2010 Hockey Challenge featuring former Mariner Dan Wilson Saturday

The Seattle Thunderbirds haven’t been having the greatest season ever this year, but as a diehard fan that hasn’t stopped me from going to every game. Hockey’s fun whether you’re cheering on the champion or the underdog and I have a good time every time. Part of what makes the experience so great is the enthusiasm of the crowd; in my perfect world, every game would be a total sell out. But to learn just how great hockey truly is, you’ve got to get to a game. This Saturday there’s a reason for even the most casual fan to head down to the ShoWare Center, the 2010 Hockey Challenge.

The day begins at 9:40 am with a series of games between sponsor groups that have raised money to participate. This year it’s the Amazon Women v. the Microsoft Exchange Women, the Microsoft Spartans v. Amazon.com, MS Entertainment & Devices v. Microsoft Mystery Team and Windows Live v. MS IT. From years of experience I can attest that these techie people are pretty solid hockey players; these aren’t pro quality players but their games are exciting and well-played. All of their donations–over $3.5 million over the past eleven years–go to help the Ronald McDonald House serve their mission to provide a home away from home for seriously ill children undergoing medical treatment and their families. Last year the Seattle Ronald McDonald House provided some much needed support for 700 families.

At 5pm there’s a celebrity autograph session with some of the players for the evening’s All Star game; this year’s All Stars include Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Jason Thompson (General Hospital), Brian Basset (cartoonist of “Adam @ Home” and “Red and Rover”), Kelly Tysland (formerly Kelly Stephens 2006 U.S. Women’s Olympic hockey bronze medalist), Bill Wixey (KCPQ news anchor), Paul Silvi (KING 5 sports anchor), Ian Furness (KJR 950 AM Host) and Cameron Bancroft (24: Day 4, Hockeyville on CBC) as well as former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson, who played goalie on the hockey team at his Chicago area high school long before he spent a dozen years in the Seattle baseball uniform. Also on the ice: TBirds and Breakers alumni including Danny Lorenz, Al Kinisky, Blake Knox, Regan Mueller, Pat Smith, Jamie Huscroft, Ryan Gibbons, and Lloyd Shaw.

As an added bonus, there’s an auction for a Team Canada jersey autographed by former Thunderbirds/San Jose Sharks/Team Canada player Patrick Marleau. Patty’s a Thunderbirds legend for good reason and the bidding will be hot and heavy, with the proceeds helping the RMDH help the families they serve.

The All-Star game immediately follows what is bound to be a thrilling match between the Tbirds and their longtime nemesis, the Portland Winterhawks. The Hawks have held the upper hand in most of their previous meetings this season, but the rebounding Birds look to extend their three game win streak by taking down their longtime rivals and both teams will be out for blood. Birds/Hawks match ups are always intense; no less an authority than Sports Illustrated has listed seeing one as an experience every sports fan should have.

A single ticket gets you in the door for the whole day long extravaganza; tickets can be purchased at the ShoWare Center box office day of game or online. State Farm will be handing out Roll-a-bannas to the first 2,000 fans through the door.

The Tbirds play again Sunday at home against the Tri City Americans; Valley Medical will be handing out blinking safety lights and selling bike helmets with custom fitting right there at the arena. The final four home games of the season are versus Spokane on March 6, Tri City again on March 7, Portland again on March 13 and versus Vancouver for the final game of the season, March 14.

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