Couple assists Portland Winterhawks in getting on the ice in 1976
Summerfield's Hal and Joy Thiemann are still involved after nearly 40 years
The Western Hockey League started with just seven teams in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada, in 1966, according to the Portland Winterhawks website.
The WHL now has teams in all four Western Canadian provinces plus Oregon and Washington. With the addition of the Edmonton Oil Kings for the 2007-08 season, the WHL now consists of 22 member clubs with 17 based in Canada and five in the Pacific Northwest. The Hawks are allowed to solicit players from western Canada, Europe and the western United States.
And Hal and Joy Thiemann of Summerfield can say that they were in on the ground floor of the WHL in Portland when the Winterhawks came to town nearly 40 years ago.
"In the early '70s, our son was 7 or 8 and played hockey, and I was involved in the Portland Amateur Hockey Association," Hal said. "We helped bring the team from Canada to the United States.
"In 1976, the Winterhawks were looking for a home. They were based in Edmonton, Alberta, and played in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. They were the first team to come to the U.S. and came to Portland."
At that time, "players were drafted into the NHL older than they are now," Hal said. "Now they range in age from 17 to 19, although they can have two 20-year-olds, and two can be from Europe."
When the Winterhawks came to Portland for the 1976-77 season, "we were also asked if a player could live with us for the season," Hal said. "They came to our home and interviewed us, and we took two players."
Jim Cross and Jeff Elkow lived with the Thiemanns for the 1976-77 season, and Joel Elliott lived with them the second and third years that the Winterhawks played.
"I don't think I missed a game the first three years," Joy said.
The Thiemanns still stay in touch with the three players and their wives, and in fact, Jim Cross and his wife Pat just visited the Thiemanns for a week in December.
Joy explained, "We have maintained these relationships over the years," and Hal added, "We created real friendships with these families."
He added, "In those early days, the Winterhawks only played Canadian teams and would bus 4,000 to 5,000 miles per year. They went as far as the province of Manitoba, and they drove between games as flying was not allowed by the league.
"They would play a game in one city and drive to the next. The perspiration on their uniforms under the bus would freeze between stops. Quite a few of the Winterhawks have gone on to play in the National Hockey League."
Also in 1976, "a friend of mine asked me to help off-ice," Hal said. "I became an off-ice official and have done everything from scorekeeping to time-keeping to goal-judging. Most of the time, I'm the official penalty time-keeper."
Hal, who sits at the score table, also feeds information to the PA announcer about who scores the goals and who assists as well as penalty announcements. "The announcer is required to repeat everything twice," he said, adding, "Most of all, I like the camaraderie of the group. There are still three of us left from the original group of off-ice officials."
Hal, who proudly wears a gold watch given to him by the Winterhawks to mark his 25th year as an official, shared a behind-the-scenes secret: The pucks are frozen before being put into play so they glide smoothly across the ice and don't stick.
According to Hal, the new owners of the Winterhawks and Coach Mike Johnson have made the necessary changes to bring professional management equal to what one would expect in the National Hockey League.
"Portland is a great hockey town," Hal said.
Aside from their affiliation with the Winterhawks, Hal and Joy have lived full lives "off the ice."
Hal was born in Alliance, Neb., and was one of six children in a family that "moved around a lot." His dad was a railroader, and the family moved between South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado before settling in Portland in 1945, where Hal attended Benson High School.
He served in the Army National Guard from 1955 to 1958 and then in the Army Reserves from 1959 to 1963, in the 41st hospital unit in Vancouver, Wash.
Also from 1959 to 1962, Hal raced cars in the open-wheel formula junior racing class.
Meanwhile, Joy was born in Portland and graduated from Wilson High School; she attended Western Business College for two years and was working in downtown Portland when she met Hal on what they jokingly refer to as a "double-blind date;" on their first date, they went to - of all things - a hockey game featuring the Portland Buckaroos, the Western Hockey League team that preceded the Winterhawks.
The Thiemanns got married March 3, 1963, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year, with Joy donning her original wedding dress for the occasion.
Before Hal and Joy married, he went to work for the British Motor Car Company, starting as a junior mechanic and becoming shop foreman. He also earned a diploma as a certified Rolls Royce mechanic, which was put to good use when owners called with car problems.
"We used to go to the owners' home to service their cars, or the cars would break down on the road, so I drove around the state to do immediate highway repairs," Hal said.
He also studied refrigeration and serviced Rolls Royce air-conditioning units before going to work for Barber-Colman Co., a commercial temperature-control business based in Illinois. He worked his way up from project installation supervisor to branch manager selling building automation systems in commercial buildings throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Hal and Joy were married by this time, and she worked for Benjamin Franklin Savings & Loan.
Hal left the stressful job in 1984 because "I had a heart attack and bypass surgery and felt that life was more important than work."
He then went on to work for Industrial Control Co., which did building-automation control systems, and ending up working with the state of Oregon, which was buying different systems for its buildings but having problems training employees to use all of the different software systems.
"The state of Oregon already had at least five major suppliers, and I was the sixth," Hal said. "Oregon had competitive bidding for each project, which is why they ended up with so many different systems. I talked them into using one standardized system and sold them an open-protocol system that could be competitively bid on and is now in more than 50 state buildings.
"I believe I saved the state of Oregon millions of dollars, and I brought a training facility to Oregon to train the state staff."
Thereafter, the state maintenance crews use only one software system to control scheduling and control of all heating, air-conditioning and lighting systems.
From there, Hal went to work for Christensen Electric for 1 ½ years to create a building-controls department and then did consulting with Cundiff Engineering and remained on an on-call basis until three years ago.
Hal pointed out that although he was not a licensed engineer, he was "creative, and I give a lot of credit to my education at Benson in mechanics, electrical and other subjects."
He is a Life Member of the American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers because of his many career accomplishments.
Joy was a stay-at-home mom when the kids were growing up, but then she went back to work from 1979 to 2001 for the Beaverton School District "pretty much full time" as an administrative assistant at Whitford and Conestoga middle schools.
The couple lived in the Southwest Portland area of Burlingame for 40 years before moving to Summerfield exactly 10 years ago at the urging of a friend.
One of their interests was square dancing, which they did with the Castle Eighters for five years, and they both play golf - Hal plays with the Summerfield Men's Golf Club, and Joy plays with the women's group.
"We like the tournaments," Hal said. "We have enjoyed the monthly Chapmans."
Hal also has pursued another hobby - creating lamps using golf clubs. He polishes used golf clubs and attaches three to a walnut base shaped like a golf green with a brass centerpiece, and adds a shade and balls.
"No two are alike, and I've sold half a dozen in the Summerfield Pro Shop," Hal said.
In addition, he served on the Summerfield Architectural Committee and the Summerfield Board of Directors for three years each, and will do volunteer work with the Marshals Committee.
The couple has a son, who has two boys, and a daughter, who has a boy and a girl. Between golf, baseball, lacrosse, hockey and football, the Thiemann family members stay very busy as they have a great love of sports in general.