Seattle Americans

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 their name to the Bombers, a prophetic choice given that in the two years that name was in use the team had a record of 52-74-15.

The league, which had contracted to just 6 teams in 1954-55, expanded the following season to 9 teams in two divisions – the Prairie Division featured teams in central Canada and the Coast Division included teams in the northwest US and British Columbia.

Seattle’s home games continued to be played at the Civic Ice Arena located at 4th and Mercer, in what is now Seattle Center.  The building, which had been in use since the 1930’s, continued to serve Seattle hockey fans until 1995, when the tenant Seattle Thunderbirds moved to the larger Key Arena on a full time basis.

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.  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.

1953-54 – Perhaps one of the most pivotal years in the history of hockey in Seattle.  The Bombers truly bombed, finishing in last place in the now seven team WHL (the Tacoma franchise folded).  Their record was 22-41-7 as the team yet once again could not score goals. 

The one bright spot was the play of a young center named Guyle Fielder.  Fielder, a former PCHL Rookie of the Year, was the property of the Detroit Red Wings.  He failed to make the team for the 1953-54 season, and was brought to the WHL by his uncle, league president Al Leader.  It was a move that would help shape hockey in Seattle.  Fielder led the team his first year there with 24 goals and 64 assists.  His 64 assists and 88 points were good enough to lead the league on a team that finished in last place, and he was named a First Team All-Star.

Oddly enough the league’s second leading scorer and goal scoring champ also played for Seattle.  Wayne Brown finished the season with 49 goals and 81 points, and was a Second Team All-Star.  It may be the only time in history that a team has had the top two leading scorers and still finished in last place. 

The financial situation in Seattle was grim.  The owners asked the league to agree to a one year leave of absence for the team so that they could try to get their financial house in order.  Fortunately for hockey fans in Seattle, the league agreed and the team sat out the 1954-55 season.

1954-55 – The league was compressed to six teams with the loss of Seattle for the season.  The Bombers’ players were spread out through the rest of the league, and Fielder ended up back in New Westminster where he had won the Rookie of the Year three seasons prior.  He had another solid year, finishing third in scoring with 20 goals and 67 assists.

1955-56 – The Seattle franchise, renamed the Americans, rejoined the WHL.  The league expanded to nine teams separated into two divisions – the Prairie and the Coast.  The new Americans were better than their predecessors in terms of record, finishing the season with a 31-37-2 mark, but they still finished last in the four team Coast Division.  Guyle Fielder again led the team in scoring with 18 goals and 61 assists.  Val Fonteyne, who played in all 70 games for the Americans, survived the season without a single penalty being called on him.

1956-57 – The Americans finally turned it around on the strength of another huge year by Fielder and veteran Rudy Filion (left).  Seattle went from worst to first in the Coast Division, leading the way with a 36-28-6 record.  Keith Allen was the new head coach, and he would go on lead the team for the next nine seasons.

Guyle Fielder had the greatest scoring season in hockey history to that point, with 33 goals, 89 assists and 122 points.  It was third time that he had led the league in assists, and was first of what would be five consecutive assist crowns.  The overall points leadership was the first of four consecutive points titles.  He won his first (of six) league Most Valuable Player awards.

Joining Fielder as First Team All-Stars were linemate Ray Kinasewich (44 goals) and defenseman Gordie Sinclair.  Future Hall of Famer Emile "the Cat" Francis was named a Second Team All-Star in his only season in Seattle. 

Unfortunately Seattle’s domination didn’t carry over into the playoffs, as they were downed four games to two by New Westminster in the first round.

1957-58 – The Americans slipped during the regular season, finishing in third place in the Coast Division with a respectable 32-32-6 record.  Guyle Fielder once again led the way offensively with 26 goals, 85 assists and 111 points.  For the second year in a row Fielder led the league in assists and total points, and won the MVP of the Coast Division.

Fielder and linemate Val Fonteyne (34 goals) were both First Team All-Stars.  They were joined by Second Team All-Stars Gordie Sinclair and Ray Kinasewich. 

In the playoffs the Americans got their first taste of success as they defeated New Westminster three games to one in the first round.  In the second round they were not so fortunate, falling to Calgary three games to two.

With a first place regular season finish in 1956-57, and the first taste of playoff victory in 1957-58, the Seattle franchise was ready to embark on a 10 year period of success that would see them win three WHL titles as the newly named Seattle Totems.

1957-58 Seattle Americans


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