Former T-Bird Glen Goodall is the WHL all-time leading goal scorer (Photo Harry Conrad)
In 1985 the Seattle Breakers were sold and the new ownership changed the team name and colors and the Seattle Thunderbirds were born. In the years since that change, many great players have worn a Thunderbirds sweater. With summer here we thought it would be a good time to look back at the best players the T-Birds have ever seen.
How to do this? Junior hockey presents a challenge as many of the best players aren’t around for very long. Looking at who the best players are we tried to weigh what they did in Seattle, the importance they played in the franchise’s history as well as what they did after leaving Seattle.
So here is our list of the top ten T-Birds of all time. Feel free to let us know who we missed in the comments.
1. Glen Goodall – 1984-1990
It seems fitting that the only number hanging from the rafters of the ShoWare Center belongs to the greatest Seattle Thunderbird, Glen Goodall. Thanks to WHL rules that existed in the 80’s, Goodall, and his number ten sweater, were able to spend six full seasons playing for the T-Birds. Goodall was a fixture for T-Birds hockey and helped put the franchise on the map. Nobody has played more games as a T-Bird than Goodall, who laced them up 399 times. His greatness goes beyond his longevity though. Could he score? Yes, and his 257 career goals is tops in the team’s history. Was he a play maker? Yes, he also holds Seattle’s career mark in assists with 311 which also means that he is Seattle’s all-time leading scorer with 573 points. Those numbers also place him on top of a lot of WHL league record books. He holds the league record for games played, goals and is second in total points.
Goodall’s best season came in 1989-1990 when he potted a whopping 76 goals and 87 assists for 163 points. He led the T-Birds to their franchise-best regular season record as Seattle went 52-17-3 that year and scored 444 goals.
Standing at only 5’8″, Goodall never let his size get in the way of being an explosive player. He topped the 50-goal mark four times in his career, two of which ended in 60-plus goals. Goodall was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft but never did get to wear the winged wheel in an NHL game. He did end up playing 19 seasons of professional hockey in leagues such as the AHL, IHL, ECHL and DEL (Germany). He spent his last 11 years of professional hockey playing for Ingolstadt ERC of the DEL league before retiring in 2009-2010.
2. Patrick Marleau – 1995-1997
Patrick Marleau only played two seasons with the T-Birds, but they were two pretty great ones. He burst onto the Seattle scene as a 16-year-old and scored 32 goals and 74 points in his rookie season with the T-Birds. The next year, at 17, he lit the lamp 52 times and added an impressive 74 assists. The 74 assists is the sixth-best single season total in team history, as were his 125 points that year.
Marleau led the T-Birds to their only WHL Final appearance in 1997 where they fell to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in a sweep. His two impressive seasons and offensive fire power was good enough for the San Jose Sharks to make Marleau the second overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately for Seattle, the Sharks moved Marleau right to the NHL at 18 and he never returned to the Thunderbirds. In San Jose, Marleau has been one of the NHL’s premier scorers over the past 16 seasons. He has appeared in 1,247 NHL games, scored 437 career goals and 931 points. At 34-years-old he is showing no signs of wearing down as he notched 33 goals this past season for the Sharks.
Of all the players to come through Seattle, Marleau has had the most prolific NHL career.
3. Thomas Hickey – 2004-2009
Thomas Hickey is the highest rated defenseman on our list, coming in at number three overall. Hickey had a tremendous career in Seattle — playing in 262 games for the T-Birds. Hickey was twice selected to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships, including the 2009 tournament where he as named captain and helped Canada win the gold medal. With 177 career points from the blue line, Hickey is the highest scoring defenseman to wear a Thunderbirds sweater (Craig Channel had ten more points while playing for the Breakers). While he could score, Hickey’s game had more to it. He was an excellent two-way defenseman, who played both ends of the ice with skill and grace and was a leader on and off the ice. That leadership was rewarded as Hickey served as team captain in his final two years with Seattle. The T-Birds had a winning record in each of Hickey’s seasons and failed to make the playoffs in the three years following his departure. Coincidence?
