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Supplement published by the Auburn, Covington/MapleValley/BlackDiamond, Kent and Renton Reporters


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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

Over 120 Years of Selling Experience

About...

This family owned business, opened its doors July of 1982 in a small portable building (600sq.ft.) with the help of good friends. Their beginnings were very sparse with catalog books, a hand truck and a beat up delivery truck. With six basic white, low end appliances placed on the showroom floor King and Bunnys was opened. King and Bunnys, now many years later, has had four remodels and expanded to 3200 sq.ft. with a beautiful showroom displaying over 200 major home appliances. They have a local warehouse with over 400 units in stock, all available for immediate delivery.

King and Bunnys is located on Sunset Blvd (SR900) in Renton, WA, just 2.5 miles east from I-405. Three miles away is the Boeing plant were the 737 and the 737MAX airplanes are manufactured and next door to Boeing is Paccar where Kenworth trucks are manufactured. King and Bunnys is entrenched in the local community; they believe in giving back. Throughout the years King and Bunny, as well as their team members, have volunteered, been involved with service clubs, chambers, sport clubs and civic organizations. King and Bunnys support

auctions, local events, schools, charities, service clubs and much more. King and Bunnys is a member of Nationwide, a 3000 member buying and marketing group, whose collective buying power is over 15 billion dollars annually. This appliance buying power is equal to Sears or Home Depot and Lowes combined. Hence, King and Bunnys “WHAMMER DEAL”! King and Bunnys offer competitive prices, knowledgeable team members, in stock inventory, fast deliveries, quality installation, doing business with integrity, honesty, and caring customer service.

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

Welcome to Kent! …and to the 2018-19 Seattle Thunderbirds season! We are thrilled to have you and your family join us for another exciting season with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The year’s home opener will be at accesso ShoWare Center on Saturday, September 22 as the T-Birds start their bid to return to the WHL Finals for the third time in four seasons. This will be an exciting season under the direction of head coach Matt O’Dette, now in his second season. There will be several new faces this year, but also many key returners. Jarret Tyszka and Reece Harsch will anchor the blue line for the T-Birds this season. Tyszka was recently at Montreal Canadiens Development Camp while Harsch was at the Las Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp. Nolan Volcan, Zack Andrusiak and Noah Philp return to the lead the T-Birds’ offense. All three players had over 50 points last season. Matthew Wedman, the hero of the 2016 Western Conference Championship, also returns and will add a lot of scoring punch to this year’s team. Watch out for some rookies to have an impact this season, including forward Andrej Kukuca from the Slovakia and defenseman Simon Kubicek from Czech Republic, both taken in the Import Draft. Payton Mount on offense and Tyrel Bauer on defense will play their rookie season with the T-Birds. Mount was selected first and Bauer second by the team in the 2017 Bantam Draft.

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Also, returning this year is the T-Birds’ popular Two-for-Tuesday promotion, where fans can enjoy two-for-one tickets and beer along with $2 concession specials. If you are new to hockey, this is a great way to get the family involved on a budget. Pub Nights, Turkey Shoot and Ham Shoot are also great games to check out, and you don’t want to miss the annual Fred MeyerTeddy Bear Toss this season. If you’re new to accesso ShoWare Center, you should know we are incredibly proud of this 10-year-old state-of-theart arena. With 6,150 seats, 20 suites and Heritage Club seating, the arena offers unsurpassed hockey sightlines throughout. While you’re in town, you and your family can grab a bite at Kent Station, a contemporary, urban shopping village with a variety of dining options for pre- and post-game gatherings. You will also enjoy the charm of historic downtown Kent, where you’ll find more entertainment and dining choices. No matter what you choose, you’ll have even more reasons to come back to Kent. Go Birds!

Dana Ralph Mayor, City of Kent

2018 - 2019 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS

FAN GUIDE REPORTER

a special supplement of Sound Publishing and Kent Reporter publisher POLLY SHEPHERD KENT advertising ANGELA SURESH, LINDA STAPLES, MARIE SKOOR, NATALIE ROUTH design JULIE BLACK


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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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Available both onsite at accesso ShoWare Center as well as in lots in close walking distance throughout downtown Kent. Additional free parking is available across James Street at the Regional Justice Center Garage after 6:00 PM, and at the James Street Park & Ride. There is no event parking permitted at Kent Station, at Kent Commons or in the North Park Neighborhood.


