SEATTLE — From 2003-2008, whenever the Everett Silvertips hit the road to play the Seattle Thunderbirds, they hopped on the bus for the 30-mile ride down I-5 to KeyArena.
At the time KeyArena was poorly suited to junior hockey. The building was too big for junior games, so the upper level would be tented off, creating a cavernous feel. The rink also wasn’t centered on the stands, so one whole end zone of seats had to be removed, and a curtain was raised to provide the backdrop.
On Feb. 26 the Tips are heading back to that location for the first time in 13 years, but this time they and their fans will be treated to the state-of-the-art hockey experience.
The Tips and the T-birds will be squaring off against one another at Climate Pledge Arena, the brand-spanking-new home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, on Feb. 26 in a regular season game that’s being dubbed the “Battle of the Sound.”
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” Everett chief operating officer Zoran Rajcic said. “We have guys who have played in NHL rinks before in Calgary and Edmonton, but this being a new arena and local, I think the kids will be excited.”
Feb. 26 was originally Seattle’s home date, and Rajcic said the T-birds were 99% responsible for making the game at Climate Pledge Arena happen. The game will also be part of Seattle’s annual Hockey Challenge charity event, with the game being followed by a celebrity All-Star game. A portion of the proceeds from the night will go toward Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington and Alaska.
The game also has a chance to be crucial in the playoff race. Everett and Seattle currently sit 1-2 in the U.S. Division, so the game on Feb. 26 could have major seeding implications.
“I imagine it will be quite the experience, because it’s unlike any other arena in the NHL right now,” Rajcic said. “I have a feeling it will be a good time for the kids. Hopefully at the end of the day they’re able to focus right back in, because we’re in a tight race with (Seattle) and that game will be very important to us, especially that late in the season.”
Tickets to the Feb. 26 game go on sale to season ticket holders of the Tips, T-birds and Kraken on Friday, while sales to the general public begin Monday. Rajcic said he believes tickets are only being sold in the lower bowl to start, but that more seats could open up should sales go well.
One thing that could threaten the game is the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday the WHL paused team activities for three more teams because of positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff, meaning five of the league’s 22 teams are currently on hold. All five teams are in the Eastern Conference, but Rajcic is aware that any team could get hit.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind from before the season started, so it is one of the fears I have,” Rajcic said. “We know it’s coming rapidly and tough to stop. As of right now we’ve been very fortunate, but tomorrow brings another day and there’s always the chance it could come on very quickly for us.”
Former Tip Wolf receives AHL honor
Former Everett goaltender Dustin Wolf, who currently plays for the AHL’s Stockton Heat, was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for December.
Wolf, who played for Everett from 2017-21 and twice received the Del Wilson Trophy as the WHL’s Goaltender of the Year, was a perfect 7-0-0 in December, compiling a 1.40 goals against average and .951 save percentage. The California native, who currently resides in Lake Stevens, is having a stellar first season in the professional ranks, going 15-0-2 with a 1.79 goals against average and .942 save percentage.
Wolf recently received his first call-up to the NHL, when he served as the Calgary Flames’ emergency back-up for a game at Seattle on Dec. 30.