There's been a lot of talk lately about Seattle getting an NHL team. Some people have gone on and on about how much they miss going to hockey games and an NHL team can't come soon enough because it's too much of a hassle to drive up to Vancouver to watch the Canucks, not to mention the ticket prices.
Hockey is alive and well in Seattle... and Everett... and Spokane... and the Tri Cities... and Wenatchee... and even across the border in Oregon (Portland, to be exact). Okay, in all fairness, these are major junior teams comprised of players who are 16 to 20 years old. Some of the so-called "hockey" fans I've chatted with say they have no time to watch kids - bring on the big guys, the pros. Other fans I've chatted with talk excitedly about being able to watch NHL players like Marian Hossa (Portland Winterhawks), Patrick Marleau (Seattle Thunderbirds), Zdeno Chara (Prince George Cougars) and Carey Price (Tri City Americans) (to name JUST a few) hone their skills in the Western Hockey League, then watching those "kids" go on to have successful NHL careers. (For a complete list of WHL alumni - players AND coaches - currently in the NHL, visit WHL Network’s Prospect Central)
Here’s a list of teams within driving distance of Seattle:
Everett Silvertips (WHL, home arena: Comcast Arena)
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL, home arena: ShoWare Center)
Spokane Chiefs (WHL, home arena: Spokane Arena)
Tri City Americans (WHL, home arena: Toyota Center)
Portland Winterhawks (WHL, home arenas: Memorial Coliseum, Rose Garden)
Wenatchee Wild (NAHL, home arena: Town Toyota Center)
There are a number of reasons to drive to Everett, Kent or take a road trip to Wenatchee, Spokane, the Tri Cities and Portland - or even a ferry over to Victoria or cross the border to Vancouver and support major junior hockey:
- Games are affordable! You can score a ticket for as little as $10
- There's not a bad seat in the house... err.. arena
- You'll meet some awesome fans, many who also double as billet (host) families, giving players a "home" away from home.
- You can help support these kids on their quest to attain NHL careers by showing up and cheering loudly.
- You can bask in the satisfaction of saying on NHL Draft day, "I knew _______ would make it!"
- You can watch NHL games with your buddies and say, "I watched ________ come up in the WHL. I knew he'd make it."
- Did I mention games are affordable?
- Snacks and drinks are a lot cheaper than at NHL arenas (and a mere pittance when compared to food sold at Safeco & CenturyLink Fields)
- You can join your team's Booster Club and take part in special events, meet and greets, and get special deals and promotions or sponsor a player as their "Secret Pal"
- Without leagues like the WHL (and OHL, QMJL, NAHL, USHL, NCAA and others), there might not be an NHL - or an NHL filled with players from such diverse backgrounds. I mean, how many frozen ponds are there in Canada for up and coming players to hone their skills? (Just kidding, I know all Canadian boys are born with skates strapped to their feet and hockey skills embedded in their brains.
If this hasn't convinced you to plunk down $10 to check out a game, maybe the following people will. They're the men and women who cover the teams, driving to every home game (and even some away games), interviewing coaches and players, breaking down plays and offering their skilled analysis of the team they cover, as well as every opponent who comes to town. They know their stuff and are more than happy to chat with you should you happen to run into them at a game (or on Twitter).
Let me introduce the writers who cover teams in Washington and Oregon, along with their Twitter handles (click on their names to visit their websites):
Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Tri City Americans (WHL)
Wenatchee Wild (NAHL)
Want to know what life is like as a major junior hockey player? I can help you with that, too! Chris Rumble, who played with the Wenatchee Wild from 2009-2011 and now attends Canisius College on a hockey scholarship, filmed a documentary during his final year with the Wild. It’s called Into the Ice and is available on DVD. (Side note: if the name Chris Rumble sounds familiar, he’s the mastermind behind the “Stronger” video shot at Seattle Children’s Hospital that went viral)
So, you’ve been prepped. Now, sit back and think about what turned you into a hockey fan. Think about the amazing plays you’ve seen, the players who defied description, the players you believed in, even if others had already written them off. Did you wish you could have seen The Great One as a kid player? Super Mario? Bobby Hull? This is your chance to watch for the next generation of “Great Ones.” The challenge to you is to go to your local arena and see whether you can spot the next NHL star in the making.
If you see me there, come say hi. I’ll buy you a beer.