Q&A with Everett Silvertips owner Bill Yuill

Everett Silvertips owner Bill Yuill

Everett Silvertips owner Bill Yuill

Everett Silvertips owner and CEO/governor Bill Yuill was in town last weekend from Medicine Hat, Alberta. I spoke with Yuill during the second intermission at last Friday’s game against the Kamloops Blazers.

Q: When you sold the Seattle Thunderbirds (in 2002) to start this venture did you imagine it would be this successful?

A: We hoped it would be, with a big building like this. You always want to get as many people as you can. It was a struggle in the early days – a bit of a struggle. But we were pretty competitive that first year and that surely helped… I was surprised at the lack of hockey knowledge here (at the time) because we’re so close to Seattle. But people up here didn’t know about it. They were football-oriented. So it was a bit of a learning curve, and I know (head coach) Kevin Constantine when he was here he had a thing called “Hockey in Heels” and women would come over and he’d do the white board stuff and all that. So it was a bit of a learning curve and the crowds were pretty skinny in the early days until about Christmas when we started getting pretty successful on the ice.

Q: How did you settle on Everett for the expansion location?

A: Seattle was changing. We were having issues with the arena and the traffic was getting awful. We were living in Bellevue and Woodinville and places like that and had to come downtown (for games). It was kind of all that. And then Ed Hansen who was the mayor here in Everett was looking around to do something for the downtown and they thought it would be good to have an arena. We hooked up with them and took them around and showed them what the Western Hockey League was like, and the kind of buildings they had in the Western Hockey League. He went for it, and the city voted it in, and here we are.

Q: You were once involved in trying to bring an NHL team to Seattle in the late 1980s and early 1990s, correct?

A: We were involved in some land deals down there way back when, but it didn’t work out, so we moved on.

Q: How often are you able to make it out here to watch the Silvertips?

A: I try to get out here a couple times a month, but I’ve been kind of busy lately so I haven’t been here. I think the last time I was out here was before Christmas, so it’s been a while, but the playoffs are coming up, so hopefully we’ll get out here a little more often.

Q: Did you expect this particular team to be doing as well as it has?

A: You know, it’s hard to say because the league varies. These are good, hard-working kids and they’re really a good bunch of kids. When you get a good bunch of kids together and you get coaching behind them it’s amazing how these kids react. And it’s a pretty young team so they should be all right as they grow and develop over the next couple of years. But I think they’re out-performing expectations.

Q: I’m not sure if you saw this, but the Tips signed their first kid from Snohomish County (last Thursday).

A: Yeah, yeah, I talked to him (Thursday) night. Wyatte (Wylie). That’s fabulous. We had a little (event on Thursday) night and his mom and dad were there. He’s back with Dallas, but we’re looking for big things. He’s a good lad and that’s a good program. I was saying to him last night, we’re trying to develop the minor systems around here, get more kids involved…and just get more of those kids engaged in the game. We’ve got a couple other minor franchises in the east – in Illinois and down in Texas – and we’re finding a lot of the kids now are going toward hockey because there is ice all over the place. A lot of them are saying they’re too small to play basketball and they’re a little concerned about the injuries in football, so a lot of kids are gravitating toward ice hockey in (non-traditional areas).

Q: Do you still own part of the Toronto Blue Jays?

A: No, no, I was just involved with them – I never had any part of ownership. I was with them for 26 years (as owner of the Medicine Hat Blue Jays, the team’s affiliate in the Rookie-level Pioneer League) and still know a lot of the guys who were involved with it then.

Q: Do you still follow the Blue Jays pretty closely?

A: The guard changes and you get different guys in there and you don’t have the same connections, but yeah, I keep in touch with some of them.

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