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Seattle adds former Thunderbird Steven Goertzen in player development role

Seattle added former T-Bird Steven Goertzen to its hockey operations team. (Columbus Blue Jacets photo)

Its been a busy week for the Seattle Thunderbirds as they restructure the front office and hockey operations unit. Seattle named Bil La Forge as the new general manager on Wednesday and Thursday welcomed back an old friend to take over a newly created position with the club.

Former Thunderbirds player Steven Goertzen was announced as the new Director of Player Development in Seattle. Goertzen, who was in Edmonton for the team’s spring prospect camp last week, is excited to back with the Thunderbirds.

“It’s really exciting to be back and be part of the organization,” Goertzen said Thursday morning. “As an alumni you never really feel like you’ve left it. There’s a big sense of pride when you are a Thunderbird so now to be able to help out the younger guys try to achieve their dreams and goals from a developmental environment is exciting.”

Goertzen first joined the Thunderbirds in 2001 and played three full seasons with Seattle. He played 206 games with the team and was part of the 2002-2003 club that won the U.S. Division before falling to Kelowna in the Western Conference Finals. Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL Draft, Goertzen would go on to spend time in the NHL with the Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, and Carolina Hurricanes. His professional career ended in 2015 after four seasons playing in Europe.

While his position is a new one for the Thunderbirds, skill development is not new to Goertzen. Its something that he’s been involved on for some time.

“I’ve been doing skill development for about 12 years now, even when I was still playing,” he said. “It’s become a big component of the development of players, even throughout the season. With Dan and Lindsey (Leckelt) and the new ownership, I’ve done quite a bit of skill development for them over the past couple of years and I think it was something they wanted moving forward.”

Goertzen worked with the Thunderbirds’ prospect this past week and will continue to work with the players during the remainder of the summer. He’ll be at training camp with the team this fall for further instruction that will continue throughout the season.

He sees his role as one that will support the players and the team.

“I think it’s my job to work within the system of Seattle,” he said. “I think the coaching staff, scouting staff, and everyone is on the same page with the type of players the Thunderbirds want. Its then my job to analyze where they are from a skills perspective and where each player can improve.”

Goertzen has experience playing junior hockey, and in the pro ranks, and that can be a bonus when working with current Thunderbirds players. He’s been through what they have and has the wisdom of experience to share.

“There’s a commonality there,” he said. “I’ll know what they’re going through, as the coaching staff does as well. Hopefully the players can lean on the fact that we kind of know the ups and downs through the season. We can help them to try and address them.”

Playing in the Key Arena days with the Thunderbirds, Goertzen has fond memories of his time as a player. He says he has maintained contact with his Seattle teammates and former player, Eric Benke, was a member of his wedding party.

The off days were special to him as well.

“When we did get a day off we would drive down to Pike’s Place Market,” he said. “Park the car and walk around for an afternoon. You always saw something different. It was just such a cool environment.”

Goertzen never played in the accesso ShoWare Center but has been there and is looking forward to taking the ice with the team during training camp. He’s also looking forward to once again working with Russ Farwell.

Farwell, who just yesterday moved from general manager to Vice President of Hockey Operations, had an impact on Goertzen as a player.

“I’ve kept in touch with Russ all these years,” Goertzen said. “When I was playing he was a pretty big influence on my career. He hooked me up with my agent and was always a big advocate of mine. I’ve always leaned on him for advice and things like that.”

As a former player, Goertzen also knows how the Seattle rivalry with Portland works. Nobody is going to have to explain it to him now that he’s part of the Thunderbirds staff.

“If anything, I’ll probably have to tailor down the stories,” he said with a chuckle. “It might not be quite the same as when I was a player. It’s one of those things, it’s all part of it. The rivalries, with Portland and any team in the us division. It’s such an exciting environment to play in.”

Playing junior hockey was special to Goertzen and he hopes that the current players can appreciate it while they’re still in Seattle. The Thunderbirds players will now have an extra resource to lean on with this hire and it should pay off both on the ice and away from it.