T-Birds Mourn Loss Of Bruce McDonald

KENT, June 6, 2012 — The Seattle Thunderbirds organization is in mourning with the passing of radio color commentator and play-by-play voice Bruce McDonald early on June 6.

A memorial service for Bruce will be held on Friday, June 22, at noon at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond. The service is open to the public.

A memorial fund has been set up in Bruce’s name. Fans wishing to contribute should make out checks to “Bruce McDonald Memorial Trust Fund” and send them to the Seattle Thunderbirds Offices at 625 James, Kent WA 98032. Fans can also send their donations to: Bruce McDonald Memorial Trust Fund, CPO Box 634, Fall City, WA 98024.

Bruce was diagnosed with leukemia in April. He had been courageously fighting cancer through several rounds of chemotherapy.

Bruce, born January 8, 1971, has been a member of the T-Birds family since he was 12-years-old. Even though he suffered from cerebral palsy, Bruce regularly attended Seattle Breakers games in a wheelchair with his mother Char. It was at one these games in 1983 that Bruce was called into the locker room by then Seattle Breakers head coach Marc Boileau. Boileau gave Bruce a clipboard and asked him to help the team track and keep statistics. He was a member of the team from that point forward.

Bruce joined play-by-play voice Chris Collins as part of the Thunderbirds radio broadcast team for the 1998-99 season. When Collins moved on two years later Bruce joined Joe Dominey in the broadcast booth. When Dominey moved on a year later Bruce joined Thom Beuning in the broadcast booth. Bruce and Thom have called the action on T-Birds broadcasts for the last 11 seasons

Bruce is survived by his mother Char, sister Nolette Everett, half-brother Stevie McDonald, half-sister Stacy Talley and Grandmother Bertha.

“This is a sad day for the Thunderbirds family and our fans. Bruce loved the T-Birds and his dedication to the team rubbed off on every person Bruce came in contact with. We will miss Bruce dearly and offer our sincerest condolences to his family.” – Russ Farwell, T-Birds President/General Manager.

“I only knew Bruce for 12 years, but his passing Wednesday has made this one of the most difficult days of my nearly 50 years of existence.  Only the passing of my dad nearly three years ago could rival the sorrow I feel today knowing my good friend is gone. But I can’t feel sad and sorrowful for too long because Bruce would not accept that. If there is a book of adages out there, you will find Bruce’s picture on the page beside that old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!’’’ – Thom Beuning, Seattle Thunderbirds play-by-play voice. Read Thom’s In The Corners Blog Post on the passing of his friend.

“Bruce McDonald was a tremendous broadcaster and colleague but an even better person and friend. While the teams we represented were bitter rivals on the ice, none of that extended to the press box and I always looked forward to spending time with Bruce prior to the games talking about our teams, hockey and life in general.  His dedication to the Seattle Thunderbirds and the WHL was undeniable and he was an inspiration and someone that always had a smile and positive outlook, regardless of the situation. It is going to be very strange to not see Bruce on my many visits to the ShoWare Center or when the ‘Birds visit Portland. I know that his spirit will live on and he will now be providing color commentary from on high moving forward. My condolences to all of Bruce’s family, Thom Beuning and the Seattle Thunderbird family for their loss.” – Andy Kemper, Portland Winterhawks Broadcast Team.

“Bruce was a ray and hope and a true shining light for me and all of us to keep positive and deal with whatever life hands our way. Trips to Kent will never be the same without Bruce. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to Char and the entire Thunderbird family of staff and fans.” – Craig West, Tri-City Americans play-by-play voice.

“Bruce was always the epitome of dedication in our profession. Hardworking, kind, intelligent, and overcoming anything put in his path.  A great broadcaster and colleague, I’m proud to have known him.” – Todd Vrooman, Portland Winterhawks Broadcast Communications Manager.

