagles made three deals this week in advance of the deadline. The team sent the playing rights to six-foot-seven defenceman Cade Alami – who turns 20 next month – to the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for the rights to 20-year-old forward Will Kushniryk; and in two separate deals also acquired a pair of players – forward Jacob Slipec and blue-liner Ian Kern – from the Powell River Kings, each for future considerations.
Alami, a New York native, played one season in Surrey – plus three games last fall during the BCHL’s ‘training season’ – but because the 2020-21 season was delayed multiple times, he left the team in January for the Jersey Hitmen of the National Collegiate Development Conference. Alami will join the NCAA’s Province College for the 2021-22 season.
Kushniryk is a Chilliwack native who was set to play this season with the junior ‘B’ Chilliwack Jets. He also has 35 games of BCHL experience with Prince George in 2019-20, and he spent parts of three seasons at the major-junior level, with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen.
The Eagles’ three deadline-week deals follow a pair of deals the team made last month – sending the rights to forwards Mark Hillier and Cole Galata to the Summerside Capitals of the Maritimes Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations.
Neither played a regular-season game for the Birds. Hillier played five training-season games while Galata played seven. Both were signed by the Eagles last summer.
While the BCHL season is still up in the air, some leagues across the country have committed to returning, including the Alberta Junior Hockey League, while others, like the Manitoba Junior ‘A’ circuit, have already cancelled the season. The lack of consistency province-to-province has left many teams in B.C. scrambling to fill suddenly-empty rosters, as players request trades to provinces where games are allowed, or bolt to a handful of leagues in the United States.
In addition to Alami, Galata and Hillier, Surrey has also lost defenceman Owen Nolan – he left the team in January to play for the Texas-based Lone Star Brahmas of the North American Hockey League – and forward Kenny Riddett, who, like Alami, left for the NCDC.
With the Manitoba Junior Hockey League shutting down, the Eagles did add a pair of forwards from that league’s Portage Terriers – Jacob Piller and Tyson McLean.