Looking at the (2020-) 2021 Seattle Thunderbirds schedule

376 days.

When the TBirds and Silvertips skated off the ShoWare Center ice on March 8th, 2020, the world had already started changing. And while we all had our thoughts and suspicions, I don’t think anyone knew for sure that it would signify the end of WHL hockey in Kent for more than a year.

Today, an end date to the absence was announced. The originally 2020-21, now 2021 season will begin on March 19th, 2021 at the ShoWare Center when the Spokane Chiefs come to town to take on Seattle in an empty arena. It will be the first of 24 division-only games that the Thunderbirds will play in this shortened-season.

As unique and different as this year is, let’s take a deeper dive into the schedule and see what we find.

With no preseason, it will be the first time in 17 years that the TBirds will not start in Everett for their preseason tournament. It’s also the first time in 11 years that they also won’t travel to Kennewick for the Tri-City tournament.

Seattle opens the season at home for the 4th straight year and 17th time overall since 1985. They are 23-6-0-2-4 (W-L-OTL-SOL-T) in their previous 35 home openers and currently have a 3-game winning streak in such games.

The Spokane Chiefs are the opponent for the home opener this year, the first time that happened since the 2008-09 season. That made the Chiefs the last team the TBirds would face in a home opener at Key Arena. Later that season they would move to the ShoWare Center, where they still call home today. Seattle is 5-1-0-0-0 all-time in home openers vs the Chiefs.

Seattle’s game at home vs Portland on March 27th will mark the latest date for a regular-season TBirds game in their history. The previous latest was March 26th, which occurred in the 1999-2000 season. Of course, a new standard will be set this season as the season finale will be May 9th. Hopefully, that is record will last forever.

24 games will be the shortest regular season for the TBirds. They had played 68 games in the previous 2 seasons and 72 games in the seasons prior to those.

This is the second season in a row and the third of the last four seasons that the TBirds open the season with 2 home games. It is the 8th overall occurrence of such an opening to the season.

Seattle doesn’t play Tri-City until they head to Kennewick on April 6th. By the time that game occurs, the TBirds will have played Spokane 3 times, Portland 3 times, and Everett 2 times.

Just one Tuesday home game this year, the lowest since the move to Kent. They will play the Americans on 4/13 at 605pm if you want to get your cheap hot dogs and beers set up for watching at home.

2 Wednesday home games this year, 3/31 vs Everett and 4/21 vs Tri-City. These are the first non-Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday home games since 2/3/16 vs Kamloops. The 2015-16 was also the last season to have 2 non-Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday home games in one season. They also played the Tri-City Americans on 10/21/15 that season. The TBirds have played Everett a handful of times at home on a Wednesday night although there was one season where they weren’t scheduled to. In 2006, a game vs the Silvertips was originally scheduled for 1/22/06 but was moved to 2/8/06 due to the Seahawks playing in the NFC Championship game.

This will be the 7th time in team history that the first game of the season and the last game of the season will be against the same team. It will be the second such time it has occurred against Spokane. The only previous time was 93-94 when game #1 and game #72 were against the Chiefs.

Lots of variation to start times this season:

4:05 pm – Sunday road game in Kennewick
5:05 pm – one Friday, two Saturday, and all Sunday home games; all Portland road games
5:10 pm – road games in Spokane
6:05 pm – all mid-week, two Friday, and the remaining Saturday home games
7:05 pm – Tuesday/Friday road games in Kennewick; all road games in Everett

Here are the US Division opponents by day:

Home: Wed, Fri, Fri, Sat
Away: Fri, Wed, Wed

Home: Sat, Sat, Sun, Sun
Away: Sat, Sat, Sun

Home: Fri, Sun
Away: Fri, Sun, Sat(!)

Home: Tue, Wed
Away: Tue, Sun, Fri

A real rare occurrence on the schedule this season. It will be the first road game in Spokane on a Saturday since 12/9/17 and only the second one in over 11 years! Much like a Saturday road game in Kennewick, they just haven’t happened much at all in the last decade. So of course it happens when fans aren’t able to be in attendance.

Despite the math seemingly staring the league in the face, the 24-game season will have an unbalanced schedule. See the chart below to see how each team’s 24 games break down. (Home teams are down the side, road teams along the top)

As you can see, a little all over the place. Seattle gets 4 home games against both Everett and Portland, the only team to get 4 home games vs two separate teams. However, they also make one extra trip east of the mountains compared to the Silvertips and Winterhawks. Will this imbalance make a difference in determining the US Division champion for this season? We’ll find out in a couple of months.

