Vol. 13, No. 16, October 16, 2000

 Hockey In Seattle

Farwell, Gunderson
Fellow Canadians Russ Farwell and Lorraine Gunderson discuss the State of Hockey.

The Thunderbirds Hockey Club of Seattle has been a mainstay of the local sports scene for years. A member of the Western Hockey League, the T-Birds play in an 18-team league that features 14 Canadian teams and four U.S. teams.

The team’s General Manager, Russ Farwell, who has had a career in hockey, including a four-year stint with the Philadelphia Flyers, explained the WHL is minor league hockey, which leads directly to the National Hockey League. “Our players are 16- to 20-year-olds. We have nine players on our squad who are in high school; the rest are of college age. They all take a full load of academic courses during our 72-game season.”

Russ noted that these youngsters have made their career decision early, playing 4 to-5 years before coming to the T-Birds. “They often play year-round. The very best players in this age group are found on teams in the WHL. The Canadian Hockey League is the governing umbrella organization, overseeing activity in our two countries.”

Monger, Farwell
Thunderbirds General Manager Russ Farwell chats with BBRC member Chris Monger.

Farwell said that 60% of the players in the NHL move up to the NHL. “We are the only team to play in a major market. We have a loyal group of fans who support us throughout the year, and we have natural rivals in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Portland. Of course, because of the impact of other major league sports in Seattle, we have a lot of competition for attendance.”

The GM said that Seattle is a really good sports town. The Thunderbirds have been under the same ownership for the past 11 years. “Hockey is an exciting game,” Farwell said. “It’s best seen in person. Our players are with us for 3 or 4 years … for each year they play, they receive a year of tuition and books in a Canadian college. Players are drafted at age 17 … they are not eligible to play in a U.S. University because the NCAA has ruled they have lost their amateur status by being drafted, so they have to go to Canada.” Farwell pointed out that the administration and coaching staffs work hard to make the players excel academically.

In response to a question about hockey violence, Farwell said that it has been reduced dramatically in the last few years.

Joe Dominy
Joe Dominy, voice of Seattle Thunderbird Hockey.

The team plays all of their games in Key Arena, which includes most weekends. The season begins in mid-September and closes the end of March. Ticket information is available by calling (206) 448-PUCK. Joe Dominy, play-by-play sportscaster for KYCW 1390, also attended the meeting and gave a quick call on a power play to describe how the Thunderbirds operate. Farwell closed by saying the league supports youth hockey programs. “We have our players attend activities at the Sno-King and Seattle Junior hockey arenas in order to promote an interest by youngsters in hockey.”

Thanks to Program Chair Bob Holert for his introduction.