Any way you slice it, this opening night was one for the ages. Not four months but forty years in the making. If you were going to put on a show for the old fans, the new fans, the hockey aficionados and the hockey novices, the old owners and the soon-to-be-new-owners, this was it.
It had a little bit of everything starting with a red carpet arrival on a gloriously sunny early fall day. There was the obligatory video montage recap of the run to the Championship along with the traditional introduction of the entire roster and coaching staff. This all helped to get the sold out building fired up, as if any firing up was needed for the 6,000+ who were ready to burst. But there was so much more before that final horn sounded on the first of 72 games this season.
There was the return of recently "retired" assistant coach Tyler Alos to carry the Chynoweth Cup onto the ice. A terrific choice. Alos, a former player as well, who had been with the team through some of the franchise's darker days, who then helped oversee their climb to glory. A perfect bridge from past to present. What a sight to see him walk through the darkness of the Zamboni gate through fog and laser lights and onto the ice with the Cup.
Then came,what most fans, especially the long suffering fans, had waited for. The raising of not one, but two banners for a second straight home opener. First, the franchise's third Western Conference Championship banner, the second in as many years. A little appetizer before the main course. Like the other two, a banner made up of a white background with T-birds-blue print to proudly proclaim their 2016-17 conference victory.
It was followed in sheer contrast by the franchise's first ever WHL Championship banner. The dark blue background, with white lettering, setting it apart, as it should be, from the other banners in the accesso ShoWare Center rafters. With a spotlight shining on it front and back, it slowly rose up into the night. And as it inched higher and higher the voices of the raucous, sellout crowd rose with it. On the big screen the in-house camera panned the players standing at center ice and you could almost see the adrenalin pumping into their veins.
That might have been enough for most, but there was still the game to be played. A night like this deserved a Hollywood ending. It would have been hard to write a better conclusion to this night then to have it punctuated in the way Seattle won so many games a season ago, on their journey to the top of the WHL mountain; a comeback win.
It was Star Wars-esque in the way it played out and, at least on this night, the Tri-City Americans were more then willing to play the part of the Evil Empire to Seattle's rogue band of rebels. The heavily armed Americans, ranked 7th in the CHL Top Ten preseason poll, delivered the first blow on a 5-on-3 power play. It was much like the Death Star destruction of Alderaan with thousands of voices silenced. The T-birds, undeterred, gamely fought back to take a lead with a pair of markers midway through the first, thanks to a couple Tie Figher Pilots, Andruskiak and Moilanen, veterans of the Clone Wars, also known as the WHL Playoffs. Late in the first period though, Tri-City would pierce the bow of the Millennium Falcon and tie it back up.
In the second period, just when it looked like Seattle was ready to reclaim the lead the shot instead hit the deflector shields. No only did the Dark Side fend off the attack but they caught the T-birds with a flesh wound, scoring shorthanded. The Americans were back up, 3-2. Now it was the Rebel Alliance's turn and Han Solo, in the guise of Elijah Brown, slipped through the forest of Endor and answered back for Seattle to tie the game at three as the two sides headed into the Mos Eisley spaceport cantina for a rest up ahead of the final battle of Good versus Evil.
The third period began. As the Death Star rounded the planet, ready to destroy the rebel base, a young Jedi named Jake Lee summoned the Force, most assuredly from his missing mentor Turner Ottenbreit, and with computer systems off, unleashed a perfect strike into an exhaust porthole only two meters wide. It was like shooting womp rats back home in his T-16.
In the end the Empire was licking their wounds. We know they were beaten but not defeated and will come back for another battle or two. But the rebels too, showed they will not disappear into a galaxy far, far away.