Getty Images Seattle Thunderbirds
Getty Images Seattle Thunderbirds

The Seattle Thunderbirds this week became the first WHL franchise that we are aware of in the US Division who is now mandating proof of a COVID vaccine for all fans 12 and older with no exceptions.

They're actually not the first, as teams that utilize Rogers Place in Edmonton, including the WHL's Oil Kings, will require fans to be vaccinated or proof they are COVID-free.

But the T-Birds, who actually play at the ShoWare Center in Kent 20 miles south of Seattle, are the first to have an across-the-board mandate.

It was not a huge surprise that UW, Seahawks, Sounders etc., and other NW pro sports franchises have added vaccination requirements to fan attendance.

But until we saw this, had not seen any WHL teams make this kind of mandate.

From the T-Birds WHL page: 

 "In close collaboration with state and local public health and government officials, the Seattle Thunderbirds announced today that all guests age 12 and older will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination."

The site goes on to say:

"The Thunderbirds will begin implementing the new policy starting with the Seattle Kraken vs. Calgary Flames pre-season game on October 2 and the Thunderbirds home opener on October 9 vs. the Portland Winterhawks. In accordance with current Washington state and King County mask mandates, fans and staff will also be required to wear masks at all times except while actively eating or drinking."

Throughout the years, a strong contingent of Americans' fans do make the trek across the Cascades to cheer on the team. While there usually aren't as many as those who drive up to Spokane, this will no doubt have some sort of impact on fans who have chosen not to get a shot and wish to travel to support Tri-City.

There are already CHL-WHL protocols requiring all players, staff and others who deal in direct contact with players on a day-to-day basis to be vaccinated. The Americans travel to Seattle for the first time in the 2021-22 season on November 6th.

We reached out to some people who have solid information, and so far there is no  WHL policy requiring any such mandates. A VERY reliable source close to the WHL said, at least in WA state and the US Division, teams will do what is mandated by state officials. 

So, initially, it appears T-Birds move could be the "King County" effect.

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