“When I got the job with the Thunderbirds, I had no experience calling hockey. My early attempts were a struggle to say the least, but Bruce would constantly encourage me and emphasize the positives despite those early pitfalls. Every game was exciting to Bruce. Thunderbirds hockey was an event that he was thrilled to be part of. His mom Char was always there with him and she was absolutely devoted to her son. She raised a terrific one. If everyone would have the same positive attitude that Bruce did, the world would be a much better place. He was a terrific human being who cared about people, was very forgiving and saw the good in everyone. He made things around him better just by his presence. He is now getting his well deserved chance to play hockey in heaven.” – Joe Dominey, former play-by-play voice for the Seattle Thunderbirds. 

“I first met Bruce when calling my first T-Birds game in Seattle. I was immediately impressed. His physical limitations were never once considered and or complained about ever. My partner actually climbed and willed his way into press boxes and provided NHL level analysis on a regular basis. 14 seasons later I’m amazed at the work, effort and desire to be the best colour analyst in the WHL that Bruce put in. While his loss is devastating to me personally, his life example, loyalty and friendship will never be forgotten.” – Chris Collins, former play-by-play voice for the Seattle Thunderbirds.

“On behalf of The Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club, I would like to send our sincere condolences to the McDonald Family and to the Seattle Thunderbirds Family. We would also like to celebrate Bruce’s 14 years in the WHL and a passionate job well done.” – Rich Preston, Lethbridge Hurricanes General Manager.

“What stands out most about Bruce is he was the ultimate professional. He interviewed me several times and was always prepared.   Bruce always focused on the big picture – the terrific level of play he felt honored to call that featured future NHL players throughout the WHL. He treasured watching them hone their skills and get to the next level of their hockey careers. Bruce loved what he did so much that he overcame incredible obstacles due to his mobility issues to work in press boxes that were difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, for him to access. Watching and listening to him work was an inspiration to every single broadcaster in the WHL. He will be missed very much by his listeners, his colleagues and everyone who was fortunate enough to get to know him.” – Dean Vrooman, Portland Winterhawks Director of Corporate Partnerships.

“I met Bruce and his mom 20 years ago when I started as a hockey play by play announcer. Home games in the Seattle Center Arena always meant a hug from Char and some much appreciated tips from Bruce. When Bruce started working on the broadcasts himself, I could not have been happier since there was no bigger fan of the Thunderbirds, WHL or the sport of hockey than Bruce. He was a fixture at the rinks, and watching him and his mom enjoy the games together epitomized what the WHL and Seattle Thunderbirds are all about- a family atmosphere. The ShowWare and Thunderbirds will not be the same without him. My thoughts go out to Char and his entire family.” – Ian Furness, ROOT Sports WHL Play-by-Play/Former T-Birds Broadcaster.

“As a predecessor of Bruce in the color commentary chair on T-Birds radio and television, I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing. The condolences of my family and our prayers go to Bruce and his family, especially his devoted mother Char who assisted him throughout his whole life and particularly in his early days. I first met Bruce when the late Marc Boileau brought him in to the T-Bird family and have been amazed by his demeanor, positive attitude and perseverance in overcoming all obstacles to be able to engage in his passion – T-Bird hockey. His growth and ultimate excellence as a hockey broadcaster has been followed by many of us over the years. I was honored to help Bruce out a couple of years ago when Thom was ill and Bruce took over the play-by-play and I did color for a game. Play-by-play hockey is very difficult, especially on radio as I discovered the few times that I had to do it. Bruce handled it like a pro without missing a beat and did a superb job. Bruce will be sorely missed by his legion of radio and TV fans, by those of us who are around the rink and by his family. Godspeed.” – Carlos Sosa, Turning Point Sports Management LLC. Former Color Commentator for Seattle Breakers and Thunderbirds.

“I have fantastic memories of Bruce during my visits to Seattle over the years. His passion for the Thunderbirds, the WHL, and hockey in general was always evident when we had a chance to catch up at the Key Arena or ShoWare Center. He was a tremendous supporter of T-Birds hockey and there’s no doubt those he worked alongside in the broadcast booth over the years had a ton of fun doing so. My deepest condolences to the McDonald family, the Thunderbirds organization, and their fans.” – Joey Kenward, Canucks TV Host/Broadcaster, Former Play-by-Play Broadcaster for Vancouver Giants & Swift Current Broncos.

