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The Finals: Thunderbirds vs Steelheads

The Finals have arrived, now let’s look back at how we got here.

We have finally reached the Finals of the Seattle Hockey Tournament, where one team name will be declared the winner, picked by all of you fans.

Several thousand votes have been cast in the field of 32 teams over the past few weeks, and now we are down to the final two. But before the final match-up begins later this week, we wanted to take a look back at how these two teams ended up in the championship match.

The final two teams to conclude this tournament are the Thunderbirds and the Steelheads. The Thunderbirds name is obviously taken straight from Seattle’s (now Kent’s) Western Hockey League team. Steelheads is a mostly unique name based off of the fact that the steelhead trout is the Washington state fish and that a few different fish names had been recommended as the Seattle NHL team name in the past. I say mostly unique as the Seattle Steelheads were actually a team in the Negro baseball league but sadly folded after just one month of play in 1946.

While there were a couple upsets along the way, the two finalists were both ranked in the top four of the tournament. The Thunderbirds were slotted fourth overall in the field of 32 behind the Metropolitans (1 seed), the Steelheads (2), and the Totems (3). The Thunderbirds were still considered a “one seed” as they were the top team overall in Region 4, the Wrap Around region. Likewise, the Steelheads were the top seed in their region, Region 2, the Poke Checking region. The fact that both of these teams made it to the finals isn’t a huge surprise.


Let’s take a look first at how the Thunderbirds dominated their way to the Finals. In the first round, the Thunderbirds faced the lowly Eels and mopped the floor with them. With nearly 1,200 votes the Thunderbirds won by an astounding 89% to 11% victory.

Next up was the Sweet 16 and a battle against their first fish foe, the Chinook. While the Chinook were able to put up somewhat of a decent fight, the Thunderbirds dominated another game and advanced with 67% of nearly 1,250 votes.

Next up, the Elite 8 and a match against the Kraken, potentially the first real threat to being upset in this tournament. Going into this match, I knew the Thunderbirds would be favored, but I also knew a lot of fans had tweeted out their support of the Kraken, especially backed by some really cool looking mock logos and designs for the team. I thought this match could be pretty close. It wasn’t. The Thunderbirds dominated with 61% of the votes.

At this point, the T-Birds had reached the Final Four, or Frozen Four as some have called it, where they would be pitted against the number one overall seed, the Metropolitans, in an epic battle to go to the championship game. Or so we all thought. What can only be described as the biggest shocker of the entire tournament, the newly minted Emeralds would pull off the huge upset in the Sweet 16 eking out a 51% / 49% win over the heavily favored Metropolitans. This led the Emeralds to the Elite 8 and eventually the Final Four. But the Emeralds Cinderella story would come crashing to an end against the T-Birds as the Thunderbirds were the first team to reach the Championship game with a convincing 60% / 40% victory over the Emeralds.


Meanwhile, back in the Poke Checking region, the Steelheads would have a similarly dominant journey to the Championship round against some arguably tougher competition. That tough competition however was not represented in the first round as the Steelheads shellacked the Grays with a dominant 84% / 16% victory with nearly 1,500 votes.

Next up was the Sweet 16 and a match-up against the Cascades. The Cascades seemed to be a pretty big hit with the fans during early polling and general discussion. But ultimately, they were no match for the Steelheads as they were soundly defeated by a 66% / 34% margin with roughly 1,400 votes.

The Elite 8 wasn’t going to be easy. The Steelheads would have to conquer the very formidable Sasquatch. I’m not sure if it’s just the love of the hairy beast from the Sonics days, but the Sasquatch name has been incredibly popular with fans. So popular in fact, that they have their own Twitter handle and cool logo design and were heavily promoted in the tournament making it all the way to the Elite 8. But as popular as the Sasquatch name has been with fans, it just goes to show how popular the Steelheads name is as the Steelheads trounced Sasquatch 63% / 37%.

After taking out Sasquatch, the Steelheads had finally made it to the Frozen Four. But unlike the Thunderbirds’ region that had the massive upset with the elimination of the Metropolitans earlier than expected, there would be no gimme in the Poke Checking region. If the Steelheads wanted to win this tournament, they were going to have to take down the Totems. The Totems were a team rich with hockey history in Seattle, playing under that name from 1958 to 1975. The Totems were also the name of what would have been Seattle’s NHL franchise had the owners actually put together enough money to earn an expansion franchise back in the 1970’s. This was expected to be a very close contest similar to some of the other match-ups we had seen in earlier rounds. No one would have been surprised if this was another 52% / 48% type of game, but to the surprise of many, the Steelheads name has become incredibly popular with the locals of the greater Seattle region. While this was the closest of all the games competed between the two championship teams, the Steelheads still managed to beat the Totems comfortably with a score of 57% / 43% with over 1,250 votes.

And now that you’re all caught up with how we got here, that leads us to the epic championship match between the Thunderbirds and the Steelheads.

Who will be victorious in the battle of the birds versus the fish? We’ve seen both teams dismantle the competition on their way to the finals. We’ve seen the Thunderbirds already knock out one fish team, the Chinooks. But the Steelheads took out the Totems, which have an incredibly similar style logo to the Thunderbirds and both are enriched in North American heritage. I find the fact that each team has dominated similar competition will make for a very interesting final vote between these two behemoths.

One interesting note is that the Steelheads games tend to get more overall votes which could help them in the final round. But I’ve also seen some irrational hate for the Steelheads or any fish mascot for that matter. Likewise, some fans don’t like the idea of stealing the WHL team’s name away from them after it has been such a tradition in Seattle for so long. Many believe it would be best to create a new name instead of stealing one that currently exists.

There are several factors heading into this championship game later this week and it should make for an epic match-up. Whatever you do, make sure you vote this week and rally your friends to vote for your favorite team. There can be only one winner in the Seattle Hockey Tournament. Which name is it going to be? I can’t wait to find out!