By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — They come with loud cowbells and, sometimes, louder hairdos to cheer on Everett’s boys of winter.
“It’s my passion!” said season-ticketholder Dana Hanner of Arlington. “I even have a giant, antique cowbell that I had custom painted with the logo! It’s a big hit!”
The players have returned the favor by putting on a show.
The Tips opened their 10th anniversary season at Comcast Arena on Saturday against the Prince George Cougars — the same team they faced in their inaugural home game on Oct. 4, 2003.
The arrival of WHL hockey has given Everett fans chances to see spectacular goals and painful hits, at home and on the road.
They’ve witnessed the growth of future NHL players, including Peter Mueller (Florida Panthers) and defenseman Ryan Murray, selected as the No. 2 overall draft pick this year by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
We asked readers to share their favorite Tips memories. And they had quite a few.
Guy Sykes, who lives in south Everett’s Silver Lake neighborhood, reveled in the memory of hearing the goal horn sound during the first-ever home game.
“Everett was down in what we all hoped would be a win when (forward) Curtis Billsten put one in,” Sykes wrote. “It was music!”
Later that season, Frankie Wilbanks, of Marysville, traveled to Kelowna, B.C., to watch the Tips win the Western Conference. The trip up included a short stretch driving through blinding snow.
“I became known as Grandma Silvertip that first year and I love hockey and I love my Silvertips,” Wilbanks said. “Go Tips!”
Starting during the club’s rookie year, fans were excited to watch the tough-guy exploits of defenseman Mitch Love, now an assistant coach for the team.
Hanner, the fan with the antique cowbell, remembered what she called “a historic fight” between Love and Zack Fitzgerald of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“Of course Mitch won!” she wrote.
“Amazing!” she said. “I’ll never forget it!”
Deb Nordstrom of Everett recalled Love throwing his arms into the air after his first fight as a Silvertip.
“The atmosphere was PURE adrenaline and it was AWESOME!” she wrote. “I was hooked right then.”
Nordstrom’s favorite Tips memory didn’t involve hockey players, though.
It was when she and her husband, Jerry, won the chance to enter a Silvertips fan competition that involved shooting the most goals in 30 seconds. Ahead of the March 2006 contest, her husband practiced until his elbows and shoulders hurt. He won.
Nordstrom can’t remember how much money they got, but it’s easy for her to recall the playoff game they watched from the Tips suite, part of their prize.
“We had a great time at the play-off game and brought some friends and family who had never been,” Nordstrom wrote.
Mary Chesnut was unable to take in the Tips’ inaugural season because she was deployed with the U.S. Army in Kuwait. Still, she did lend her support from overseas by wearing a Tips shirt that a friend mailed to her. Later, she was thrilled when a fellow soldier came up and asked if she knew her team was in the finals.
“I carry a Tips hockey puck when I am deployed,” Chesnut wrote. “It has been to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan twice!
“I am back now so I will be able to watch the Tips this season. Go Tips!”
Craig, Kerri and Victoria Willis of Everett had trouble picking their favorite Silvertips moment. They had three.
The first: a brutal hip check by Tips defenseman Radko Gudas in November 2009 that caused Seattle’s Prab Rai to flip over.
“That hip check on Prab Rai is still one of the most brutal hip checks my wife and I have ever seen in the WHL,” Craig Willis wrote.
The second: Zach Hamill’s between-the-legs shootout goal against Seattle in December 2006.
The third, and the best of all: Victoria, Craig and Kerri’s daughter, being born on Dec. 27, 2009 — the same night center Tyler Maxwell scored a hat trick.
Barbara Gust of Lynnwood reminisced about watching Everett play their archrivals, the Seattle Thunderbirds, at Comcast one night in December 2006. Things were looking bleak, with the home team down 3-0 after two periods.
“Finally in the third, the Tips came alive, scoring twice,” Gust wrote. “(W)ith four seconds left in regulation, Peter Mueller buried a one-timer for the tying goal. The Tips went on to win the game 4-3 in a shootout.”
The biggest thrills for some spectators came on the road.
Marty and Gloria Wlazlak of Everett remember going with a group of Everett fans to a game in Vancouver, B.C., after a bitter playoff loss the season before.
“The section with 20 or so Silvertip fans was the loudest section in the arena all night,” they wrote.
Jonathan Harty scored the tying goal and the Silvertips went on to win in a shootout. Silvertips goalie David Reekie was named the first star.
“When he came out to accept the award, he skated to center ice and raised his stick to our section in salute to the fans,” they wrote. “A fantastic end to a close and emotional game.”
Gary Beane of Gold Bar traveled with his wife to a game in Portland during the 2010-11 season.
After a tough loss, Ryan Murray accepted his third star-of-the-game award, with a gift that he threw over to the Beanes in the audience.
“We opened it and it was a Portland Winterhawks T-shirt,” he wrote. “I told my wife that was awesome of him but we can’t wear another team’s gear.”
Outside, they gave the T-shirt to a man and his son — Winterhawks fans — they saw walking down the sidewalk. They told them the shirt came from Murray, whom they accurately predicted would one day play in the NHL.
“The man said, ‘Thanks,’ and the boy looked very happy,” Beane wrote.
Hundreds of stalwart Tips fans have had season tickets since day one. Zoran Rajcic, the team’s executive vice president and assistant general manager, tallied up 197 accounts with tickets for all 10 seasons — more than 500 individual tickets in all.
That loyal group includes retirees Shirley and Ron Olsen, of Everett, who always sit about five rows off the ice on the side where the Silvertips shoot during first and third periods.
A special Tips memory for Shirley Olsen came at least a year before the team was born, when she and her husband traveled to a WHL game in Red Deer, Alberta. The couple was surprised to see Everett’s then-Mayor Ed Hansen at the game.
“I knew something was up because there was no reason for him to be in Red Deer,” she said.
When she saw Hansen again at a game in Calgary, she knew her suspicions were well-placed.
“I said, ‘Uh oh, we’re going to get a hockey team,’ ” she said. “It was before they even announced there was going to be an arena.”
Fellow retirees Larry and Susan Hawk, of Marysville, have a perch on the west end of Comcast Arena, under an advertising sign in the last row in the section.
“It’s not critical for us to be right down on the glass when the boys are a half an inch away from you; that’s not our style of hockey,” Larry Hawk said.
The Hawks have been tireless Silvertips boosters from the start and even hosted forward Tyler Dietrich in their home for part of the first season.
Larry Hawk hopes the best moments on ice are yet to come.
“I’d like to see us win the Memorial Cup this year,” he said. “That would really help to put a good cap on the 10th-year anniversary.”
Everett takes the ice against the Cougars again Sunday at 5:05 p.m.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, email@example.com.
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