Whenever I walk around wearing my Montreal Canadiens hat, most Seattleites think it’s a Chicago Bears hat, occasionally yelling “Go Bears!” So it wasn’t entirely surprising to hear that The Angry Beaver, Seattle’s premier hockey bar, is having financial problems.
“During the season I do great, and we absolutely kill it during the playoffs,” says owner Tim Pipes. “The problem is, the vast majority of my clientele are in here two to four nights a week, so when the Stanley Cup gets hoisted in June, the bar clears out. And that’s expected, for the first two to three weeks. But with the hot weather this summer, we were just not getting anyone coming through.”
The Beaver opened in 2012 as a home for hockey fans who were tired of being relegated to watching the sport on the muted black-and-white television at most sports bars, where the channel is inevitably changed to football or basketball before the game is over.
But over the years, with a lack of off-season customers, thousands of dollars in repairs, and a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the landlords, Pipes announced on Facebook that “If something magical doesn’t happen, and I don’t believe in magic, or ghosts, or UFO’s (I kinda believe in UFO’s), my sweet beaver is sunk. What a ride though! I did my best for the hockey community here.”
That hint of futility was short-lived. “I thought, ‘You know what, this is a hockey bar,’ ” says Pipes. “Hockey players don’t go down that easy, and I’m not going down without a fight.”
A GoFundMe campaign for $20,000 was started a few weeks ago to help the bar survive until the season began, and so far over $5,000 has been raised from numerous supporters. The Beaver even got a few hundred from investment banker Ray Bartoszek, a member of the group trying to bring the NHL to Tukwila.
“Much to my amazement, it blew up really quickly,” says Pipes.
Bartoszek is one among the flock of business people interested in landing a local hockey team, including hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, NHL power broker Jac Sperling, commercial real-estate magnate Victor Coleman, and resourceless freelance writer Chason Gordon. (I just wanted my name in the same sentence as those guys.)
Many of the proposed deals have stalled or fallen through, so the NHL didn’t receive any expansion applications from Seattle groups by the July deadline. Only Las Vegas and Quebec City submitted. According to KING 5, however, the “Seattle Arena” has been granted design approval, and next awaits a recommendation from SDOT and the City Council.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Boston Bruins owner Jerry Jacob said, “I’d love to see us in the West to be up in Seattle. Seattle’s a natural.”
Are The Angry Beaver’s struggles a harbinger of issues to come for a future Seattle hockey team? “Not at all,” says John Barr, a hockey writer who runs the popular nhltoseattle.com. “If you go during the hockey season, it’s packed.”
“The hockey community here is kind of diluted, because everyone roots for different teams,” says Barr. “Rarely do we get into a spot where we’re all watching the same game. And so The Angry Beaver provides this unique experience of getting together with hockey fans even if you’re not rooting for the same team. It’s not the end-all, be-all of the hockey community, but it’s certainly important, and it provides this community get-together situation.”
The off-season has been an issue since the beginning, especially when the bar found itself inadvertently opening during the 2012 NHL lockout. To help fight the annual woes, Pipes has added live music, trivia nights, comedy shows, a new chef, and various fundraisers and sportswriter panels. What attracts me is the selection of Canadian candy bars. Coffee Crisps are awesome.
“I’m not just a guy who owns a bar that shows hockey,” says Pipes; “I’m also a big supporter of local hockey, the [Greater Seattle Hockey League], the [Rainier Hockey League], the [Western Hockey League], and guys playing for the love of the sport all around, from Auburn to Everett.”
Pipes recalls opening at 3 in the morning for the gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden in the 2014 Olympics. The bar was full. “At 5 in the morning, Canada went up 3-0 over Sweden, and the place broke out into the Canadian national anthem. Being a former Canadian myself it cracked me up.”
This is Pipes’ first time owning a bar, and he says he’s learned plenty from all the feedback he’s received. But the one suggestion he won’t take is to stop being a hockey bar and just become a regular sports bar. “That’s not the point, that’s not why I opened this place,” says Pipes.
“If you walk in here during the season—we’re big Seahawks supporters, and we do NFL on Sunday—but if you come in here during a weeknight and there’s hockey games on, no, I’m sorry, the Mariners will not be on our TVs. No, I’m sorry, the NBA will not be on. It’s going to be hockey and hockey only.”
The NHL season begins Wednesday. The GoFundMe campaign can be found here.