The WEST COAST THUNDER
Awesome! Is there any other way to describe a team that, over its last five years of existence, won 118 games and lost only 2? That was the outstanding record achieved by the Burnaby based West Coast Thunder Hockey Club.
In the early 90,s the opportunities for spring and summer hockey were not what they are today so Don Estrada and Jonn Morrisonn, each with a young son with no place to play during the warmer months, formed a team known as the Hockey Futures.
Invitations were mailed to most of the better players identified and about 60 players attended the first camp. The age group was second year novice. The team traveled East and lost to Toronto in the tournament finals. In 1993 the team won the Vancouver Super Series Tournament. In 1994 Vic Narduzzi took over as coach and the team was re-named the West Coast Thunder. Narduzzi coached the team for the Thunders’ final five years.
“I came on board” Narduzzi stated, “ to put a bunch of talented hockey players together and show those Eastern guys that British Columbia players could beat them in their own tournaments”.
Narduzzi never lost a tournament as coach of the Thunder. Over the next five spring seasons the West Coast Thunder would go on to win, among other tournaments, the Ottawa Capitals Tournament in 1994,1995,1996 (1st team to win it three years in a row), The Hockey Future Challenge Cup (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998) the Edmonton Elites Tournament (1997, 1998) and the Vancouver Selects Tournament (also in 1997, 1998).
Over that time span the West Coast Thunder won an incredible 118 games and lost only 2, and this was against all-star teams put together for the specific purpose of trying to win tournaments! Such was the depth of their skill and the player’s passion for the game that in 1997 this group of 1982s entered the Hockey Future Challenge Cup in the 1981 division and still won—a remarkable achievement considering how big a difference one year makes when the players are only 15 years old.
Narduzzi recalls that every tournament had its highlights but three of the more memorable ones were winning the Ottawa tourney the first year, coming back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Boston in the second year and edging Toronto in overtime in the third year. Narduzzi also relished his charges pumping 11 goals past a supposedly “unbeatable” goalie in Edmonton in 1997.
Don Estrada and Jonn Morrisonn carried out the duties of running the team and doing the fund raising, with Estrada doing the bulk of the managerial duties. There was a tremendous amount of personal time invested in organizing tournaments, practices, flights, accommodations and fund raising. Morrisonn, along with Guy Germyn, Dale Craig, Dave Stefishen and Larry Sacharak, also spent time on the bench. Scouting was done by phone and at tournaments.
The ultimate goal of the team, advised Don Estrada, was to make sure the players had fun. The team selected players not only on their skill, but they also had to be good kids with good parents: the team kept only those that contributed to making the whole experience more enjoyable for everybody. With the players having such a good time there was room for only one or two new kids each year as everybody wanted to come back.
All players got treated the same. There was no captain: the team would name three new assistants each time out, rotating by alphabetical order.
Following is a list of the main players and where they played in 2000-2001
Marc NarduzziGChillawack Chiefs2nd in BCHL save percentage.
Davis ParleyGKamloops Blazersled WHL in save percentage
Shaone MorrisonnDKamloops BlazersBlazers D man of the year
Ryan JordeDTri-Cities Americans
Brett ThurstonDBrandon Wheat Kings
Joey HopeDPortland W. HawksRanked 82 going into the NHL draft
Tyson TerryDChillawack Chiefs
Kevin EstradaFChillawack ChiefsWon BCHL scoring title
Chris FournierFLincoln StarsWon USHL scoring title
Carsen GermynFKelowna RocketsSecond in Rockets scoring
Ryan CraigFBrandon Wheat KingsLed Wheat Kings in scoring
Adam StefishenFPrince Geo. CougarsWHL record 4 goals in his first WHL game
John SnowdenFLincoln StarsRanked 71 going into the NHL draft
Jeremy JacksonFMichigan StateRanked 151 going into the NHL draft
A few others who donned the West Coast Jersey:
Darryl Thomson (Kingston OHL)
Richard Mueller (Brandon WHL)
Kevin Young (Portland WHL)
Jared Stoll (Kootenay WHL)
Cole Roberts (Vernon BCHL)
Bobby Henderson (Chillawack Chiefs (BCHL)
Garrett Seder (Trail, BCHL)
Trevor Popowich (Maple Ridge, PIJHL)
Anthony Adams and Scot May (Surrey Eagles BCHL)
Jeremy Far (Spokane WHL)
Michael Bubnick (Calgary WHL)
Matt Gibbons (Chilliwack BCHL)
Kirby Thomas (Sask).
Of the above Shaone Morrisonn was drafted in the 1st round (Boston), Kevin Estrada (3rd round Carolina) Davis Parley (4th Round Boston) Ryan Jorde (9th round Buffalo) and Jaret Stoll (2nd round Calgary).
The West Coast Thunder was a virtual powerhouse. When these guys played against players of their own age and size, they dominated as no team before or since. Almost every player who dressed for that team went on to play junior hockey. While these young men starred on their rep teams their talent never truly blossomed until they played with kids of their own superior skill level and determination. Their spirit was contagious and the team synergy greatly boosted the energy and confidence of the team. This was a group of guys who respected each other, who respected their coaches and who truly enjoyed getting back together each spring to have a ton of fun and kick some serious butt.
It was a treat for the fans to see this team play: to watch the magical hands of Jeremy Jackson, the great passes of Fornier and Estrada, the deep work of Ryan Craig, the big hits laid on by Bret Thurston and Carsen Germyn. With coach Narduzzi checking the egos at the door this was just a regular bunch of guys—a team of racehorses who comprised the most formidable British Columbia hockey team ever assembled.
118-2! Truly, Hall of Fame numbers.