By Andy Eide
The goal came in 1990 during a February game against the Portland Winterhawks at the Arena on Mercer Street. It had to come against Portland. It was an innocent looking play to start. A battle in the corner resulted in the puck squirting out to Seattle Thunderbirds captain Glen Goodall. He pivoted and headed towards the net where he flipped it over the Portland goalie and into the goal.
It was career goal number 262 in the Western Hockey League for Goodall, more than anyone had ever scored before, or since. It’s a mark that nobody has come close to in the 28 years that have followed.
“I can’t remember who won the battle,” Goodall says of the goal. “They got it out to me at the side of the net. I think I took it in front, deked, and scored. I wish I knew who that was in the corner, I don’t know if it was Turner (Stevenson), but they won the battle.”
When you score as many goals as Goodall did over a six-year junior career and 20-year professional career, you’re forgiven if you don’t remember every last detail.
Goodall’s numbers while playing in Seattle are staggering and he played a big role in the Thunderbirds going from barely drawing crowds to becoming a staple of the local hockey community. He holds the league mark for most goals scored in a career, is second in WHL history for total points (573) and his 311 assists is good for sixth all time. Nobody has played more than his 399 games in league history. He topped the 100-point mark four times, scored 50 or more goals in those four years, which includes a 63-goal and 76-goal campaign.
With the NHL expanding to Seattle, the history of hockey in the Emerald City has been resurfaced. The Seattle Metropolitans, and their Stanley Cup win 100 years ago, have fans calling for the new team to share the same name. Guyle Fielder and the Seattle Totems have had their moment in the spotlight of late as well.
He wasn’t the biggest player on the ice, but Goodall belongs on the same stage with both the Metropolitans and Fielder in Seattle hockey lore.
The 14-year old phenom
Born in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Goodall’s family would move to Thompson in northern Manitoba when he was nine.
“I have to be careful,” Goodall says with a chuckle. “My brothers get mad when I say I’m from Thompson and my buddies don’t like it when I say I’m from Fort Nelson.”
Playing hockey in Thompson, Goodall started turning heads as a 10-year-old. His coach was brothers-in-law with Seattle Breakers head coach, Jack Sangster. The two would talk and Goodall would end up on Seattle’s radar.
WHL rules were different in the 1980’s than they are now, and the Breakers would put Goodall on their protected list when he was 12. That led to some serious conversations about his future — Seattle was a long way from Thompson after all.
“Everybody in my family thought it was just too far away,” Goodall says. “We had talked a lot about the potential of trading me to Brandon to not be so far from home. Seattle never wanted to trade me. I think there was some talks, but Seattle never wanted to do it.”
In 1984, at 14, he was invited to Seattle’s camp with a chance to make the team as WHL rules would allow him to play full time in the league. In today’s WHL, players have to be 16-years-old before they can play. Goodall had never before set foot in the United States but would do so when he broke camp with Seattle.
The plan was for him to stick with the Breakers for the first 15 games.
Seattle would make its swing through the Eastern Conference at the start of the season and Goodall was to be picked up by his parents when the team played in Brandon.
In those 15 games, Goodall played well and would be asked to stay for the full season. He would spend the next six years in a Seattle sweater.
“I remember vividly, as a 14-year-old ,you’re on the bus heading over the border and you think the world is going to change,” he says about that first year. “I remember driving into Seattle, in those days we were right downtown, it was something else. I loved it. I look back on my career and I say this many times, Seattle was the best time of my career. I just loved it.”
The WHL was a rough and tumble league in 80’s and Goodall, who was listed at 5-foot-8, would have to survive playing against players four, five, and six years older than he was. Those older players were also bigger, stronger and not afraid to play rough.
He not only survived but played in 59 games during the 1984-1985 season and scored five goals to go with 21 assists.
“I don’t remember it being intimidating,” Goodall says of his rookie year. “I think I was too young and too stupid to really know, to be honest. I don’t think I realized I was playing with almost adults.”
The Seattle Thunderbirds begin
Goodall began his second season in Seattle with a new team name. The Breakers were sold and the new ownership group changed up the colors and the Thunderbirds were born. Gone was the blue and orange and in was the green and blue of the Thunderbirds.
He would score 13 goals as a 15-year-old in 1985 but explode for a 63 goal, 112-point season as a 16-year-old in the 1985-1986 season. The next year, at 17, he would add 53 more markers and 117 points. That would get the attention of the Detroit Red Wings who would draft Goodall in the 10th round of the NHL Entry Draft the summer of 1988.
While he was having success, the team wasn’t winning.
The tide would start to turn in the 1988-1989 season. Russ Farwell was brought in to be the team’s general manager and Barry Melrose hired as the club’s head coach.
“It was pretty different,” Goodall says of the changes. “When Russ came in there, I don’t want to degrade how it was, but the level when Russ came in as GM, and new owners, the culture changes. You could feel a sense of things were going to change.”