Some other stats and how they compare to the last few seasons:

Longest homestand
2020-21 3 games 3/27-31 (PDX, PDX, EVE)
2019-20 4 games 11/8-19 (KAM, EVE, PDX, WPG)
2018-19 5 games 2/8-16 (PDX, MH, TC, RD, EVE)
2017-18 4 games 3/4-10 (PDX, TC, SPO, EVE)
2016-17 4 games 10/1-14 (PDX, VIC, SPO, PG), 12/13-27 (SPO, PG, TC, SPO), and 1/28-2/3 (EVE, TC, KAM, KAM)
2015-16 4 games 12/11-18 (SPO, EVE, PG, TC) and 2/9-19 (KEL, PDX, VIC, SPO)
2014-15 6 games 2/15-28 (VIC, LETH, EVE, CAL, PG, PDX)
2013-14 4 games 2/22-3/2 (KAM, PA, PDX, EVE) and 3/8-14 (EVE, VAN, SPO, PDX)

Most consecutive road games
2020-21 4 games 4/24-5/1 (PDX, PDX, EVE, SPO)
2019-20 5 games 10/25-11/2 (RD, EDM, CGY, TC, PDX) and 12/31-1/20 (PDX, LET, MH, SC, TC)
2018-19 8 games 12/31-1/18 (PDX, BWK, SAS, PA, MJ, SC, TC)
2017-18 7 games 10/22-11/4 (EVE, KOO, CGY, LET, RD, EDM, MH)
2016-17 6 games 10/28-11/5 (SC, REG, SAS, PA, BWK, MJ)
2015-16 8 games 10/31-11/14 (KOO, CGY, RD, EDM, LET, MH, VIC, VIC)
2014-15 6 games 11/7-16 (PA, SAS, MJ, BWK, REG, SC)
2013-14 6 games 9/28-10/11 (PDX, TC, MH, LETH, KOO, KEL)

3 games in 3 nights
2020-21 2 times (AHHx2)
2019-20 5 times (HHAx1 AAAx1 HAHx1 AHHx1 AAHx1)
2018-19 4 times (HAAx1 HAHx1 HHAx1 AAHx1)
2017-18 7 times (AAAx1 HHAx1 AHAx3 HAHx1 AAHx1)
2016-17 3 times (AHHx2 AHAx1)
2015-16 3 times (AAHx1 AHAx2)
2014-15 5 times (AAAx1 AHHx1 HHAx1 AHAx1 AAHx1)
2013-14 7 times (AAAx2 AHHx2 HHAx1 HAHx1 HAAx1)

Honestly, surprised there are any 3-in-3 sets but there isn’t a lot of time to get in the 24 games so the time compression leads to there being at least a couple. Both 3-in-3’s occur with 2 home games after a Friday game east of the mountains.

Breakdown by day
Sunday (6) 3A 3H
Tuesday (2) 1A 1H
Wednesday (4) 2A 2H
Friday (6) 3A 3H
Saturday (6) 3A 3H

Sunday (7) 3A 4H
Monday (2) 2A
Tuesday (10) 4A 6H
Wednesday (4) 3A 1H
Friday (20) 12A 8H
Saturday (25) 10A 15H (This might be the most Saturdays ever on the schedule. The only Saturdays missing one are 9/28 and 12/21)

Sunday (6) 4A 2H
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (9) 3A 6H
Wednesday (6) 5A 1H
Friday (22) 11A 11H
Saturday (24) 10A 14H

Sunday (10) 8A 2H
Tuesday (11) 3A 8H
Wednesday (7) 6A 1H
Thursday (1) 1A
Friday (19) 10A 9H
Saturday (24) 8A 16H

Sunday (7) 3A 4H
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (11) 3A 8H
Wednesday (9) 9A
Friday (22) 9A 13H
Saturday (22) 11A 11H (Fewest Saturday home games since 2003-04 season when they also had 11)

Sunday (9) 7A 2H
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (11) 2A 9H
Wednesday (6) 4A 2H
Thursday (1) 1A
Friday (20) 12A 8H
Saturday (24) 9A 15H

Sunday (7) 5A 2H
Monday (2) 2A
Tuesday (9) 1A 8H
Wednesday (5) 5A
Thursday (1) 1H (First home Thursday game since Dec 30, 1999)
Friday (24) 15A 9H
Saturday (24) 8A 16H

Sunday (8) 4A 4H
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (13) 5A 8H
Wednesday (4) 4A
Friday (22) 12A 10H
Saturday (24) 10A 14H