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Getting to know your local American WHL Team!

Jun 24, 2023

While the Kraken are the main focus of this site and of course, your hockey content world, the reality of modern sports is that most people will probably only get to see a game or two a year in person due to the inherent realities of inflation, ticket pricing, and hellacious food/beverage pricing. Many would rather go to a bar with a friend and watch the game from across a crowded room, or sit in their underwear and eat cold takeout while watching a game from the comfort of your own home and there is no shame in either of those things!

But hockey is closer than you know, and perhaps easier to get into than you think. This is where the local team can be a major boon. For some parts of the country, such as the Northeast or Midwest, there’s an AHL team or a College squad that garners interest locally when the National team is just too expensive to visit for the average fan.

For the Pacific Northwest however, there’s Canadian Junior’s WHL league, and the WHL loves Washington State (and Oregon). While an overwhelming majority of it’s teams currently reside in Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia north of the border and it’s most decorated squad is in Kamloops, the WHL’s most enduring franchises often are found on the American side of the Cascades; often with many a great memory and milestone being put into these teams’ hands. While the hockey isn’t as crisp as it is in the NHL, it’s a golden opportunity to see a number of major prospects before they make their way to either the Draft hall, or to their NHL teams. It’s also uniformly cheaper, too.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to your local team, and encourage you to maybe give them a try if you’re looking for a little weekend entertainment this fall/winter that’s actually affordable.

The T-Birds don’t need much introduction, we covered their rise to the WHL’s championship, and their run to the memorial cup on Beneath the Frozen Sea. Still, it’s good to get re-acquainted!

The T-Birds are one of the Washington originals and the local fanbase shows out big for them; playing in front of some of the largest crowds in the WHL, and fighting like demons for every scrap of success they’ve gotten.

Part of why the T-Birds have been so beloved in their local area is just how hard it’s been for the T-Birds to come into success; even in their best years, it took them actual decades to ever come close enough to winning the WHL outright. Their first conference championship came in ’97, and their first Ed Chynoweth cup came all the way in 2016. This last season was one of the closest times they’ve ever gotten to the Memorial Cup, but even that still eludes them. It hurts even more seeing their rival in Portland gather all the accolades that, in the minds of many, probably should’ve been Seattle’s.

If nothing else, they definitely embody the Seattle sports experience the best out of any of the US Division’s WHL teams.

Everett plays host to the Silvertips, one of the newest teams in the league; playing just a little bit north of Kent. This, naturally, has engendered an extremely vicious rivalry with the T-Birds; almost as brutal as their rivalry with Portland. Really, if you’re in a major metro area in the PNW; it’s generally accepted that the Silvertips hate you, and will do whatever they can to beat you. It’s paid dividends too, as the Silvertips have spent much of the mid-to-late 2010’s as the US Division’s regular season boogeyman; finishing in or near the top 2 in division since 2013. It has yet to translate into hardware for them however, as the Silvertips have only two conference championships to their name, and their attempts at the WHL Championship have been gruesome. They expect to change that however, as they maneuver their way into a new age.

Most recently however, the Silvertips and their management have been under investigation for a myriad of things. Nothing has stuck to them yet, but it does cast a bit of a pall over a team that’s otherwise been extremely strong over the last few years.

You’ll be able to watch Kraken prospect Kaden Hammell play if you attend these games this year!

While they moved to Washington state in the 80’s, the Amerks have an incredible history as one of the oldest teams in the league, and have been through quite a bit in their history. They’ve survived bankruptcies, overzealous training staff, and bad owners to become a Kennewick institution. They’re innovators as well, having the first woman to compete in the WHL (Shannon Szabados) wear their sweater, the first goalie goal in the WHL from Kölzig, . While innovators, the highest level of on-ice success they can claim is a string of divisional wins in the late 2000’s, and have never been WHL Champions, despite having plenty of opportunity to do so, and are just itching to rectify this however they can.

They’re also deeply active in the Kennewick community; doing all sorts of charity work throughout the year and; with the highlight being the Teddy Bear Toss; a concept they helped popularize alongside the Kamloops Blazers.

Their rivalry with Spokane is often some of the fiercest in the league, and the annual New Year’s Eve game draws quite a lot of interest, as it no doubt will this year.

You’ll be able to see Kraken Prospect Lukas Dragicevic if you attend these games this year!

The Spokane Chiefs haven’t been great for awhile. One might even say they’ve been pretty bad through the last couple of years and this last season punctuated it. But don’t let that fool you; this is a team that, when things start to go their way, they usually end up winning huge.

The Chiefs came to Spokane in 1985, and are generally known for their 1991 and 2008 teams, where they became the most decorated of all the Washington state teams; finishing up the period between 1990 and 2010 with 2 Ed Chynoweth Cups and 2 Memorial Cups.

Famously, they also broke the highest honor that can be bestowed on a CHL team…the Memorial Cup.


They also managed to successfully play the WHL’s first ever outdoor game, which was mired in concerns that they’d be able to even hold the event due to a litany of outside factors. Thankfully they didn’t break any trophies that game and won in convincing fashion, so it’s all good!

Though don’t expect them to be down in the dumps for too long; they’ve recently picked up some pretty strong talent, and are looking to bring some real energy back to the US Division.

The Winterhawks are the most decorated of the PNW Junior teams; with three Ed Chynoweth Cups, 4 Conference Championships, and Two Memorial Cups to their name. They got all that hardware primarily by being one of the most prolific NHL Player factories in the sport; being THE place in the WHL to find future NHL talent historically. Here is a quick list of the guys they count among their Alumni:

All of that? Just a sampler. Still yet more may end up being Winterhawks down the line. They’re in a bit of a down period right now, but watch out…these ‘Hawks are scary good at identifying talent.

You may also recognize that they have very sharp, modern logos on their sweaters these days. This is because their previous logos were wholesale lifted from the Blackhawks due to playing in actual hand-me-down Blackhawks gear and it just kinda…stuck. It never quite made sense from a number of different perspectives and often made it seem like the Winterhawks were in fact a minor league squad for the Blackhawks, until at long last choosing to move on from the old identity in 2021.

Now, they plan on bringing glory back to the city of Roses under hopefully less objectionable threads. They might just do it, too.

We’ve already covered their coming into existence and the discussion around that, but there’s no reason not to re-welcome them! They’ll be playing in a tough US Division this year, and we wish them luck.

Because they’re probably gonna need it.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick little detour through the Junior ranks, because after today?

We’re gearing up to talk about the pros.

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