Looking at the 2023-24 Seattle Thunderbirds schedule

The calendar has flipped to September. Training camp is over. The regular season is just around the corner which means it’s a great time to take our (almost) annual look at the upcoming schedule for the Seattle Thunderbirds.

For the third year in a row, the Everett Pre-Season Showcase takes place the weekend after Labor Day. It will be the 19th year that the Thunderbirds have participated in the Snohomish County tradition. This year, as in many of the previous ones, Seattle will be playing three games in the three days:

9/8 v Spokane 2pm
9/9 @ Everett 6pm
9/10 @ Portland 12pm

This is the first time since the 2019 preseason that Seattle and Everett face off in this event. (Note that the Showcase was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the global pandemic.)

In a little bit of a shocker, the Thunderbirds will not be participating in the Tri-City Preseason Tournament. Down to just two days and four US Division teams, this year’s version in Kennewick excludes the two Puget Sound franchises and brings in the newest WHL team, the Wenatchee Wild. More on them shortly.

This is the first time since the 2018 preseason that the TBirds and Ams have not met at all in an exhibition game, on either side of the mountains.

Seattle’s preseason calendar wraps up with a game at the accesso ShoWare Center against the Silvertips on 9/13.

With the brief 4-game slate over, let’s take a look at the regular season.

As has been the case since the 2018-19 season, there are 68 games on the TBirds schedule this year. 34 away games and 34 home games. A big question this year is where 1 or maybe 2 of those games will be played as they may not be at a usual WHL venue. We’ll dive into that later. Home games in Kent will have the normal start times they have held the past few seasons of 605pm on Saturdays, 505pm on Sundays, and 705pm the other days of the week. There is one exception this season that we will highlight.

2023-24 marks the 39th season as the Thunderbirds and the 46th as the Seattle WHL team and they open the season with a banger right off the bat. On 9/23, they will head over the Cascades for their first visit to the Town Toyota Center to take on the Wenatchee Wild in a 2023 WHL Final rematch. How is that, you ask? Wenatchee is home to the relocated Winnipeg ICE who moved shortly after the season ended. The Wild left the BCHL and became a WHL franchise in the now crowded 6-team US Division. If you wanted to jump start a rivalry, having the previous WHL conference champions meet on the first weekend is a good way to do it. There are bound to be a lot of Seattle fans for this and all of the games in the Apple Capital this season.

This is the third straight year that Seattle has opened the season on the road.

The TBirds have never opened a season in Wenatchee nor have they ever opened a season vs the ICE/Wild franchise in any of their previous incarnations (Edmonton, Kootenay, or Winnipeg).

The home portion of the Thunderbirds schedule gets going a week later on 9/30 and it will be an historic night. Prior to the game versus the Portland Winterhawks, the team will have their first ever triple banner raising ceremony. They will be celebrating their never-before-accomplished feat of winning the US Division regular season title, the Western Conference playoff title, and the WHL Championship in the same season.

This is the second time in 3 seasons that Seattle has opened their home calendar with Portland, having done so in the 2021-22 season.

A road game on 10/6 to Spokane and Wenatchee’s first visit to Kent on 10/13 are precursors to 7 straight games vs the Eastern Conference:

10/17 v Brandon
10/20 @ Calgary
10/22 @ Edmonton
10/24 @ Red Deer
10/25 @ Lethbridge
10/27 @ Swift Current
10/28 @ Medicine Hat

The game on 10/17 vs the Wheat Kings is the first of six Two-for-Tuesdays of the season.

This is the earliest that the Eastern Conference swing has happened since 2013-14 when they headed out to the Central Division on October 4th. However, they split the trip into two parts that season. So this is the earliest the full trip has been completed since the 2002-03 season when they loaded up the bus and left on October 2nd for an Eastern Division trip.

Because of the Winnipeg shift to the US Division as Wenatchee, Swift Current will move back to the East Division for the 2024-25 season to rejoin their Saskatchewan siblings. This means the Broncos won’t visit Kent until the 2025-26 season, assuming no other moves or scheduling adjustments.

The boys in blue return home for Spokane’s first visit of the season on 11/3. This is another night of historic importance as for just the second time in franchise history, the Thunderbirds will be raising a number to the rafters. #12 will never be worn again as it will be retired in a ceremony honoring TBird alumnus and NHL record-holder Patrick Marleau. Sure to be a night of memories.