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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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ZACK ANDRUSIAK How Acquired: From the Prince Albert Raiders for Cavin Leth on October 20, 2016 NHL Draft: Free Agent Shoots: Left Height: 5’11 Weight: 178 Birthday: July 10, 1998 Hometown: Armstrong, BC

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GRAEME BRYKS How Acquired: Drafted 8th round, 172nd overall, in the 2016 Bantam Draft.

NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’2 Weight: 203 Birthday: January 22, 2001 Hometown: Edmonton, AB

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DEFENSE LUKE BATEMAN

How Acquired: Drafted 4th round, 85th overall, in 2017 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2021 Shoots: Left Height: 6’5 Weight: 201 Birthday: September 19, 2002 Hometown: Kamloops, BC

DEFENSE TYREL BAUER

How Acquired: Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, in 2017 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2020 Shoots: Right Height: 6’3 Weight: 206 Birthday: March 23, 2002 Hometown: Cochrane, AB

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TYLER CARPENDALE How Acquired: Drafted 6th round, 125th overall, in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 201 Birthday: January 26, 2000 Hometown: Powell River, BC

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POSITION

JARED DAVIDSON How Acquired: Signed by the T-Birds to a Standard WHL Player Agreement on August 30, 2017. NHL Draft: Eligible 2020 Shoots: Left Height: 5’10 Weight: 164 Birthday: July 7, 2002 Hometown: Edmonton, AB

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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DEFENSE REECE HARSCH

LIAM HUGHES

How Acquired: Drafted, 8th round, 170th overall in 2014. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 6’3 Weight: 198 Birthday: January 7, 1999 Hometown: Grande Prairie, AB

How Acquired: From the Edmonton Oil Kings on Sept. 18, 2017, for a 4th-round pick in the 2019 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Catches: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 197 Birthday: July 22, 1999 Hometown: Kelowna, BC

DILLON HAMALIUK How Acquired: Drafted 6th round, 111th overall, in the 2015 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 195 Birthday: October 30, 2000 Hometown: Leduc, Alberta

GOALIE

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SAMUEL HUO

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JAXAN KALUSKI

How Acquired: Signed by the T-Birds to a Standard WHL Player Agreement on August 30, 2017. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 6’4 Weight: 184 Birthday: July 13, 2001 Hometown: Richmond, BC

HOLDEN KATZALAY

How Acquired: Acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors on January 10, 2018, for a sixth-round pick in 2019 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 5’11 Weight: 183 Birthday: April 27, 1999 Hometown: Lloydminster, AB 

How Acquired: Signed by T-Birds to WHL Standard Player Agreement June 16, 2017. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 6’4 Weight: 192 Birthday: January 12, 2000 Hometown: Vancouver, BC

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DEFENSE

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RIGHT WING

SIMON KUBICEK

DEFENSE

ANDREJ KUKUCA

How Acquired: Drafted in second round, 89th overall, in 2018 Import Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2020 Shoots: Right Height: 6’2 Weight: 180 Birthday: December 19, 2001 Hometown: Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic

JAKE LEE

How Acquired: Drafted in first round, 29th overall, in the 2018 WHL Import Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 6’2 Weight: 185 Birthday: November 14, 1999 Hometown: Trencin, Slovakia

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How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 18th overall in 2016 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’2 Weight: 216 Birthday: July 13, 2001 Hometown: Sherwood Park, AB

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PAYTON McISAAC

DEFENSE

MIKE MacLEAN

How Acquired: From the Kootenay Ice on August 31, 2018, for a ninth-round pick in 2019 NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 5’11 Weight: 176 Birthday: December 26, 2000 Hometown: Fort Saskatchewan, AB

CADE McNELLY How Acquired: Signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement in August 2017 NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 193 Birthday: October 17, 2001 Hometown: Westlock, AB

How Acquired: Signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement in December 2017.

