Has there ever been a four month period in Seattle Thunderbirds history like the one the franchise has just experienced? It started last May with the team winning their first ever WHL Championship and concluded this week, on the eve of a brand new season no less, with the team announcing the franchise has been sold, pending approval by the City of Kent and the WHL Board of Governors.
In between, the team saw head coach Steve Konowalchuk exit in June, taking a position as an assistant coach with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. In July assistant coach Matt O'Dette was named as Konowalchuk's replacement. At the same time it was announced that assistant coach Tyler Alos was leaving the organization to pursue an opportunity outside hockey.
That prompted the hiring of two new assistants, Kyle Hagel and Castan Sommer to join O'Dette on the Seattle bench. There was the usual offseason activity such as the trade of Anthony Bishop to Victoria for Blake Bargar and the signing of the team's top three picks from the spring Bantam Draft. Then came the injury to Carl Stankowski at camp with Canada's U-18 team that will keep the T-birds goalie on the shelf until November. Just before training camp head scout Dan McLean accepted a job with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and Mark Romas was chosen as his successor.
Even the building the T-birds play in got an updated name, now known as the accesso ShoWare Center. There were a couple more minor trades that brought Noah Philp and Liam Hughes to the organization. Last week it was announced the Thunderbirds would be honored down in Olympia by Governor Jay Inslee for their 2017 Chynoweth Cup win and Thursday Turner Ottenbreit was announced as this season's team captain.
But the T-birds saved the biggest news for last. A little over 24 hours from raising their Championship banner, they announced the tentative sale of the team to Dan Leckelt and Lindsey Leckelt, Co-CEO’s of Silent-Aire, a company, which according to the team's website engineers and manufactures custom HVAC solutions for data centers, institutions and industrial facilities with over 50 schools alone in Washington State utilizing Silent-Aire equipment. Silent-Aire also engineers and manufactures equipment for the world’s largest hyper scale data center companies. The company has bases in Seattle, Edmonton, Phoenix, Virginia and Ireland.
The prospective owners aren't hockey neophytes either. Both played minor and pro hockey and are owners of the Stony Plain Eagles Senior AAA hockey team as well as the Spruce Grove Jr. A Saints.
If approved, it will mark the first ownership change in club history in nearly two decades. In the early 2000's Russ Farwell, Colin Campbell and their group purchased the club from Bill Yuill. They then built it into a profitable, championship caliber, Major Junior franchise in the WHL's biggest market. That's not an easy task considering the other options in the region vying for the sporting public's dollar. They worked with the City of Kent to cultivate a partnership after moving into the ShowWare Center in 2009. They essentially turned over a good chunk of their fanbase from their KeyArena days. They've embraced their new community and region and the community has embraced them back.
If the sale is approved, both Farwell and Campbell will stay on in their roles as General Manager and Assistant General Manager and continue to help oversee what they have built.