“I only knew Bruce for this past season with the Thunderbirds. But I know that every day he came to the hockey rink with a friendly smile on his face and was always open to shooting the breeze with anyone available. He will be greatly missed in the ShoWare Center. My condolences go out to his family and friends” – Cason Machacek, Thunderbirds defenseman during 2011-12 season.

“Bruce was always a part of my years as a T-Bird. As a player I remember getting pep talks after games from Bruce and his mom, as well as the occasional baked good! When I returned to coach it was great to see that they still fully supported the team. His upbeat attitude and fantastic insight into the game will be missed by many, not just within the T-Bird organization but throughout the league as well. Rest in peace my friend.” – Blake Knox, former T-Bird player and assistant coach.

“My deepest condolences to Bruce’s mother and family. I was introduced to Bruce on parents weekend before he began interviewing me about my son. He put me at ease and made me feel welcome! I talked to him a few times since and he was always polite and insightful.I t will not be the same listening to the Birds without his commentary! Rest in peace Bruce!” – Roy Sanvido, father of current T-Bird Connor Sanvido.

“While I was never able to meet the man personally, he came across very passionately for the Seattle Thunderbirds Hockey Club on any broadcasts I listened to. It is always very sad to lose such a passionate person in this sport and his place will be a very difficult one to fill.” – Stuart Kemp, President Portland Winterhawks Booster Club.

“I was deeply saddened by the recent news of Bruce’s passing. My condolences go out to Char, and his many friends and family members. Although Bruce always demonstrated insight and knowledge on the air during broadcasts, it was our off air chats and support that were most memorable for me. He had such a positive outlook and was a pleasure to see at the rink. He was always so passionate about the game. Junior hockey will miss such a dedicated and loyal member. It was an honor to know him.” – Rob Sumner, Calgary Flames Scout and former head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds.

“Bruce was truly a terrific human being and I was blessed to have him work with me during my coaching days in Seattle! Bruce and his wonderful mother Char were first hand witnesses to my between periods, clipboard throwing tantrums, in the hallways of the good old Seattle Center Arena.  Boy did we enjoy many, many laughs about the “good old days”! Bruce’s total LOVE for the Thunderbirds and the Western Hockey League were unparalleled! I was fortunate to have had a few conversations recently with Bruce during his hospital stay and I just marveled at his expertise on the sport of hockey!  My condolences go out to Char and the rest of Bruce’s family. Bruce was an inspiration to me and Loved by so many people ! Rest in peace Brucer!” – Jim Dobson, former coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds.

“Very sad to hear of the passing of Bruce – who was a fixture at the T-Birds game, (in the corner to my broadcast right at the Key Arena), long before and long after I did my three years of play-by-play in the mid-90s. After a year of “blocked vision” from up row three of the second deck, we decided to move our location to “Bruce’s corner”, which gave us a closer view of one end and an unobstructed view of the ice. As a result of our move to his territory we were able to first exchange greetings and then as time moved on engage in lots of hockey discussions with both Bruce and his mom Char. Not sure if our broadcast location switch gave him the bug to put on the headset after we left – but I was happy that he’d been given the opportunity to broadcast games involving his favorite team. My sincere condolences to Char and the rest of his family.” – Dan Russell, WHL on Shaw Play-by-Play Broadcaster and former T-Birds Play-by-Play Broadcaster.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I hear of the passing of Bruce McDonald. Unfortunately, being the broadcaster for an Eastern Conference team means only seeing Bruce every second season…although I do believe he made the trip to Saskatoon at least once in my 18 years! Having said that, either Bruce or I made sure to seek one another out when the Blades visited the Thunderbirds and “exchange notes” that would be of help to us for our respective broadcasts that evening. His love, enthusiasm and passion for the game of hockey, in general, and the Seattle Thunderbirds, in particular, was enthralling and it was a pleasure and an honour to have made his acquaintance…even if it was for only a brief few moments every second season! Rest in peace, Bruce.” – Les Lazaruk, Saskatoon Blades Play-by-Play Broadcaster.