NHL Draft: Free Agent Shoots: Right Height: 6’7 Weight: 234 Birthday: July 9, 1998 Hometown: Penticton, BC

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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PAYTON MOUNT How Acquired: Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, in 2017 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2020 Shoots: Right Height: 5’8 Weight: 181 Birthday: January 19, 2002 Hometown: Victoria, BC

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CODY SAVEY How Acquired:Signed by T-Birds to WHL Standard Player Agreement February 13, 2017. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Right Height: 5’11 Weight: 210 Birthday: July 24, 2001 Hometown: Gold River, BC

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

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MATT REMPE

NOAH PHILP How Acquired: From the Kootenay Ice on Sept. 11, 2017, for a 5th-round bantam pick in 2018 and a 5th round bantam pick in 2019. NHL Draft: Free Agent Shoots: Right Height: 6’3 Weight: 191 Birthday: August 31, 1998 Hometown: Canmore, AB

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How Acquired: Signed by the T-Birds to a Standard WHL Player Agreement on August 29, 2018. NHL Draft: Eligible 2020 Shoots: Right Height: 6’6 Weight: 187 Birthday: June 29, 2002 Hometown: Calgary, AB

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COLE SCHWEBIUS

JARRET TYSZKA

How Acquired: Drafted 10th round, 216th overall, in the 2016 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Catches: Left Height: 5’11 Weight: 171 Birthday: April 11, 2001 Hometown: Kelowna, BC

How Acquired: Drafted 1st round, 16th overall, in 2014 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: By the Montreal Canadiens, 5th round, 149th overall, in 2017 NHL Draft. Shoots: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 193 Birthday: March 15, 1999 Hometown: Langley, BC

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NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’1 Weight: 184 Birthday: September 26, 2000 Hometown: Delta, BC

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How Acquired: Acquired from the Regina Pats with a 2nd round pick in 2019 on Jan.10, 2018, for defenseman Aaron Hyman

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How Acquired: Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall in 2014. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Shoots: Left Height: 6’3 Weight: 195 Birthday: May 26, 1999 Hometown: Edmonton, AB

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MATTHEW WEDMAN

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How Acquired: Signed by the T-Birds to a Standard WHL Player Agreement in 2017. NHL Draft: Eligible 2019 Catches: Left Height: 5’11 Weight: 166 Birthday: January 23, 2001 Hometown: Edmonton, AB

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26 How Acquired: Drafted, 2nd round, 27th overall in 2013 Bantam Draft. NHL Draft: Free Agent Shoots: Left Height: 5’10 Weight: 191 Birthday: July 4, 1998 Hometown: Edmonton, AB

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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T-Birds 20-year-olds looking for one more kick at the can By Andy Eide, 710 ESPN Seattle mynorthwest.com/category/thunderbirds

when I was younger.” Philp joined the Thunderbirds via a trade during last year’s preseason. After two years with the Kootenay Ice, he became a key member of the Seattle attack. He set career highs in goals (14),

Time can be a funny concept. On paper, four or five years feels like an eternity but for junior hockey players heading into their final season, it goes by in the blink of an eye. “It’s gone fast,” Seattle Thunderbirds forward Zack Andrusiak says. “It really, definitely, has. It’s hard to believe that I’m the oldest guy now.” Andrusiak joins Nolan Volcan, Noah Philp and Mike MacLean as the Thunderbirds 20-year-old players heading into what will be their last season. They have four to start the season but, as much as the team would love to keep them all, will have to trim down to three by mid-October. It’s one of the bittersweet aspects to the Noah Philp (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds) Western Hockey League and junior hockey in general. Players come in at 16-years-old and grow assists (36), and points (50). into the young men that they will be for the rest He was a versatile player who was a regular of their lives. The teams and fans that watch them, participant on the penalty kill and power play – have to say goodbye. roles he’ll continue to play this season. He also For the rookies coming into the league it feels spent a lot of time centering a line between two like you have forever but that final year arrives in a rookies in Dillon Hamaliuk and Samuel Huo. hurry. His experience helped his younger linemates “You don’t really realize it until you get here,” and now, in his last season, he’ll be called on to be Volcan says. “It goes by quick, so you have to part of the leadership group again. enjoy it and have fun with it.” “I think, hopefully, I can help the younger That rookie year, you have energy, excitement, guys understand what it takes to play here,” the and feel on top of the world. But, you also don’t Canmore, Alberta native says. “We’ve got a good have the wisdom that experience can provide. older group to push the young guys and have a Even at the still young age of 20, the players say good team.” they have gained valuable knowledge that they After two brief stops in Tri-City and Prince Alwished they had when they first came into the bert, Andrusiak landed in Seattle in 2016. His first league. season with the club saw him relegated to third “It’s such a great life to live, playing for a WHL and fourth line minutes but he bided his time and organization like the Thunderbirds,” Philp says took advantage of more playing opportunities last looking back at his time in the league. “A lot of year. guys come through and don’t really appreciate it Now, in his last go around, he plays with a enough. That’s something that I would tell myself confidence that translated into success in 2017-