Another scheduling first pops up the following weekend as the TBirds play their first ever home-and-home with the Victoria Royals. Previous seasons would see sets of games played in Victoria, to both minimize travel and maximize attendance. With the addition of another Western Conference team, the schedules became a little imbalanced and this was a result of that. The back-to-back begins on the island on 10/10 before coming back to Kent on 10/11.

Prince Albert makes their biennial appearance at the Joint on James on 11/14 for another Two-for-Tuesday.

The following weekend has another home-and-home as the PNW rivalry restarts with the first two clashes of Everett and Seattle. 11/17 is at Angel of the Winds Arena while the return match is in downtown Kent on 11/18.

A mid-week trip to Kennewick on 11/21 marks the first tilt between the TBirds and Ams this regular season.

The next night on 11/22 Seattle returns home for a pre-US Thanksgiving battle with the Kelowna Rockets, marking their first faceoff of the season. After a day of football and food, the TBirds welcome Saskatoon to their house for a post-holiday game on 11/24. This special Friday game has an afternoon start time of 205pm.

This is the second year in a row and just sixth time overall that the Thunderbirds have hosted a game on the nights before and after American Thanksgiving. Last season, Kelowna was also the opponent for the Wednesday match.

November ends and December starts the same way, with games against Kelowna. An extended home-and-home starts in the Okanagon valley on 11/25 before coming back to the Kent Valley on 12/2.

December is a loaded month but doesn’t see the Thunderbirds leave the PNW at all. They play at home against Victoria (5th), Tri-City (8th), and Vancouver (15th). They have road games at Portland (9th), Spokane (13th), Everett (16th), and Vancouver (17th).

That run from the 15th through the 17th versus Vancouver and Everett is the first three-in-three stretch of the 2023-24 schedule for Seattle.

After the holiday break, the TBirds head to the Rose City to face the Winterhawks on 12/28 and then things start to get interesting.

On December 30th, Seattle is currently scheduled to host Everett at ShoWare. I’m guessing that one is going to be shifted to Climate Pledge Arena. It’s open on the calendar and there are other things pointing to that one being moved.

The following night, perhaps the start of a new tradition? For the second year in a row, Seattle does not close out the calendar in Portland as they will be in Wenatchee for New Year’s Eve with an early start time of 4pm. This is a first as the TBirds have never played a road game on NYE against a team that wasn’t the Winterhawks. The Thunderbirds have played at home on 12/31 twice, against Kamloops in 2013 and Kelowna in 2022.

Seattle starts 2024 at home on 1/5 with their first game of the season vs Prince George.

Now we get to another fun one. 1/6 is currently a road game in Everett. What makes this one special? I have a feeling that this one gets moved to T-Mobile Arena as part of the Winter Classic festivities happening there on New Year’s Day. Other host cities have held AHL or NCAA games on the outdoor ice the weekend following the event so this one seems the most logical one to happen there. It would be a fumble of epic proportions if there is not a WHL game at the Mariners home.

A road game in Kelowna on 1/10 precludes 3 straight home-and-homes for the Thunderbirds: 12th vs Portland, 13th at Portland, 19th at Tri-City, 20th vs Tri-City, 21st vs Wenatchee, and 26th at Wenatchee. The month of January wraps up with 2 home games, Everett on the 27th and Prince George on the 30th.

Interesting that the home game vs Portland on 1/13 is just the second visit of the season by the Winterhawks. It will have been over 3 full months between appearances.

Seattle has a little bit of deja vu on Groundhog Day (2/2) as they make their second trip to Victoria to start another three-in-three. They return home to face the Winterhawks on 2/3 and welcome the Royals on 2/4 to end the weekend.

2/7 marks the first game vs Kamloops all season. This will be the long awaited rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Final. The Blazers and Birds will hook up 4 times over the remaining 22 games.

A home game on the 9th vs Vancouver and road games on the 10th in Portland and 13th against Tri-City round out the first half of the month.

On 2/14, the very rare non-pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday home game. It’s Valentine’s Day, of course, but also marks the first official Thunderbirds Pride Night. If you weren’t around last season, the fans held their own unofficial version to much support and success and this season the team takes the reins to have their own.

