Eagles ready to fly

Sep 142004
Authors: Justin Goldman

The Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League kept busy in

their first offseason, signing a handful of players who are

expected to step in and provide physical play and bring stronger

defensive skills to the 2004 Northern Conference Champions.

The Eagles’ offseason took flight in June as they re-signed one

of their most skilled younger forwards, Karlis Zirnis. The

lightning-quick Latvian was the rookie scoring leader in the CHL

last season, playing a vital role on the power play. He had 23

goals and 37 assists and played in all 62 games for the Eagles.

“It’s great to have our Rookie of the Year candidate back,” said

Eagles head coach Chris Stewart. “Karlis brings speed and skill to

the ice, and he is a class act off the ice. We look forward to him

contributing more to the Eagles this year than he did last


The Eagles also signed developmental player Sean Robertson at

center. Robertson, a 6-foot, 195-pound native of Kelowna, British

Columbia, spent the last five seasons in the Western Hockey

League’s ‘A’ circuit after a successful four-year stint with the

University of Calgary.

The team captain of two years was named to the Canada West First

All-Star team after he was the individual scoring leader and the

second overall scorer in his conference.

“Sean will make an immediate impact – we are very excited to

have him here in Colorado,” Stewart said. “He brings a lot to the

ice. He plays with grit, and we expect him to be a key face-off

man. Most of all, Sean is a solid two-way player.”

Colorado College Tiger standout and left-winger Jesse Heerema

was also signed to the Eagles’ roster this summer.

“I had the pleasure of watching Jesse play four years at

Colorado College,” said Eagles President and General Manager Ralph

Backstrom. “He is very skilled offensively and will be a valuable

asset to the Eagles roster.”

On July 8, the Eagles received news that 12-year veteran Phil

Crowe would be retiring from his professional hockey career in

exchange for becoming the director of player development. The

6-foot-2-inch, 217-pound assistant coach/forward for the Eagles was

an instrumental leader on and off the ice.

“I am very excited at the opportunity to work with and teach the

young guys,” Crowe said. “Getting involved in the coaching side is

something that I have wanted to do for some time now. It’s good to

move on and I appreciate the opportunity that I was given here with

the Eagles.”

August kicked off with the signing of another college star,

defenseman Bryan Vines. The 6-foot-2-inch, 212-pound native of

Oakville, Ontario, played five seasons with the University of

Denver Pioneers before turning professional and joining the Ice

Dogs of the East Coast Hockey League (the NHL’s AA league).

Vines appeared in 155 games with the Pioneers, tallying 34

points and 72 penalty minutes. Teammates with Eagles defenseman

Jesse Cook for four seasons, Vines was a team captain in 2001-2002

and provided leadership on a strong DU blue line.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Vines said. “I have

heard nothing but good things about the Eagles organization.

Colorado has become a second home to me. I can’t wait to play in a

new facility, and I have heard the fan support is outstanding.”

The Eagles kick off their second season in Northern Colorado at

the Budweiser Events Center with two preseason games on Oct. 15 and

16 against the Tulsa Oilers. The Eagles will be playing another

64-game schedule, with 32 home games at the arena in Loveland.

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