The NHL Seattle franchise's rallying cry, "Return to Hockey," packs a lot of history into three words.
It's props to the Seattle Metropolitans, the first U.S. hockey club to win the coveted Stanley Cup, back in 1917 before the NHL was officially founded later the same year. It's a firm and heartfelt nod to the city's previous pro hockey teams, including the Bombers, Americans and, for the longest and most successful run, the Totems.
Video: NHL Seattle Honors Guyle Fielder with Team Award
So it was only fitting Guyle Fielder, the greatest player in Seattle hockey history, returned to town via I-5 earlier this week. Fielder-aw, heck, let's just call him Guyle-and his sweetheart, Betty Johnson, drove from Arizona in time to be honored by the NHL Seattle franchise Tuesday. Dave Tippett, NHL Seattle's hockey operations executive, presided.
"Tod [Leiweke, NHL Seattle CEO] is a big believer in making sure the history of the game is celebrated," said Tippett during the ceremony.
One of Leiweke's ideas: The team recreated a permanent locker stall with Guyle's authentic gear from his playing days, right down to well-worn leather gloves, a straight-blade Northland stick (lie number 5 if you are wondering) and a green home Totems jersey with the famed "7" on the back of the sweater. The locker was dedicated Tuesday night at the Preview Center for the New Arena at Seattle Center. The Preview Center is housed at the Pacific Science Center, where more than 100 guests watched Guyle cut the ribbon on the locker, discovered a newly minted Guyle Fielder award (more about that in a hot minute) and, best of all, heard from "Golden" Guyle himself.
"Well, the NHL team is a little long in coming," said Guyle, earning laughs and cheers from the crowd, "but I had no idea I would be remembered this way."
Guyle, who played 15 of his 22 seasons in Seattle, is the fourth-leading all-time scorer in professional hockey, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr and Gordie Howe. Historic names there, to be sure, and none other than Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall validates Guyle's place among the greats. Whenever Hall, who played youth hockey and junior hockey versus Guyle in Saskatchewan, was asked who Gretzky reminded him of, Hall would reply, "Guyle Fielder."
The game has changed quite a bit since Guyle's time. When asked about the now common on-ice strategy of "dump and chase" the puck when entering the opponent's defensive zone, Guyle had some opinions.
"The game started changing about midway through my pro career," said Guyle. "I don't understand why if I have the puck and get to the red line, that I shoot in and give it back to them when I already have it."
Guyle preferred to deke and feint his way past defenders through the neutral zone (between the blue lines), then make his move closer to the opponent's goal. That style frequently led to Guyle feeding a perfect pass to linemates (right wing or left wing).
"Everybody wishes they could play that style [like Gretzky and Guyle]," said Tippett. "Reality is only certain players have the skill level, knowledge and game sense to do that."
Tippett then turned to Guyle.
"Guys like me used to chase guys like you around," said Tippett, drawing laughs. "I was lucky to get paid for it because I caught guys like you once in a while."
The festivities actually started Monday night when Tippett took Guyle, his sweetheart Betty Johnson and Seattle Totems teammate and linemate Jim Powers out to dinner. For her part, Betty tried raw oysters for the first time. Powers, who lives in Mill Creek, played six seasons right wing to Guyle's center position, enjoying his most productive goal-scoring seasons as a pro.
"I was laughing a lot," said Tippett. "I went home after and though these two guys played 50-some years ago [Guyle is 88, Jim is 82] but at dinner it felt they were in the locker room next to each other."
Amid the laughs and Guyle's pinpoint comedic timing during the locker dedication, the emotions caught the best of Seattle's first hockey superstar (there will be more).
"I just want to congratulate Seattle," Guyle started. Then a six-second pause to gather his sentiments while looking out at dozens of faces. "…for finally getting an NHL team. You deserve it, believe me."