He was selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. With the Kings organization, Hickey struggled with some untimely injuries and found himself part of a log jam on defense but eventually worked his way to New York to play for the Islanders. He just completed his second season with New York, appearing in all 82 games, chipping in 22 points and was plus-5.
4. Calvin Pickard – 2008-2012
Sometimes, timing is everything. Pickard is the best goaltender that Seattle has produced but he just happened to be in Seattle during a low point in the quality of the team. Despite mostly playing for losing clubs, Pickard managed to end his Seattle career first in games played, first in minutes played, second in wins and second in career shut outs. He did not play behind the greatest of defenses but still managed to stop 7,727 pucks, which is a WHL record.
Pickard was a second round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and spent the past two seasons in the AHL with Lake Erie.
5. Victor Gervais – 1985-1990
Victor Gervais was one of those players that you loved to have on your team but couldn’t stand if he was on the other team. He could annoy, instigate and then beat you by putting the puck in the net. Gervais scored 161 goals in his Seattle career, which is second to only Goodall. He also turned in a monster season in 1989-1990 when he notched 64 goals and an amazing 160 points. He was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the ninth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
Gervais never made it to the NHL but he went on to a long career in pro hockey, playing in the AHL, ECHL, IHL and DEL. He continued his scoring touch at the pro level and is second all-time in points and third all-time in goals for the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals.
6. Danny Lorenz – 1986-1990
Before there was Calvin Pickard, there was Danny Lorenz to carry the best goalie in Seattle history banner. Lorenz holds the T-Birds career mark for wins with 99 and was the back stop for the great T-Birds clubs in the late 80’s. Lorenz’ numbers may not look as impressive as Pickard’s on paper but you have to take into account that he played in an era of run and gun in the WHL. More goals were scored and goalies had their hands full each and every night.
Lorenz was a third round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 1988 and appeared in eight games with New York. He played several years of pro hockey and finally retired in 2004.
7. Brendan Witt – 1991-1994
Big, tough and gritty, Brendan Witt was a crowd favorite in Seattle. The big defenseman was not afraid of playing physical hockey and was one of the better enforcers the franchise has ever seen. In his three seasons with Seattle he topped 200 minutes in penalties each year and ended up being drafted 11th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals.
Witt played 14 seasons in the NHL, many as a captain, before retiring after the 2010 season.
8. Petr Nedved – 1989-1990
Nedved only played one season with Seattle, but what a season it was. Nedved left his native Czechoslovakia in 1989 while at a midget tournament in Calgary. He became a Canadian citizen and signed with Seattle. Nedved put up a monster season as he scored 71 goals, added 80 assists for 145 points –not a bad rookie season. The Vancouver Canucks agreed and selected Nedved with the second overall pick in the 1990 NHL Draft. He went on to play 982 NHL games, scored over 310 goals and finally just retired from professional hockey in 2012.
9. Chris Joseph – 1985-1988
Chris Joseph was a solid two-way defenseman who was selected fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. His best season with Seattle was in 1986-1987 when he chipped in 13 goals and 58 points from the blue line. He stuck with Pittsburgh out of training camp at 18-years-old but was traded to Edmonton in a deal that sent Hall Of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey to the Penguins. Joseph went on to play 14 seasons in the NHL and retired from pro hockey in 2006 after a season in Italy.
10. Turner Stevenson – 1988-1992
Stevenson was a big, bruising winger who could score, hit and drop the mitts with the best of them. He topped the 20-goal mark in each of his last three years in Seattle and racked up 300 penalty minutes in 1991-1992. Stevenson was drafted 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens and spent parts of 13 seasons in the NHL. After his playing days ended in 2006 he returned to the T-Birds as an assistant coach from 2007-2011.
So there you have your best T-Birds players of all time. Where on this list will current T-Birds players such as Shea Theodore, Matt Barzal or Ryan Gropp end up when their playing days have finished?
Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide.