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Seattle's 'only hockey bar' serving up excitement for NHL expansion team

The Angry Beaver taps into its owner's love of the game

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

A Seattle expansion team will play in the NHL starting in 2021-22. NHL.com is posting a series of stories this month about the NHL Seattle organization, the local hockey scene and the city's rich hockey history.

Today, The Angry Beaver, Seattle's only hockey bar.

 

SEATTLE -- A CEO and a Hollywood producer walk into a bar ...

Sounds like a joke, right?

Except it happened Feb. 28.

Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, the company trying to redevelop KeyArena, went out with Jerry Bruckheimer, the legendary Hollywood producer who was part of the ownership group trying to bring an NHL expansion team Seattle.

They didn't walk into just any bar. They walked into The Angry Beaver, which calls itself "Seattle's only hockey bar." Oak View Group was offering season-ticket deposits the next day.

"Tim is saying to me, 'Hey, man, do you think we're going to sell 10,000 tickets tomorrow morning?' " said Tim Pipes, the bar's owner. "And I'm like, 'Yeah. You know what? Based on what I'm seeing in this bar, I guarantee you're going to sell 10,000 tickets in an hour.'

"And then he's like, 'Well, come and tell Jerry this.'

"And I'm like, 'I can't believe stupid me is sitting here telling Jerry Bruckheimer …' "

Pipes laughed.

"It was honestly one of the weirdest moments in my life," Pipes said.

The Angry Beaver owner Tim Pipes (c.) was a fan of hockey long before Tim Leiweke (l.) and Jerry Bruckheimer (r.) helped bring an NHL team to Seattle. 

 

Fans made 10,000 deposits in 12 minutes March 1. After they made 32,000 in 31 hours, Oak View Group stopped taking deposits and started a waiting list. The rest is history.

"I'm like, 'Yeah, well, I guess Seattle's a hockey city,' " Pipes said.

To get the vibe of hockey in Seattle, you've got to go to The Angry Beaver. You've got to hear Pipes' story too. His business card describes him not only as owner, but as "Hockey Nut-Bass Player/Vocalist."

Pipes, 56, was born in Winnipeg and raised in Toronto. He moved to Boston to study music in 1983 and to Seattle to join the thriving music scene in 1991. A year later, he played in a band that opened for Heart and Queensryche at The Gorge Amphitheatre, a 27,500-seat venue 150 miles east of the city.

He returned to Toronto in 2002 and got caught up in hockey again, then came back to Seattle in 2003. When he went to bars to watch hockey, it wasn't the same. So he cashed in Apple stock and looked for his own place. He found it at 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue in 2012.

"I wasn't thinking, 'You know what? Seattle's going to get a team, and if I open this bar now, blah, blah, blah,' " he said. "There was none of that involved. It was like, 'I'm a Canadian, and I missed it so much that I wanted a place to watch the sport.' … I've always really missed my Canadian roots. I mean, it's my home and native land."

Why call it The Angry Beaver?

"Beaver is the national animal of Canada," he said. "Every American would find out I'm a Canuck and say, 'Oh, you Canadians are so polite.' I'd say, 'Yeah, until we strap some skates on and put a stick in our hands.'"

The beauty of The Angry Beaver was that it wasn't geared toward one team or one city. It wasn't a sports bar; it was a sport bar. Seattle had no NHL team but did have a hockey history and tons of transplants. Finally, hockey fans had a place to go to watch their teams and be with their people.

And a place to get poutine, too, with hand-cut fries, curds from Beecher's Handmade Cheese at Pike Place Market and four kinds of scratch-made gravy -- beef, curry, mushroom and turkey. The bar goes through 600-700 pounds of potatoes a week normally and up to 1,500 pounds a week during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When Canada played Sweden for gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the bar was packed even though it was after 2 a.m. and no alcohol could be served. When Chris Kunitz gave Canada a 3-0 lead sometime before sunrise, the fans sang "O Canada!"

"I've spit-polished my bar enough that I'm right on the edge of being a dive bar," Pipes said. "And the truth is, when it's rocking and rolling in there and there's games going on and the place is just filled to the rafters, nobody [cares] anyways."

It wasn't easy. Pipes had to learn the business, from how to make the fries to how to keep the books. At 1:41 a.m. March 9, 2016, the bar was damaged by a natural gas explosion across the street. A month later, it was robbed. It didn't reopen for more than four months.

But blowing up helped the bar, well, blow up, thanks to media coverage.

"More people became sort of aware that there was this hockey bar in town," Pipes said. "They're like, 'Cool, man, I'm going.' "

Now the sign in front shows an angry beaver riding a bomb in front of a mushroom cloud, and the walls inside are covered with all kinds of hockey memorabilia.

Memorabilia from the NHL and the Seattle Metropolitans adorns the walls at The Angry Beaver, Seattle's self-proclaimed 'only hockey bar.'  

 

The highlights: Seattle Metropolitans, Totems and Thunderbirds jerseys amid NHL jerseys; a signed Bobby Orr Massachusetts No. 4 license plate someone brought in for Pipes to sell; a signed Wayne Gretzky photo someone traded for dinner and drinks; and a trophy from the Greater Seattle Hockey League, the biggest local adult league.

The Angry Beaver might not be the only bar catering to hockey fans in Seattle soon. Pipes hopes it isn't. Hey, he'd love to open another location himself near the arena or to serve his poutine at games when the new NHL team starts playing.

But this always will be the original and special in its own way.

"We will be giant supporters of the Seattle hockey club," Pipes said. "But we're still going to be a Red Wings bar, a Penguins bar, a Leafs bar, a Canucks bar, on down the list is goes. I still want people to come in and go, 'You know what? I'm here to support my Tampa Bay Lightning,' and feel super comfortable about that. I don't think there's ever going to be another bar quite like The Angry Beaver."

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