Adjusting to a new team in the midst of a pandemic


The Surrey Eagles have welcomed a few new players from across Canada for the 2020-21 season. Some of them include goaltender Max Prazma from Calgary, defenseman Tait Ross from Coquitlam, and forward Mark Hillier from Newfoundland.

There are some crucial aspects of developing a team bond and preparing for a new season that happens both on and off the ice. But with the absence of gameplay until at least early December, how will this affect the team’s growth and development?

Mark Hillier

Hillier is a top prospect for the Eagles, he resides in Newfoundland but is looking forward to relocating to Surrey.

“The past five months have been difficult, the gyms have been closed for a lot of it so it’s been kind of difficult staying in shape and getting stronger but I’ve been trying to do a lot of stuff at home and running outside to make sure I’m in good shape when I get to BC,” said the 18-year-old Merrimack College commit.

Image credit: Surrey Eagles

The six-foot-one, 183-pound forward made his decision partially because his close friend and linemate, Cole Galata, committed to the Eagles back in March.

“As soon as I decided to play for Surrey, a lot of the teammates and guys reached out to me and I’ve been talking to a few guys trying to get to know each other,” adds Hillier. “But I’m really excited to actually be in Surrey and be around the guys to continue to get to know them and create friendships that’ll last a long time.”

Moving across the country in itself is a huge step, but the pandemic has created its own additional set of obstacles. “Picking out a spot where I feel comfortable was something I spent a lot of time on when deciding on a team, but having Cole on the team definitely helped with my decision to choose Surrey.”

Hillier spent the last three seasons playing for St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario, and put up an eye-popping 137 points in 68 games in 2019-20.

Max Prazma 

Prazma is a goalie from Calgary who recently signed on with the Eagles and is expected to move to Surrey before the end of the month. “Right now I know two of the guys, and they’ve sort of introduced me to people,” he explained.

Prazma stands at six-foot-five, weighs 190-pounds, and catches left. “With the three-month training camp, it’ll be a really good way to get some team bonding in and to get to know people.”

Image credit: Surrey Eagles

With ice surfaces remaining open in Calgary, Prazma has been able to continue on-ice training in addition to participating in dryland training throughout the last few months.

He claims patience has been the hardest part of signing to a new team in a pandemic.¬†“I honestly just can’t wait to get out there and get to work.”

Tait Ross

Coquitlam product Tait Ross recently signed to the Eagles as well, and the 16-year-old is the youngest player on the roster so far.

“I haven’t gotten to meet any of the guys yet, but they have reached out to me over text and social media and honestly, it made me feel really welcome, especially being a younger guy the vets have definitely made me feel welcome,” said Ross.

The six-foot-two, 178-pound defenseman didn’t have to stay off the ice for long, with arenas in the Lower Mainland being open since May.

Image credit: Surrey Eagles

“I’ve been on ice four or five times a week and in the gym four or five times a week since about May, and I’ve been able to put on some weight and stay in pretty good shape.”

Just because Ross won’t be facing any issues related to relocating doesn’t mean he hasn’t been facing issues with signing to a brand new team in the midst of a pandemic.

“The biggest issue I’ve had to deal with is mostly the controversy around when the season is going to start and deciding if it’s best for my development to play junior A or go back to an academy.”

He adds that his decision to play for Surrey was a tough one to make without knowing when and if there would be a 2020-21 season until the league’s recent announcement of a commitment to play, even without fans in attendance.

However, the 2020-21 Surrey Eagles roster has proved that no matter what the pandemic throws at them, they will continue to work at creating a strong team bond both on and off the ice.