Catching up with former Thunderbird Brendan Witt

Aug 12, 2012, 7:09 PM | Updated: Aug 13, 2012, 10:17 am

Witt

By Andrew Eide

Brendan Witt played for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 1991 until 1993 and became a fan favorite thanks to his tough, physical play. The defenseman was drafted 11th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1993 NHL draft and enjoyed a 15 year NHL career with the Capitals, Predators and New York Islanders.

He was gracious enough to take some time and talk to us about his time with the Thunderbirds.

When Witt first arrived in Seattle the Thunderbirds were still playing games in both KeyArena and the smaller Mercer Arena. Witt loved Mercer Arena.

“I loved that arena, it had good character. The fans were there, everyone had a great seat, it was loud, the fans were obnoxious,” Witt said of the Thunderbirds’ first home.

Witt joined Seattle in 1991 from a small town in Saskatchewan. What was coming to a big city like Seattle like?

“It was neat, there was a lot of energy coming out there with the whole song and dance going on, they really put themselves on the map with a good team,” he said. “I have great memories of Seattle, it’s my favorite city in the United States. Unfortunately, it just rains too much in the winter. It was a great experience and a great place to grow up.”

Witt has always tried to keep up with what was going on with the T-Birds, something that is easier to do now than it was when he first got into the NHL.

“It was harder to get information, especially playing in the United States. Back then the Internet was not what it is today,” Witt said. “Now it makes it so much easier to look up on teams and see how they’re doing. I would have to wait until we played in Toronto or one of the Canadian cities so I could grab a paper and see the stats and the standings.”

Witt has another connection with the current team as he and head coach Steve Konowalchuk played together for several years with the Capitals.

“I gave him a hard time last year when he got the job saying the Portland Winterhawk alumni must be all upset at him,” Witt said of his old teammate. “He is a heck of a competitor, wants to win and is a heck of a team guy, so he has your typically good foundation to instill in a junior hockey player. You know, team comes first, defense comes first and you’ll get your chances. They picked a good coach”

Not only were Konowalchuk and Witt teammates but also competitors. While Witt was manning the blue line for Seattle, Konowalchuk was a scoring forward for Portland. Witt remembers those battles with Konowalchuk and the Winterhawks well.

“Kono is a smart hockey guy. He was always one of those guys who would get under your skin and he always found those open spaces to get the good scoring opportunities,” Witt said.

Witt never shied away from dropping the gloves. Did he ever get into a scrap with the T-Birds’ head coach?

“Kono never fought! I never really fought until I got to Seattle. I was big for my age and nobody tested me,” Witt said. “But I enjoyed and relished getting into scraps every other night. I guess if there was somebody in junior that I got into fights with it was Adam Deadmarsh. We had our battles.”

After a 15-year career Witt has retired from the game he loves and is now living in Montana with his wife and daughters, living the good life.

“We moved out here for a quieter life for our family. We own a 100-acre ranch out here, and just slowed things down for my kids,” he says of his post hockey time. “It’s nice to take them to school and spend time with them. I also get to hunt out here, which is a passion of mine, which is nice. We’re getting ready for elk season coming in a month”

Talking to Witt it’s easy to tell that he still has a fiery passion for the game. He has seen and done it all in his career, including winning gold in the Would Junior Championship, playing in both the Memorial Cup and Stanley Cup finals. Does he see himself getting back into hockey in some capacity?

“I don’t know. Not right now, I don’t want to step right back in, maybe five years from now,” he said. “You never know what life’s gonna throw at you. I know hockey, it’s been a big part of my life and I know how the machine works. Hockey has been such a big part of my life and I was fortunate enough to play and I had a heck of a career.”

Witt has always been outspoken and now that he’s not playing he has discovered the joys of Twitter. He recently started an account (@Whitemooseranch) and has enjoyed interacting with his fans.

“It’s kind of neat to know that I still have fans out there,” he said. “I wish this technology was around when I first started – it would have been a cool way to stay connected to your fans. I’m having fun with it.”

Would he have found himself in trouble with it if it were around when he was playing?

“Probably,” he said. “I don’t hold back, I call a spade a spade. I wear my heart on my sleeve but I get a lot respect for it because people know I don’t B.S. them and I get right to the point.”

One entertaining tweet Witt sent out recently had to do with “butter farts”.

“Oh man, the hot gas, every man has had those and they’re called butter farts,” Witt said with a laugh. “You’ll just laugh at the stuff that comes out of my mouth. There is a reason I wasn’t mic’d for NBC games.”

Witt was one of the most popular Seattle Thunderbirds when he played in Seattle and has been a favorite wherever he goes. With his passion and knowledge of hockey here’s hoping he does find a way to get back into the game.

Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide

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