Zack Andrusiak (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

2018 – when he led the Thunderbirds in goals. He says that confidence wasn’t always with him during his younger years. “I wish I would have played with a lot more confidence in my ability,” he adds about those early years. “I wish I wouldn’t have sometimes wished I was an older guy to get the opportunities older guys get because it does go by so fast. There’s a few things I wish I could do over.” After scoring 36 goals in 2017-2018, Andrusiak will be counted on to be one of the Thunderbirds top scorers again this year. He spent his summer working on his speed, overall skating, and turned in a strong training camp. That’s good news for Seattle. MacLean, known to his teammates as ‘Big Mike’, joined the T-Birds midway through last season. The nickname fits as he stands 6-foot-7 and 234 pounds. He gave head coach Matt O’Dette tough minutes in the second half, while scoring twice. His biggest moment came in Game 2 of the playoffs against Everett when he scored a goal in the third period to give Seattle a lead in a game that it would ultimately win in overtime. Of the four 20-year-olds, Volcan has spent the most time in a Thunderbirds sweater. Seattle acquired the Alberta product in the second round of the 2013 Bantam Draft. Volcan joined the team as a 16-year-old and quickly became a fan favorite with his relentless energy on the ice. He is a speedy player, not afraid to get physical when need be, and he turned into one of the top defensive forwards in the WHL. Last year his offensive game flourished and like Philp and Andrusiak, he topped his previous career marks in goals (32), assists (44), and points (76) to lead the team. Coming into this season he has played in 263 games for Seattle. He’s been to the WHL Championship Series twice and lifted the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2017. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE


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He has one more season in Seattle and its poised to be a big one. “I prepared well over the summer and I’m ready,” he says. “I’m going into it with an open mind and play my game. Go from there.” He also wants to make one more great playoff run. “It would be pretty cool,” Volcan says. “I think we definitely have the pieces for it so now it’s up to us to go out there and perform in the way that we think we should be able to do. It’s exciting and I want to do whatever I can to help make this a successful season.” Nolan Volcan (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds) It’s a sentiment that all the guys share and it makes sense. Getting to play hockey at this high level, at a young age, is an earned privilege and something all former players reflect on with joy. Why wouldn’t they want to make it last as long as possible? “It’s our last crack at the can in this league and it would be good to hang another couple banners up in this rink,” Andrusiak says. “We’re going to do all we can to try and do that.” For Thunderbirds updates all season long, follow Andy on Twitter @andyeide


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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