3 road games follow as they play in Everett on the 17th, and then their annual double-dip up in Prince George on the 19th and 20th. The 19th is Family Day in British Columbia so that Monday game will have a special start time of 3pm up in the Northern BC city.

3 straight home games close out the February calendar with matchups against Everett (24th), Kamloops (25th), and Regina (27th).

March opens with 2 consecutive three-in-three weekends. First they travel to Kamloops on the 1st, followed by a home game against Moose Jaw on the 2nd and then up to Langley for the final time to take on the Giants on the 3rd. The following weekend it’s home to Spokane on the 8th, over to Spokane on the 9th, and home to Tri-City on the 10th.

Interestingly, that game on the 9th will be just the 2nd time since 2017 that the TBirds have played in Spokane on a Saturday night with fans in attendance (they did play on 5/1/21 in an empty Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena)

There are 3 more home games following that weekend on the 17th (Portland), 19th (Kamloops), and 22nd (Spokane).

Finally, the last two games of the regular season are a home-and-home with the Winterhawks on the 23rd in the Rose City and the 24th back in Kent.

Here are the US Division opponents by day:

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

Home: Sat, Fri, Sat, Sun, Sun
Away: Sat, Thu, Sat, Sat, Sat

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

Home: Fri, Sat, Sun
Away: Tue, Fri, Tue

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

Portland gets the preferential rival treatment with the 10 games over Everett’s 8 but would seem the Silvertips get the better days of the week.

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

Longest homestand
2023-24 4 games 3/10-22 (TC, PDX, KAM, SPO)
2022-23 5 games 3/5-17 (TC, KAM, TC, EVE, PDX)
2021-22 4 games 11/24-12/3 (KAM, TC, PG, VIC) and 3/6-15 (TC, PDX, EVE, TC)
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
2023-24 6 games 10/20-28 (CGY, EDM, RD, LET, SC, MH)
2022-23 6 games 1/6-14 (REG, MJ, BWK, WPG, PA, SAS)
2021-22* 5 games 10/22-11/6 (TC, PDX, SPO, TC, TC)
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)
*no interconference games this season

3 games in 3 nights
2023-24 6 times (HAA AHHx2 AHA HAHx2)
2022-23 3 times (AAHx2 HAH)
2021-22 5 times (AHAx3 AHH AAH)
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)

A little surprised to see the three-in-threes go up given that a Western Conference team is usually going to have at least one weekend night off because of the odd number of teams. But you have to make the schedule fit the calendar and clumping games together is the way to do it.

This season’s are more brutal than usual. The AHA is in Kamloops, home to Kent, up to Vancouver. That’s more travel than we would normally see for Seattle in a 3-game weekend. The others are fairly reasonable as they either involve two in a row at home/on the road or the HAH’s are inside the division.

There are 5 “traditional” home-and-homes this season, which is a return to the average we would expect. They are all in division and Wenatchee is the only US team that they don’t have one against. Traditional to us being games against the same team, home and away, on consecutive nights. This would be different than just home and away in consecutive games.
Everett 11/17 (A) 11/18 (H)
Portland 1/12 (H) 1/13 (A)
Tri-City 1/19 (A) 1/20 (H)
Spokane 2/8 (H) 2/9 (A)
Portland 2/23 (A) 2/24 (H)

Breakdown by day
Sunday (9) 4A 6H (Most Sunday home games since 2010-11 when they also had 6)
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (10) 4A 6H
Wednesday (6) 4A 2H (First time with multiple Wednesday home games since 2015-16)
Thursday (1) 1A
Friday (19) 9A 10H
Saturday (21) 11A 10H (Fewest Saturday home games since the 1996-97 season when they had 9. Appropriate for a Marleau retirement year, I guess)

Sunday (4) 1A 3H (First time since 2008-09 season just 1 away Sunday game)
Monday (1) 1A
Tuesday (11) 3A 8H
Wednesday (6) 5A 1H
Friday (22) 13A 9H
Saturday (24) 11A 13H

Sunday (7) 4A 3H
Tuesday (10) 2A 8H
Wednesday (3) 2A 1H
Friday (24) 14A 10H
Saturday (24) 12A 12H

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