“I am saddened by the news of Bruce’s passing. My belief is he found great joy slapping on the headset and delivering the game to the listening faithful. It gave him purpose. It gave him meaning. It made him a part of something. That is all anyone wants in life isn’t it? To mean something. To count. For Bruce, despite being confined to a wheelchair, being on the radio gave him a voice and equal footing with everyone once he entered the broadcast booth. He clearly loved to talk hockey, but specifically about the team he knew, the Seattle Thunderbirds. His eyes often sparkled as he spoke fondly about the players and the organization. My last conversation with Bruce was on February 14th when both he and broadcast partner Thom Beuning visited my broadcast location at ShoWare Center prior to the puck drop.  Bruce in his wheelchair had a brown bag in his hand.  He handed it to me saying, “Here you go.” When I opened it up, much to my surprise, I found a blue winter hat (a toque as I like to call it). His mother Char had made it for me. Bruce’s mom promised me she would knit me a hat after I met her earlier in the season. For those that don’t know, Bruce’s mom is a fixture at T-Birds home games. Char and Bruce would arrive two hours before every T-Birds game and while Bruce was preparing for the broadcast, Char would begin knitting. It was repeated time and time again. The majority of the hats and scarves that Char creates from her skillful hands are given away to those less fortunate. Char is obviously a special lady who brought up a very special son named Bruce. She was darn proud of him and Bruce spoke the same about his Mom’s caring heart. While Bruce McDonald’s life was cut short by cancer, he lived a life that many able bodied people fail to achieve. His voice and smile will be missed. When I make my next stop in Kent, I will be sure to give Char a hug and for a brief moment, sit back in the broadcast booth to remember Bruce McDonald and the happiness he brought to so many lives, including mine.” – Regan Bartel, Kelowna Rockets Play-by-Play Broadcaster.

“So saddened to hear of the passing of Bruce. I did 3 years of color commentary for the Seattle T-Birds in the mid to late 90’s. It was a real pleasure to get to know Bruce and actually have him help me with my pregame set up at the Key. He was also helpful in providing in game stats for our broadcasts. Upon leaving the T-Birds I was especially happy to see him get the opportunity to take my spot on Seattle radio broadcasts. His mother was always so complimentary and supportive of our work. I remember one game my $15 reading glasses had one arm missing. Bruce told me his mom could get them for me for $1 each. I handed him $20 and said get me as many as she could. Sure enough next game Bruce has 20 pair for me! It was also fun to be a guest of his on the Seattle radio broadcasts. He really loved his work. This is surely a sad time for the entire WHL family. He will be missed.” – Bill Wilms, Vancouver Giants and WHL on Shaw Broadcast.

“What a sad day for the hockey world. I did several interviews with Bruce over my years as a scout with Detroit. He always was prepared and asked a lot of great questions. He so loved doing T-Bird games. Always had a smile and wanted to know everything about the Pro game and what it would take for the junior players to make it to the show!  We will miss you my friend!” – Bruce Haralson, Detroit Red Wings Scout.

“I was very saddened to hear the passing of Bruce McDonald. In my four years with the Everett Silvertips organization from 2003-2007, I really enjoyed speaking with Bruce about the game of hockey before the game in the press box and about the WHL and NHL in general. I knew the Silveritps and Thunderbirds were rivals on the ice but I always had respect for the T-Birds organization and their broadcasters with Thom and Bruce. My thoughts and prayers are with the McDonald family and the WHL will miss his presence in the press box.” – Keith Gerhart, former Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster, Everett Silvertips.

Written memories and condolences from WHL teams, players, personnel and media can be sent to Ian Henry at . They will be posted to this page as they are received.

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