Local product Luke Ormsby has fought to realize his childhood dream of being a T-Bird
Every kid on every playground or ice rink grows up dreaming about playing for their hometown team.
The harsh reality is that most of those kids won’t ever realize that dream. But one new Thunderbird accomplished it on Tuesday night.
Luke Ormsby was recently signed by the T-Birds and the Monroe native made his WHL debut early in Tuesday’s game against Prince George. The longtime Thunderbird fan signed with the club on Dec. 4 to realize his boyhood dream, something he is still finding hard to believe.
“It’s so crazy,” a smiling Ormsby said earlier in the week. “You wouldn’t have dreamed of being here. Pretty much this is happening and it’s surreal. Just have to work hard now to get into the lineup, that’s the goal.”
Selected in the ninth round of the 2014 Bantam Draft by the Thunderbirds, Ormsby has been playing in Arizona with the Phoenix Junior Coyotes the past year and a half. He is still affiliated with that club and thanks to some complicated WHL rules concerning American-born players he is only eligible to appear in six games this season with Seattle.
At 16 years old he is getting his feet wet now but really working towards being a full-time T-Bird next season. The fact that Ormsby is in the WHL at all is somewhat remarkable.
Ormsby attended Seattle’s training camp in the fall of 2014 but something wasn’t quite right. He didn’t feel well and had trouble keeping weight on. He did his best to compete in the scrimmages but felt off and had no idea why.
Two weeks after the camp ended he got the answer: He had Type I Diabetes.
That’s a tough blow for a kid who was on the door step of fulfilling his dream and presented an uncertain path forward. He says that his family gathered and discussed his hockey future and how to proceed with treatment.
“It was really hard,” he says. “It was a total family decision (to continue playing) at that point. My parents said, ‘We know you can do this but we want you to take the time to do this.’ “
He took a step back and says that over the last year, thanks to his doctors in Arizona, he has learned to manage the diabetes while playing hockey. He wears devices that help him regulate his health and medication needs and says that it has become routine for him, as routine as checking your cell phone for messages.
A lot of players would pack it in, but Ormsby never gave up hope.
“There were people who said ‘no way’ and I thought ‘I’ll show you,’ ” he says. “My No. 1 goal has always been to play for the Thunderbirds.”
He’s also aware that as an athlete with diabetes, he has the potential to inspire young people with diabetes and other ailments. It’s something he doesn’t intend to shy away from.
“I want to be a role model,” Ormsby says. “I want to show people that it’s possible to do whatever you want. It’s not going to hold you back. That was my mindset when I got diagnosed. I wanted to prove all these people wrong.”
Ormsby is also serious about the game of hockey.
He was impressive in his second training camp this past September and is a player who fits the Seattle system. He’s physical, plays with tempo and sometimes can be a bit of an agitator.
“I like to be fast and I love getting in people’s faces,” he says. “That’s just part of my game, high energy. I want to bring the team up, be part of the team and be an impact player.”
When he left camp this fall he got some encouragement from the Thunderbirds coaches, something that inspired him to go full tilt when he got back to Phoenix. He admits that he worked so hard that his parents had to slow him down from time to time.
That work paid off and Ormsby has turned in a solid year for the Coyotes so far. He potted 10 goals in the team’s first 23 games and has more than doubled his point totals from last season already.
Monroe is normally Everett Silvertips country but Ormsby said he’s always been loyal to the Thunderbirds. He played for the Sno-King Junior Thunderbirds, which he says helped shape his rooting interests.
Living close to Xfinity Arena in Everett did allow him opportunities to go see his favorite team on the road. He says he would often catch Seattle in Everett and would always sit near the visiting team’s bench to watch all the action. He cites former T-Birds Thomas Hickey and more recently Justin Hickman among his favorite Seattle players that he’s watched over the years.
When he hit the ice Tuesday evening he joined former T-Birds Doug Bonner, Micky Doner and Tom Sprague as the only Puget Sound area products to play for Seattle.
Ormsby intends on soaking up as much as he can over the next couple of weeks before heading back to Phoenix. He plans on working over the summer with the goal to come back to camp in the fall to make the Seattle roster opening day.
“There’s a picture my mom took of me stepping on the ShoWare ice when I was young with the Sno-King Thunderbirds jersey on,” he says. “I look at that and think ‘If I could do it then, I can do it now’… It’s go time.”
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.