Let me tell you a story about James Stucky.
The Everett Silvertips were holding their training camp ahead of the 2007-08 season and Stucky, who served as Everett’s equipment manager from the team’s origin in 2003 until being hired by the NHL’s Seattle Kraken this offseason, decided he wanted to pull a fast one on the team’s new radio broadcaster, Jon Rosen.
A local player who was brought to camp to fill out the numbers walked into the rink carrying his goalie pads, and when Rosen asked Stucky who it was Stucky told Rosen it was star netminder Leland Irving, just back from training camp with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Rosen entered into a conversation with the player — I wish I could remember his name — who played along and pretended he was Irving. Depending on who you talk to, either Stucky got Rosen good, or Rosen was just going along with the gag.
That moment typified Stucky’s tenure with the Tips. Perhaps no other individual made coming to the rink more fun.
“He was definitely one of the pranksters on the team,” said Silvertips CEO Zoran Rajcic, who is the last remaining employee who’s has been with the franchise since day one now that Stucky has departed. “You could always count on Stucks to get something going with the players, whether it was during a team meal, on the team bus or wherever.”
Stucky, who was hired as an assistant equipment manager by the Kraken, returns to Everett for one last go-around Friday night when the Kraken face the Edmonton Oilers in a preseason game at Angel of the Winds Arena.
The 47-year-old Stucky, who grew up in Burien and caught the equipment-managing bug while serving as a stick boy for the Seattle Thunderbirds, arrived in Everett after spending eight years working for minor-league teams. In 18 seasons with the Tips he missed just one game, that being for the birth of his daughter Grace.
So Stucky is a part of the entirety of Everett’s history. He was there for the unbelievable ride during the inaugural season, when the Tips shocked the WHL by winning the U.S. Division and Western Conference championships as an expansion team. And he was there for the infamous ride when then-coach Kevin Constantine forced the team to wear its gear on the bus home from Kennewick following a preseason loss in 2006.
And the entire time, whether he was sharing amusing anecdotes in the green room before home games or pulling pranks on whoever happened to be Everett’s broadcaster at the moment, Stucky was making people laugh.
“The one that always gets so many laughs is from the first year,” Stucky said. “The guy who was (the mascot) Lincoln that first year was a really nice guy, but kind of goofy, and somehow we got into a practical joke war with him. It was (trainer) Bob Hamre and myself, and every game we were doing something. He had a huge sign made of old wooden hockey sticks that had “Go” on one side and “Tips” on the other. So we took a hacksaw and cut three-quarters through the handle, and he was at center ice with the spotlights on him and held the sign to one side of the arena and the whole side goes, “Go!” then he thrusts it to the other side and the thing buckles and lands at center ice.”
Stucky wasn’t just around for comic relief, however. As equipment manager he served a vital role on the team. One thing most probably don’t realize is that Stucky’s duties with the Tips went beyond sharpening skates and sewing name bars on the back of jerseys, as he was also responsible for organizing the team’s travel, lodging and meals for road games. That led to some scrambling during Everett’s record-setting five-overtime playoff victory at Victoria in 2017.
“That one was crazy,” Stucky said. “Between periods I was putting our dinner on hold. It was an afternoon game and we were supposed to take the ferry home that night, but the last boat off the island is at 9:00 or 10:00, and I think after the third overtime Constantine says, ‘We’re not going to make the ferry,’ so I’m scrambling to see if we can get our hotel rooms back. It was an awkward night because there were so many different balls to juggle.”
Stucky also had a special rapport with the fans, particularly those seated near the tunnel that runs between Everett’s bench and locker room, which was his domain. Over the years he gave away countless game pucks that flew out of play, as well as hockey sticks that had snapped in half, to young Tips fans.
“You have to be careful, you can’t have kids coming down to the bench screaming for freebies, so you have to pick your spots,” Stucky said. “Every once in a while I’d see a father and son or father and daughter and not recognize them and think, ‘This could be a great opportunity to totally sear this night in some little boy’s or girl’s mind. I kind of looked for those opportunities. Another fun part of being in Everett so long is that I knew the season ticket holders around the tunnel area, and we always had an understanding that if a puck came off the ice close to me and I’d pick it up, I could turn around and one of the families would point out a little boy or little girl, because they knew who the new fans were.”
Stucky chased his NHL dream throughout his tenure with Everett, coming as close to being choice 1B when the Tampa Bay Lightning were hiring about a decade ago. In the end it couldn’t have worked out better for Stucky, as connections and persistence resulted in him getting a job with his hometown NHL team. He won’t even have to move from his Everett home.
And he’ll always cherish his years with the Tips.
“I’m so grateful that they gave me 18 years of trusting me and giving me an awesome place to go to work,” Stucky said. “I loved going to work every morning, it was just so easy. It was like a family.”
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.