T-Birds Athletic Trainer training the next generation By Thom Beuning, T-Birds play-by-play voice thombeuningsinthecorners.blogspot.com/ Once again this season Seattle Thunderbirds Athletic Trainer Phil Varney will be the senior staff member on the team’s bench. In 2018-19, Varney enters his twelfth season with the organization.  He’s become a mainstay with the franchise.  A friendly and familiar face to longtime fans, usually the last person to leave the bench at the end of a period, but certainly the first off of the bench if there is an injury.    Through 792 regular season games plus playoffs, along with a WHL Championship and one trip to the Memorial Cup, his career with the Thunderbirds has seen the highs and lows associated with the franchise.  But the journey west for the Michigander had an auspicious start. “I always joke that they hired me out of pity,”  Varney recounts how his first attempt to interview for the job was interrupted by bad weather.  “I spent 12 hours in Chicago.  I was going to meet the general manager Russ (Farwell) and the coach at the time, Rob Sumner, in Minneapolis.”  Detroit to Chicago to Minneapolis is usually a couple of quick hops.  Instead he says thunderstorms rolled through.  He ended up heading back to Detroit without ever making it to Minneapolis.  “We were on the phone trying to figure it out, should we get a different flight.”  But he says Russ and Rob were scheduled to fly out of Minneapolis that night. Instead they set up a meeting for another day.  The second attempt didn’t go much better than the first. “Sure enough that 8am flight out of Detroit has mechanical issues, so round two was a bit of a circus trying to get out.”  Varney eventually ended up flying to Seattle that day via Phoenix and to top it off, his return flight to Detroit got delayed to the point he had to find a last-minute flight on another airline.  Despite the travails of his travel, the meeting went well.  He was hired and would come on board for the franchise’s final season at KeyArena.  But he was given a tour of where the new arena would be, down in Kent.  A dozen years later, he’s still here. Varney says he was always drawn to the medical field because he wanted to help people.  “I did a report on athletic training for eighth grade English and in that process, I just decided that was the direction I was going to take.”  In high school he took summer classes that introduced him to sports medicine and he worked at a physical therapy clinic from his junior year in high school until he graduated from Eastern Michigan University.  “I just loved it and poured myself into it.  I wanted to be the best I could and set that goal early.”

(left to right) Phil Varney, Karl Affeldt, Astrid Fiallos, Amanda Pham (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

“It’s really a licensed health care profession.” Indeed, in addition to his Bachelor’s Degree, the Livonia, Michigan native also has a Master’s Degree from Western Michigan University, also in athletic training.  “We dabble in a lot of things because we’re the first point of reference for our athletes.  We have to know a lot about nutrition, we have to know a lot about strength and conditioning.”  Varney says athletic trainers are well versed in injury triage because, in most scenarios, they are the first ones to encounter an athlete’s injury.  This allows them to make the correct referral to the appropriate health provider.  And while he is the first point of contact, Varney knows he is just one part of a strong and deep medical team associated with the T-Birds. He says it starts with Dr. Alfred Blue, the Thunderbirds longtime team physician.  “I call it the Doc Blue School of Medicine.”  Varney says Dr. Blue will often walk into his training room with the latest research article in his hand.  In addition, the organization works with a team of doctors at Proliance Orthopedic Associates.  “We have 15-plus Specialist Orthopedic Surgeons in any specialty I need, just as many PA’s and Nurse Practitioners, diagnostic imaging, and cast techs at Proliance.” He says it also includes non-operative sports specialist like Dr. Ty Jones, who is another invaluable resource. “We’re really lucky to have them to provide the care that some

places just don’t have.” The medical team also includes a chiropractor and team dentists. Like so many career fields, this one is constantly evolving. “We have this approach that anything you learned three years ago probably has the potential of being obsolete.”  He says as a result there is a requirement of 50 hours of continuing education every two years.  “There’s also professional publications and research we have to stay on top of.”  He is a member of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and must be licensed and certified by the state of Washington.  The old Hollywood stereotypes of trainers just wrapping an injury with an ace bandage, handing out aspirin or throwing on an ice pack, are long gone.   “The job is to manage the overall healthcare for our players.” Many universities now have programs that offer Athletic Trainer degrees. Some high schools offer classes too.  And now Phil and the Thunderbirds offer internships.  The T-Birds have teamed up with Kent-Meridian High School’s Sports Medicine class under the direction of Bud Bannon.  “He has a good group of kids who compete in regional and state competition against other schools.  It’s just a good way to introduce kids to sports medicine.”  The partnership began a year ago when he had two students work with him at training camp.  At this year’s training camp he had four.   He says the internship gives them an opportunity to get a head start if it’s something they want to pursue once they go off to college. “That’s how I got into hockey.  I interned with the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League).  I want to give back that way and help develop the next level of professionals that are going to continue to grow the profession.”   In conjunction with that Varney says the Thunderbirds Community Sports Foundation offers scholarships to those who are going into a sports related field such as sports medicine.  “We certainly encourage them to apply and they can find more information about the scholarships on the Foundation website.” Here in Kent he’s had the opportunity to watch dozens of players pass through his treatment room. Many have gone on to pro careers including into the NHL.  His first year with the club Brenden Dillon was a T-Birds rookie.  Dillon’s now an NHL veteran with the San Jose Sharks. They share the same birth date and always make a point each year of wishing each other a happy birthday. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE


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Winning a championship in 2017 is certainly a highlight as was going to the Memorial Cup that season in Windsor, Ontario right across the river from his hometown. He got a chance to give the players a tour of Detroit.  The Memorial Cup honors Canadian service members who have lost their lives in battle.  There is a strong military presence at the event.  While the results on the ice in Windsor didn’t go the TBirds way the tournament still was special for him.  “It meant a lot for me to be there, with my brother being a Marine, serving out of a unit right from Detroit.  I was able to put his (Marine unit) patch on my jacket.” While Varney is true to his Michigan roots, he has melted well into the Puget Sound region.  “I am Detroit at heart but I’m definitely integrated here.  It’s a great community, a great place to live, but I still joke about the greatness of Detroit.”  His first family may still be in the Detroit area, but his new family is here in the shadow of Mount Rainier.  He may have come to the region a bachelor but he’s now a husband to Esther and father to daughter Nora and newborn son Zachary. “I met my wife here.  We live in Skyway, we have two kids, just had our son this summer.”  It should come as no surprise that Esther is a nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  “We’re both medical people, we kind of connect that way.”  He also discovered his wife is a diehard Seattle sports fan, something he learned early on in their marriage.  “I learned that when Detroit beats Seattle, you

(left to right) Hamdia Ahmed, Amanda Pham, Phil Varney. Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds

shouldn’t gloat.” To paraphrase Journey, just a city boy, born and raised west of Detroit and now a fixture in the Pacific Northwest.

ONLINE ORDERING NOW AVAILABLE THEROCKWFP.COM ACCOMODATIONS FOR

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Thom Beuning is the radio play-by-play voice of the Seattle Thunderbirds. This season Thom can be heard calling all games on 1090 KJR. Follow him on Twitter at @thombeuning.


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Liam Hughes provides excellent goaltending and stability in the Seattle net By Tim Pigulski, 710 ESPN Seattle http://mynorthwest.com/category/thunderbirds/

Seattle had high hopes for Toth’s backup, 16-year-old Carl Stankowski, but he spent much of the season injured, which led to the T-Birds acquiring Matt Berlin from the Spokane Chiefs to fill in for Toth on the rare occasion he needed a night off. An injury to Toth shortly before the playoffs that year was a major cause for panic, but Stankowski exceeded all expectations despite having just seven games of WHL experience under his belt. He led Seattle to their first ever WHL Cham-

For years, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ goalie situation has seemed in flux. Since Calvin Pickard’s final campaign during the 2011-12 season, which marked his third consecutive season as the team’s undisputed number one goaltender, the T-Birds haven’t really had much continuity in net. When Pickard moved on to the professional ranks, Seattle turned to the 20-year-old Brandon Glover, acquiring him from Calgary prior to the 2012-13 season. Upon his graduation, it was expected that one of Danny Mumaugh or Justin Myles would take over. Those two split time for the first half of the following season, but injuries led to the Thunderbirds acquiring Taran Kozun from the Kamloops Blazers. Kozun had been a solid backup for an underachieving Blazers team for a couple of seasons but flourished in the half-season he spent with Seattle, which earned him the number one nod the following season as well. Kozun’s season and a half as Seattle’s starter was the most for a Thunderbirds netminder since Pickard, and it Liam Hughes (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds) also provided the T-Birds time to groom his eventual successor in Logan Flodell. Prior to the 2015-16 season, Taz Burman was pionship and it appeared the situation in net was acquired to compete with Flodell for the number solidified for the next three years. one job. A solid run during the first half of the But things never seem to go as smoothly as year had the T-Birds thinking about a deep run in you’d hope, as what was expected to be a mithe playoffs, which led to them acquiring another nor setback that might keep Stankowski out for a overager in Landon Bow from the Swift Current month sidelined him for the entire season. Broncos at the trade deadline. Seattle would go on Once again, Seattle’s goalie situation was as to lose in the WHL Championship that season, but clear as mud. not because of Bow, who was arguably the best It was right after training camp last season goaltender in the league during the second half of that the T-Birds acquired Liam Hughes from the the season and into the playoffs. Edmonton Oil Kings for a fourth-round draft pick. Seattle knew their championship window At the time, Hughes was relatively unknown having wasn’t going to last much longer, so they added played in just seven WHL games and having an yet another 20-year-old in Rylan Toth from the Red injury history of his own. Deer Rebels to fill the gap between the pipes prior “For about a month, it felt like something to the 2016-17 season. Toth had seen great sucwas wrong with my knee, but I didn’t know what cess in Red Deer and had also played in a Memoit was,” remembered Hughes about the injury he rial Cup the previous season. suffered when he was 17 years old. “It turns out

