Hometown Heroes

Cheer up, fellas. Prohibition will be over soon.

Seattle Hockey Partners, the ownership group behind the NHL’s franchise in Seattle, recently held a ceremony honoring two of the area’s most talented and (at the time) famous professional hockey players. Guyle Fielder, the fourth most prolific scorer in North American professional hockey, and Jim Powers, a teammate of Fielder’s on the Seattle Totems in the 1950’s and 60’s, were feted by NHL Seattle’s CEO Tod Leiweke and President of Hockey Operations Dave Tippett.

NHL Seattle wanted to make sure that Seattle’s rich hockey history was brought to the forefront in the run-up to the 2021-22 puck-drop in the Pacific Northwest. But as I got deeper into the details of Fielder’s and Powers’ careers, I noticed something they weren’t mentioning in their bios.

Guyle Fielder is from Idaho, not Seattle, and was raised in Saskatchewan. And while he is the fourth-most prolific scorer in professional hockey (notice the intentional distinction from the NHL), those goals were for the WHL’s Seattle Totems — a minor league team. Fielder’s NHL accomplishments end at 15 games for Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, totaling 0 points and 4 penalty minutes. He is, more or less, hockey’s version of Crash Davis.

Jim Powers is from Claresholm, Alberta, and never played a game in the NHL.

So the sentiment is there, but they had to search long and hard to find anyone in hockey history who would qualify as a hometown hero, and really didn’t come up with anyone that could be put on a pedestal or warrant having a statue of them erected outside the arena. They gave Fielder a locker stall in the Seattle NHL display, so that’s something.

But surely there have been more players actually from Seattle in the NHL, right? We’re the 22nd largest city, 15th largest metropolitan area when you include Tacoma, Olympia, and Bellevue. There has to be somebody in the modern era that qualifies.

Turns out, I am disappoint.

In the entire history of the NHL, there is one — count him, one — player who can honestly list Seattle as his hometown. Tom Bissett, who racked up zero points and a minus-4 ranking in his five games with the Red Wings in 1990-91. Add in Tacoma, and you find another one — Curtis Hamilton, who hit the scoresheet with nothing but a fighting major while playing a single game for Edmonton in 2014-15.

That’s all, folks. I’m not kidding. Six games played, no points, five penalty minutes. I think the most depressing thing about doing this research is finding out that there are 6 players from Spokane, including Tyler Johnson and Derek Ryan who combine for just over 700 games played and 415 points. What the hell are we doing wrong that they seem to be able to do in friggin’ Spokane?

Looking briefly at the rest of the state, you have Aberdeen’s own Wayne Hicks, who hoisted the Stanley Cup as a member of the 1960-61 Chicago Black Hawks (yes, it’s correct, the name was changed to ‘Blackhawks’ in 1986). When he gets asked about it at parties, I doubt he mentions the fact that he played precisely one game for them that year. Continuing with the Blackhawks, there was first-round flame-out Ty Jones from Richland, a monument to underachievement, and his 14 NHL games with Chicago and Florida. He then spent the rest of his pro hockey career trying to break the AHL record for penalty minutes by a first-round draft pick.

But, as I’m sure you know, there is a bright light. 90 minutes up the road is the sleepy berg of Mt. Vernon, home to St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals star T.J. Oshie, who boasts 500+ points in 734 games, and whose name is now emblazoned on Lord Stanley’s Cup as a member of the Caps in 2018.

So why not make him the centerpiece of the new franchise in Seattle? Well… I wouldn’t get your hopes up. At the start of the 2021-22 season Oshie will still have 4 years left on a contract paying him $5.75 million per, and his no-movement clause allows him to partially dictate which teams he can to be traded to. He’ll also be 35 years old, and may have added a concussion or two to the five he’s suffered as of this writing.

So while it might make for good PR to trade for him during the run-up to the expansion draft, such a move is unlikely, and probably foolish. Better to wait until he retires, then bring him on as an amateur scout or Assistant Coach with the farm club.

(*sigh*)

These things are generational, and so with a well-funded, well-promoted NHL team about to take the ice here, the interest and support structure for youth hockey in the Seattle area has already started to take root and blossom. In 25 years, we will begin seeing Seattle-born players taking the ice with teams all over the world.

Hopefully, before we know it, one of them will be pulling on a Seattle jersey on draft day.

Author: Tim Currell

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