Seattle Bombers

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© Jeff Obermeyer 2000-2009

The PCHL became the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the start of the 1952-53 campaign.  The league consisted of the same eight teams that competed in the PCHL the previous season.  The Seattle club changed its name to the Bombers, a prophetic choice given that in the two years the name was in use the team had a record of 52-74-15.

1952-53 - The newly renamed Seattle Bombers picked up right where they had left off the year before, with another mediocre performance and a 30-32-8 record.  The got by on stingy defense (225 goals against - second best in the league) and timely goals.  This was good enough for a fifth place finish, and a first round playoff series with Vancouver.  The Bombers came up short, losing the series three games to two. 

Rudy Filion paced the low scoring offense with 28 goals and 46 assists, and in 68 games that season he only received two penalty minutes.  Gerry Foley earned Rookie of the Year honors with 29 goals, while fellow rookie Doug Macauley had 23 tallies and a league-leading nine game-winning goals.

1953-54 - No one knew it at the time, but September of 1953 may have been the most important month in the history of Seattle hockey.  Guyle Fielder, a flashy little center from Saskatchewan, was attending Detroit Red Wings training camp.  Fielder was coming off a season in which he won the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year with the St. Louis Flyers, but despite his skills he couldn’t crack a stacked Detroit lineup.  He didn’t want to return to the AHL and it’s long bus rides, but fortunately he had an uncle in Seattle.  None other than WHL President Al Leader.

Leader pulled some strings and got his nephew on in Seattle with the Bombers.  He arrived on September 24, and immediately made an impression on the coach, the press, and the fans.  He led the league in scoring that season (24-64-88) and earned Rookie of the Year honors, the second consecutive season he did so.  Linemate Wayne Brown was second in league scoring and lit the lamp 49 times. 

Another notable occurrence was the appearance of two African-American players on the Bombers training camp roster.  Alf Lewsey and Bill Geary both made some pre-season appearances, including an exhibition against the NHL’s New York Rangers.  Neither made the team, and they were the last African-Americans on a Seattle roster until Doug Bonner joined the Thunderbirds in 1992.

Attendance was meager, with an average of only about 2,000 fans per game in the 4,100+ seat Arena.  The financial situation was so dire that owner Frank Dotten requested and was granted a one season leave of absence for the team.  The result was the Seattle players being scattered among the other WHL franchises while Dotten desperately tried to get his financial house in order.  Unfortunately it was not to be...