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Meet The Thunderbirds Family: Phil Varney

Brian Liesse

Team photographer Brian Liesse is introducing T-Birds fans to those connected to the team whose contributions might not be readily visible. We are excited about this project because we get to highlight those that make T-Bird hockey possible through their hard work and dedication to the team and the sport of hockey. We look forward to introducing you to T-Birds staff, accesso ShoWare Center staff, Booster Club members, Game Night Staff, Media, and others who help us celebrate and promote the team and the sport in the Pacific Northwest. Each person highlighted has answered a questionnaire about what they do with the team or how they are connected to the team,and some personal highlights. Brian took the photos of each person in their T-Bird environment.

What do you do for/with the Thunderbirds?

I am the Athletic Trainer for the Thunderbirds. What that means is I am responsible for the health care of the players. I am the first contact point for our guys when any health issue comes up. My scope of practice is in injury prevention; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate and emergency care; treatment and rehabilitation; overall organization, health, and general well-being for the athletes. I work with our team physicians to get these guys the best care we can provide. I also work on the strength and conditioning duties with Kyle Hagel but most of those duties have moved to him these days.

How long have you been working for/with the Thunderbirds?

This is season number 13 for me.

What is your favorite aspect of what it is you do for/with the Thunderbirds?

I love seeing the guys every day. I love working with the players, staff, and front office. You here this from players all the time but it’s true. Being a part of the locker room and team environment is the best. Don’t get me wrong though hearing a full barn go nuts at the ShoWare Center is right up there!

What is the most challenging aspect of what you do for/with the Thunderbirds?

I think the most challenging is the odd schedule that we keep. It puts some added pressures on your family and while they are all in and super supportive there are things you miss.

What is your favorite Thunderbirds memory?

That’s a tough one. Winning the championship was pretty awesome but it wasn’t just the winning. It was knowing what guys went through to make that happen that made it even more special. Watching guys taking their lap with the cup and thinking about each of their individual stories. To see Ethan Bear, knowing what he went through for that series, skate over to his family’s section and throw that cup up in celebration….Tyler Adams in his hometown….Nolan Volcan on the ice with his Dad, two guys who played for the same organization celebrating together…I could go on and on but there are these relationships you build that really make this job great. It’s those little moments that make the ride that much sweeter. But those things happen all the time really. Helping a guy get back on the ice, to see them meet their goals…those are the things that keep you in it. You spend so much time with these guys between doctor visits, rehabs, bus rides, games, practices, or just having a coffee with the boys during the down time, the relationships are what make the moments.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?

Ha! well I’m not superstitious until I am. I like a nice cup of coffee during warmups it helps me get focused and centered before the show starts. There was a time when if we were losing, I would change to a new stick of gum in between periods but if we were winning I would chew the same piece of gum to death all game (chewing the gum helps burn off that nervous energy). Jorge and I we switch our game gear if we lose but if we win, we roll the outfit to the next game.

Are you excited for an NHL team to come to Seattle?

Very! I think it’s great. I have been here long enough to have experienced KeyArena so it’s crazy to see the transformation going on down there. I’m excited about what they are doing to build that organization from the ground up.

What do you enjoy doing when not working for/with the Thunderbirds?

I like cooking. It’s something that is hard to do during the season because of the schedule and kids. I have a Smoker that I get going from time to time and I’m getting the hang of that as well. I like getting outside. I spend most of my time in a rink so getting out and getting some fresh air is always good. I’m from the Midwest and its great there but the PNW is quite a place to live so it’s nice to get out and see it.

What position do you/would you play if you were to play hockey?

Is healthy scratch a position? Probably a defenseman or grinding forward. I never played on ice but I played a lot of roller hockey. I was a basketball player actually growing up because I wasn’t allowed to play football or hockey really. I loved the defensive side of things more than scoring…probably because I wasn’t skilled enough to score.

Who are the Thunderbirds biggest rivals?

Well it’s Portland but I can almost put Everett right there as well. When you battle in the playoffs it creates some “drama” and we have had that with the Silvertips over the last six years more than Portland. Either way it’s a big game when you meet both of those teams. What’s funny for fans probably is that because of the way ATC’s and Equipment guys work together, we get along really well with Peaches, Richie, Stucks, and Blake. We still really enjoy beating the other guy though!

Where can we find you on social media?

@pvarney on the Twitter and Instagram. My Facebook is for family and friends mostly and I don’t really pay attention very much honestly.

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