I had torn something in it, so I got surgery in late October and that kept me out for the year. The first surgery didn’t work so I had to have another to completely fix it.” Hughes, who had impressed the T-Birds with some past preseason performances, turned into so much more than a temporary backup. As Stankowski’s return date was pushed further and further out, Hughes began earning more and more playing time, eventually supplanting Berlin as the number one guy. “Coming to Seattle was nervewracking,” admitted Hughes. “It was a different culture. Guys were working hard and there was a determination to win. I bought in early and things were going well, but then I got injured again. It was upsetting, but once I came back from that everything went really well.” Seattle gradually became comfortable enough with Hughes in net that they were willing to deal Matt Berlin to the Kootenay Ice and acquired Dorrin Luding to be his backup, but there were still major questions regarding Stankowski’s eventual return. Stankowski was shut down for good in February, leaving the 18-year-old Hughes as the undisputed number one for the remainder of the season, but the assumption was still that Stankowski would return this year to battle for the number one role. The situation eventually resolved itself in early August when the T-Birds traded Stankowski to Calgary, which allowed him to continue playing hockey while also being close to home where his medical needs could be closely monitored. “The way Liam played last year made us more comfortable in us moving forward with him as a starting goalie,” said new T-Birds general manager Bil La Forge. “He’s shown that he’s one of the elite goalies in the Western Hockey League and we’re very comfortable having him in our net.” Hughes’ performance last season was likely a surprise to most outside of former Seattle GM Russ Farwell, who traded for Hughes after liking what he saw in limited viewings. In 36 games for the TBirds, Hughes compiled a 16-12-5-1 record, a 3.15 goals-against-average, and a .909 save percentage. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE


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2018-2019 FAN GUIDE

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CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE

He followed that up with a .910 save percentage during the playoffs, where Seattle was eliminated by cross-town rival Everett in the first round. Now 19, Hughes has a chance to not only be the T-Birds’ number one guy this year, but next

year as well when he reaches overage status, providing the T-Birds a certain level of comfort that they haven’t had in years. “It’s really an honor that Seattle has been willing to focus on me and trade away some of

the other goalies,” said Kelowna, B.C. native. “It’s good for Carl to be at home and do what he needs to do there. I want to see him get healthy. You want the best for every goalie in the league and I hope he’s able to come out of it with a contract or whatever it is he wants. I think it worked out the best for both of us since we’ll both get an opportunity to play.” Hughes’ impressive play last season did not go unnoticed by scouts, as he’s also been invited to Philadelphia Flyers Development Camp, which should be beneficial in giving him additional experience against professional-caliber prospects. He’ll also have the benefit of an entire training camp and preseason as a member of his current squad. “It’s nice coming into camp and into a situation where you already know the guys,” said Hughes, who was acquired just days before the beginning of the regular season last year. “For myself, I want to do better in the win column. I’m hoping to get to 30 wins. That’s more of a team goal but I want to be in net for a good chunk of those.” While nothing is guaranteed, Seattle’s big bet on an untested 18-year-old is already paying huge dividends and giving them stability between the pipes that they haven’t seen in years. For Thunderbirds updates all season long, follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski

Liam Hughes (Photo credit: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

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Seattle Thunderbirds - 2018  

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Seattle Thunderbirds - 2018  

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