Farwell came to Seattle from the Medicine Hat Tigers where he had just won back-to-back Memorial Cup championships. He took over a Seattle team that hadn’t been winning but had some pieces, centered around Goodall.
“Glen was a very eager kid and although he had started in the league when he was 14, he still was eager to learn and get better,” Farwell says of Goodall. “That was the first impression of how good his attitude still was after a lot of pretty average years of success in the league. He was a gifted player offensively and could make plays at top speed. He played in the league when it was really a tough game and he did well.”
The Thunderbirds started the 1988 season slow but would catch fire in the second half and were nearly unbeatable down the stretch.
As the season was winding down, nobody wanted to play Seattle. While the Thunderbirds won on the last day of the season, they still ended up short, missing the playoffs by just one point. There was speculation that the first-place team, Portland, rested players on the last day to ensure that Tri-City would beat them and edge the red hot Thunderbirds out of the playoffs.
“Trust Portland to do that,” Goodall says with a chuckle. “We went on a second-half tear and it was heartbreaking. You know if you can get in the playoffs, we would have been a tough team to beat.”
That Portland-Seattle rivalry goes back to the Totems and Buckaroos days and it didn’t lose any steam when it was Winterhawks and Thunderbirds. Goodall says he loved playing in those games.
As the star, he was front and center in those rivalry games and had heated battles with Winterhawks star Dennis Holland. Like Goodall, Holland was a prolific goal scorer in the WHL and the two didn’t get along.
“Glen was a fierce competitor,” Holland says of Goodall. “A guy that I loved playing against and we had some great battles. He was very dangerous off the rush with speed and skill. I had lots of respect for him coming into the league at 14, something I know I couldn’t have done.”
The two ended up roommates at Detroit Red Wings training camp and would become close friends. Holland was even in Goodall’s wedding.
It wasn’t that way back in 1988, however.
“Back in those days, when we played each other it was hatred,” Goodall says with a laugh. “If there was someone that I could have hurt, I don’t mean that badly, but if I could slash him hard or something. We had some unbelievable battles. It was unbelievable between him and I.”
They were packing the 4,000 seat Mercer Arena which created a tough home ice advantage for Seattle.
“I’ll remember that place for the rest of my life,” Goodall says of the Mercer Arena. “It was great if you’re the home team. I don’t know that I would want to be a Portland Winterhawk coming in there but, whenever I come back to Seattle we go down there. I take my family down there because the memories I have down there, everywhere, but especially that building.”
Goodall, and the Thunderbirds, had their best season in 1989-1990. Peter Anholt was the head coach and led Seattle to a franchise best 52 wins while averaging six goals per game. Gervais and Goodall went back and forth on the scoring lead and Goodall would pile up 76 goals and 163 points, which edged out Gervais by three points.
Seattle had high hopes of a championship that season but would run into the loaded Kamloops Blazers in the playoffs. The Blazers would eliminate Seattle in the second-round of the playoffs and end Goodall’s time in Seattle.
“They were a tough team to play against,” Goodall says. “I don’t remember an easy game in Kamloops during my whole time.”
Prior to the 1990-1991 season Goodall returned to Seattle as a member of the Detroit Red Wings to play an exhibition game. Before the game, the Thunderbirds honored him by retiring his number 10 jersey. It remains the only sweater that the Thunderbirds have retired to this day.
Life after Seattle
While he never reached the NHL, Goodall had a long pro career. He spent some time in the minors but would eventually land in Germany. He would end up playing 17 seasons and 343 games in Germany and of course, potted 248 goals.
He finally retired in 2010 and now runs a real estate business in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, just outside of Red Deer. Goodall still follows the Thunderbirds as best he can and made it to watch in Brandon when Seattle played the Wheat Kings in the 2016 WHL Championship Series.
Goodall speaks fondly of his time in Seattle and hopes to get back as much as possible. He has been back on a couple of occasions, first in 2010 at the ShoWare Center. His wife Jennifer, daughter Kassidy and son Jacksyn were with him as he addressed an opening night crowd. Kassidy even sang the national anthem that night.
Then, in 2014, Jacksyn was invited to participate in training camp with the Thunderbirds in what was a special moment for Goodall.
“He scored a goal in one of his scrimmages,” Goodall says about watching Jacksyn. “It was incredible, the emotions. Just being back in the city and going around with him, he probably got bored with all the stories. That first time seeing him walk out in a Thunderbirds jersey was pretty cool.”
The NHL is Seattle’s hockey future, and Goodall is a big part of its past. He was the leader of the Thunderbirds team that caught fire and would regularly draw 12,000 fans at the Seattle Center Coliseum.
That same building, with a huge face lift, will host a hockey team once again in 2021. Goodall thinks it will be a smashing success.
“When I played junior there, there was nothing like being right downtown Seattle, playing,” he says. “It was so cool. I loved that, so how can it not work?”