In its 59 years of activity, the BC Hockey League has seen its fair share of elite prospects enter the league and excel at one of the highest levels of junior hockey.
Many of these young stars who excelled in the BCHL then went on to prosper at the professional level. Some notable names who still play and many will still recognize today include Brett Hull, Paul Kariya, Carey Price, Tyler Bozak, and many more.
However, from 1993-97, one player was dominant. So dominant that his records have stood the test of time and will for years to come. His name is Shane Kuss, and he was born in Delta, BC on May 1, 1976.
Kuss started his illustrious junior career in 1992 at the age of 16. He suited up for one game in the 1992-93 season with the Kamloops Blazers. Even though it was only one game, he walked away with one goal and one assist. In 1993-94, Kuss decided to forgo the Western Hockey League route and enter the BCHL playing for the local Surrey Eagles franchise.
He put up respectable numbers as a rookie, tallying 11 goals and 48 points in 58 games. The totals put him sixth in scoring on Surrey that season.
The Eagles finished third in the Coastal Conference, going 29-30-1. In the playoffs, the Eagles were beaten in five games by conference rival Cowichan Valley, which had bested them in the standings by one point at 29-29-2.
In Kuss’s sophomore season, which was 1994-95, the league introduced a new divisional format, which had the Surrey Eagles in the new Mainland Division against predominantly four other teams.
Leading the team in scoring, Kuss put up 123 points in 60 games and helped the Eagles to a third-place finish in the division. This time though, they had a winning record of 37-21-2.
The Eagles entered the BCHL playoffs mini-series, which is like a wildcard matchup today, and faced off against the Nanaimo Clippers. The Eagles swept the Clippers in two games and moved on to the quarterfinals.
In the quarters, Surrey was defeated in a tough six-game series by the division-leading Chilliwack Chiefs, who later challenged for the 1995 Doyle Cup.
A record-setting career
In the 1995-96 season, not much changed for Kuss. He again led the Eagles in scoring, finishing with 33 goals and 107 points in 60 games. Kuss was a large part of the Eagles’ winning record and third straight third-place finish. The Eagles finished 32-27-1 and were swept in the playoffs by Nanaimo.
In his final BCHL season of 1996-97, the Eagles were rebranded to the South Surrey Eagles. Again, Kuss went off in the regular season, finishing with 50 goals and 90 assists for 140 points.
His 90 assists are 10th all-time for most in a BCHL season. Burnaby Blue Hawks legend Bob Ginnetti, with 111 helpers 1984-85, sits atop the list.
Also, with the help of future NHLer Scott Gomez, the Eagles finished with a league-leading 47-7-6 record. For the first time in his historic career, Kuss was seemingly on a team destined to win a championship.
With little to no surprise, the South Surrey Eagles did just that. The Eagles waxed every opponent, only losing two games before advancing to the Mowat Cup, which was the BC junior A championship.
In the Mowat Cup, Kuss and the Eagles dominated the Cranbrook Colts and advanced to the Doyle Cup BC-Alberta championship. In the Doyle Cup, they conquered as well, thrashing the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in five games before the end came shockingly.
In 1997, the South Surrey Eagles ran through the competition to make it to the Royal Bank Cup final. They were pitted against the fourth-seed Summerside Western Capitals, who were hosting the tournament. In the war-torn game, Kuss, Gomez, and the rest of the South Surrey squad ultimately demised to the Western Capitals and ended their historic season.
Kuss graduated on to bigger and better things but left the BCHL with many records in his name. The last time Kuss suited up to play hockey was in 2000-01 with the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers. He suited up only twice without registering a point.
One of the best
He left the BCHL as the all-time leader in points. Kuss played in 238 games over the course of four seasons, and tallied 136 goals and 282 assists for 418 points, an average of 1.76 points per game!
His 418 points are more than any player in BCHL history. The next closest is former Penticton star Gordie McKay with 376. Kuss’s 282 assists are enough to earn him the all-time top spot for that category as well. He sits 59 assists ahead of second-place Evan Williams, who has 223. Although Kuss never went on to achieve superstar status in the NHL, he did remain a superstar in the Lower Mainland.
In 2005-06, he made his head coaching debut for the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. He coached them to a 34-9-2 record and a league championship as well. The next season, Kuss returned to his alma mater and he coached the Surrey Eagles for the next three seasons. In his time with the Eagles, they had three winning seasons, going 108-111-3 in 222 games.
He didn’t win a BCHL championship as a coach and moved back to the Delta Ice Hawks for one season before coaching at the Delta Hockey Academy for five years.
Today, Kuss is one of the top developmental coaches for youth hockey in the region. He is the lead professional skill provider for Semiahmoo minor hockey in addition to coaching the Under-11 A1 team.