Thunderbirds to gear up for their third appearance in Memorial Cup presented by Kia

Zachary Peters

The Seattle Thunderbirds are flying high after being crowned 2023 WHL Champions on May 19, when they defeated the Winnipeg ICE in Game 5 of the WHL Championship Series presented by Nutrien.

But, while ecstatic with the achievement, the job is not quite done for the Club based out of Kent, Wash.

The Thunderbirds’ second WHL Championship came with an invitation to attend the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia. As newly minted WHL Champions, Seattle won the opportunity to represent the League in the CHL-wide, season-culminating tournament known as the Memorial Cup.

This marks just the second time in franchise history where the Thunderbirds received an invite to the Memorial Cup and third time they will participate in the tournament.

Seattle’s first appearance in the tournament came over three decades ago, when the Club was selected to host the 1992 Memorial Cup. The tournament would also mark the first, and only time, the Seattle Thunderbirds and Kamloops Blazers would participate in the same Memorial Cup prior to this year’s event.

The Thunderbirds recorded their first ever win during the Memorial Cup in their first game of the 1992 tournament, when they slipped past the QMJHL’s Verdun Collège Français, 5-3. Despite starting on the right note, the Thunderbirds’ inaugural tournament ended in the semifinals as they fell to the eventual winners from Kamloops.

While the 1992 Memorial Cup was the first time Seattle attended the tournament, the 2017 Memorial Cup marked the first time the Club represented the WHL as its champions.

Seattle cemented their spot in the tournament by besting the Regina Pats in the 2017 WHL Championship Series. This win signified the first WHL Championship in Thunderbirds franchise history.

Unfortunately, the Thunderbirds met a similar demise in their second attempt at a Memorial Cup. The U.S. Division team was eliminated from contention following a challenging preliminary round. Current New York Islander, Mathew Barzal led the Thunderbirds in points with two assists in three games.

While the Thunderbirds’ two previous outings at the Memorial Cup haven’t gone in their favour, there is plenty of hope surrounding their current roster.

Figure headed by two-time WHL Champion and Arizona Coyotes prospect, Dylan Guenther, the present-day Thunderbirds are a team to watch out for.

Five Thunderbirds skaters — Brad Lambert, Guenther, Jared Davidson, Jeremy Hanzel and Reid Schaefer — recorded over a point per game in the 2023 WHL Playoffs, while 2023 NHL Draft prospect Thomas Milic was named WHL Playoffs MVP at the conclusion of the WHL Championship Series.

The Seattle Thunderbirds will start their run for the 2023 Memorial Cup on May 27, when they take on the OHL Champions, the Peterborough Petes (7pm MT).

The 2023 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia will run from May 26 to June 4 and each game will be broadcast on TSN and RDS in Canada as well as on NHL Network in the United States. Viewers from outside North America can watch live online on CHL TV.

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