WHL Notebook | Cheers for Holloway travel far
More than 1,100 miles northeast of Seattle in the hamlet of Wapella, Saskatchewan, every Seattle Thunderbirds game is like a town-hall meeting...
Special to The Seattle Times
KIRKLAND — More than 1,100 miles northeast of Seattle in the hamlet of Wapella, Saskatchewan, every Seattle Thunderbirds game is like a town-hall meeting.
As many as 100 of the village's 314 residents jam into the lounge of the restaurant owned by George and Wendy Holloway to watch the Internet broadcasts of Thunderbirds games on a big-screen television.
Wapella has had plenty to cheer about this season as favorite son George "Bud" Holloway III leads the T-birds in scoring with 39 goals and 38 assists.
"I have incredible support from my family and the entire town," Holloway said. "I'm still a small-town guy and enjoy being at home and the lifestyle there. That's not to say I don't enjoy the city, too."
In addition to the 40-seat Wendy's Place restaurant and lounge, the Holloway family also grows wheat, flax and oats — when they aren't playing hockey. Bud's grandfather, George Holloway, once played on a local team with his four brothers, and Bud's dad had offers to play in the Western Hockey League.
Seattle is 39-23-5-2, three points ahead of Kelowna and four clear of Everett in the race to earn the home-ice advantage in the first round of the WHL playoffs with three games left in the regular season.
Seattle plays in Everett today, then hosts Portland on Saturday and Everett on Sunday.
Playing at home has been a big deal for Seattle, 23-6-3-2 at KeyArena.
"These last games are huge for us with what we've done at home," Holloway said. "We can put ourselves in a good place and need a couple of wins because they can carry over into the playoffs."
Seattle is 24-11-0-1 in the second half of the season; Holloway has scored 15 goals with 22 assists in the last 22 games.
"Since Christmas this team has been phenomenal," Holloway said. "We're right on pace where we need to be."
Holloway, a 6-foot, 190-pound center, was drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. He is unsigned and knows a long playoff run could help him earn a contract.
"It would be nice to close the deal, but it's good incentive to keep playing hard, too," Holloway said. "It would also be nice to get 40 goals, but right now all I'm concerned about is helping the team."
Holloway, who is 20 but has a year of league eligibility left, had 15 points in his rookie season, 34 as a sophomore and 65 last season.
"He's an example of a good young player coming in and having a good steady progression year after year," Seattle coach Rob Sumner said.
"He's now a very prominent player with a realistic pro opportunity in front of him."
• The 23 points by the Portland Winter Hawks, 10-56-2-1 with two games left, ties for the fourth-lowest since the WHL expanded its schedule in 1971. The T-birds' rivals, who have lost 15 of the past 17 in Seattle and have scored only 124 goals this season, should break the WHL record for fewest goals -- 135 by Swift Current in 2004-05.
Freelancer Gary Dougherty contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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