T-BIRDS: An A to Z guide to the newest ticket in town

An A to Z guide to the newest ticket in town

An A to Z guide to the newest ticket in town

On Saturday, the Seattle Thunderbirds officially come to Kent.

After waiting more than three years for the completion of the $84.5 million ShoWare Center, the Thunderbirds will take to the ice in their new home with a 7:05 p.m. contest against the Everett Silvertips, a Western Hockey League rival.

Although Kent is no stranger to amateur hockey, with the Kent Valley Ice Center and Kent Valley Hockey Association already active in the city, many of the fans turning out for the debut of Kent’s new franchise may be new to the sport. In order to assist those fans, and hopefully entertain old ones, the Reporter presents an A-to-Z hockey primer, a guide to the sport in general, the Thunderbirds and WHL specifically.

A — Alternate captain: Players with the letter ‘A’ on their jersey are alternate captains, who assist the captain (the player with the ‘C’ on their jersey). Captains and alternates are the only players who are allowed to talk to referees on the ice about calls. In theory.

B — Blue line: The ice in hockey is divided into three parts by the two blue lines – an offensive zone, a defensive zone and the neutral zone. A team’s goal is in their defensive zone. The opposing team’s goal is in the defensive zone. The middle is the neutral zone.

C — Checking: This is the process of keeping an opposing player, usually the one with the puck, in check. There are several types of checking, some legal some not. The most common is body or hip checking.

D — Developmental hockey: The Thunderbirds are a minor league hockey team, responsible with developing promising players for the next level, usually the National Hockey League.

E — Empty net: When a team is down by more than two goals late in the game it will often pull its goalie to allow for more skaters, or offensive players. When the opposing team scores, it is called an empty netter.

F — Face-off: This is where it all begins. Both teams face off at center ice, with two players fighting for possession of the puck after the referee drops it. Face-offs also take place when a puck leaves the ice.

G — Goalie: The last line of defense. These heavily armored players try to deny the pucks entry into the goal. The Thunderbirds currently carry three goalies on their roster: Calvin Pickard, Jacob De Serres and Kyle Jahraus.

H — Hickey, Thomas: Thunderbird defenseman Thomas Hickey was the No. 4 pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2007 National Hockey League entry draft. Hickey, a native of Calgary, Alberta, also plays for the Canadian junior hockey team and helped lead them to a gold medal last season. This season, Hickey has six goals and 12 assists for the T-birds.

I — Icing: If a player dumps the puck beyond an opposing team’s goal line and the puck is touched by a member of the opposing team icing is called. This rule is void if the team with the puck is playing shorthanded.

J — Jacobs, Colin: Look for this kid. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward from Coppell, Texas, Jacobs was selected 47th overall by the Thunderbirds in the 2007 WHL Bantam draft. Jacobs has already played a couple of games for the team and should join them full time soon.

K — Kent-Meridian High School: High-school-aged Thunderbird players who are billeted with local families during the season attend this East Hill school.

L — Lord Stanley’s Cup: Since 1893 National Hockey League teams have vied for the Stanley Cup, awarded to the winner of the playoffs.

M — Memorial Cup: Since 1919, teams from the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have played in a four-team championship tournament to claim the Memorial Cup.

N — National Hockey League: The highest level of professional hockey. Several players on the Thunderbirds are already members of NHL organizations, and are playing to further develop their skills before they jump to the big league.

O — O’Brien, Jim: Minnesota-born center Jim O’Brien is the second-leading scorer on the Thunderbirds with 11 goals and 19 assists. O’Brien was selected 29th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

P — Power play: A power play occurs when one team has more players on the ice than the other team, usually due to a player serving time in the penalty box due to an infraction.

Q — Quality education: In addition to committing to provide players with the opportunity to develop their skills on the ice, the WHL provides all players with scholarships to the college of their choice. For each year the player is in the league, he receives a year of tuition.

R — Rai, Prab: Thunderbird left wing Prab Rai is currently the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals and 14 assists. The Vancouver Canucks drafted Rai in 2008.

S — ShoWare Center: This Saturday the Thunderbirds will take to the ice in their brand new 6,113 seat, $84.5 million arena. Funded by the city of Kent, the center will also be available for use as a concert venue.

T — Thunderbirds: In 1977, the Seattle Breakers complete their first full season in Washington after relocating from Kamloops, British Columbia. The team changed its name to the Thunderbirds in 1985.

U — Uniform: Because hockey is a full-contact sport with pucks flying on the ice at speed of up to 100 miles per hour, protection is vital. Equipment includes helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, protective gloves, padded shorts, shin pads, chest protectors, mouth guards, and a neck guard. For goalies, the pads are larger and more protective.

V — Victory: Currently, the Thunderbirds have 14 victories and 17 losses.

W — Western Hockey League: Formed with seven teams in 1966 in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Western Hockey league currently has 22 teams in the U.S. and Canada.

X — Cross-checking: Cross-checking is an infraction where a player checks another with both hands on the stick and no part of the stick touching the ice. This will usually result in a 2-minute minor penalty.

Y — “Youngblood”: A 1986 Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze movie detailing the travails of a hockey player on a Canadian junior hockey team. Also stars Keanu Reeves. “Slapshot,” starring Paul Newman and the Hanson Brothers, is much better.

Z — Zamboni: During the breaks between periods at hockey games, it is Zamboni time. Invented in California in 1949 by Frank J. Zamboni, the Zamboni reconditions the surface of the ice rink by shaving off a thin layer of ice and laying new water to freeze.