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From mites to peewees, T.J. Oshie left a mark on Seattle hockey. Seattle hasn’t forgotten.

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/20/2021 Samantha Pell
T.J. Oshie with junior players from the SJHA before a 2020 game in Arizona. © Mike Murphy/Courtesy Mike Murphy T.J. Oshie with junior players from the SJHA before a 2020 game in Arizona.

There’s an entire display case devoted to T.J. Oshie at OlympicView Arena in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. The rink, in a suburb a few miles north of Seattle, is where the 14-year NHL veteran spent his formative hockey years, although the case is all about his professional achievements — sticks, signed jerseys, pucks, programs.

It’s a shrine to the area’s most famous hockey son.

Oshie, now a 34-year-old Stanley Cup winner with the Washington Capitals and a 2014 Olympic hero with Team USA, spent 10 years in the Seattle Junior Hockey Association, which counts OlympicView Arena as its home ice. And Oshie as its most renowned alum.

Although Oshie eventually moved to Minnesota for high school, his preternatural hockey talent made him stand out at a young age. His personality made him beloved.

“At Seattle junior hockey, he’s huge,” SJHA President Mike Murphy said. “The kids, they love him. We don’t get to see him that often, but whenever we do it is still a huge thing. . . . Lot of 77s — and 74s for when he was in St. Louis — in our little guys. They love him.”

The arrival of the expansion Seattle Kraken will allow fans of the Everett, Wash., native to see their hero — if he plays Sunday night at Climate Pledge Arena. Oshie had spent nearly a month on injured reserve after he took a puck off his right foot in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. He was activated off IR on Saturday and got ice time against the San Jose Sharks.

Even if he doesn’t take the ice, his influence in the Seattle community remains far-reaching. Murphy estimates about 200 to 300 families who are part of the SJHA will be at the game. Expect to see plenty of Oshie jerseys in the crowd — not only current SJHA families but former members of the SJHA and their families, plus Oshie’s mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle and family friends, are planning to be at the game.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to see T.J. — and the Caps,” Murphy said. “Whatever team T.J. is on, it becomes their favorite team.”

Oshie has gone out of his way to stay in touch with the SJHA. Murphy said that before the pandemic, if a Seattle juniors tournament team was playing near where the Capitals were playing, he would text Oshie and let him know some of his local kids were around and wanted to say hello. Oshie would rarely miss the opportunity to drop by and take pictures and sign autographs.

T.J. Oshie isn’t a kid anymore at 34, but he still plays like one

Murphy said Oshie also would regularly drop by OlympicView when he was back in the area, often carving out time to surprise kids by skating at his old rink.

“I would just say that if you could create just an all-around great person, great athlete, great dad, great son, T.J. would be what you would imagine to have as that,” Murphy said. “I’m just super proud of him. We wish we could see him more.”

Murphy, who coached Oshie at the squirt, pewee and bantam levels, remains close with Oshie. Because Oshie’s late father, Tim, often went by the nickname “Coach Osh,” Oshie simply calls Murphy “Dad,” and Murphy calls Oshie “Son.” Murphy coached alongside Oshie’s dad in the SJHA.

There is still a strong bond between the association and the Oshie family. The association lowered its flag to half-staff after Tim’s death in May following a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

“Tim was always kind to whoever needed a hand,” Murphy said. “He always would go out of his way to just be nice to people, and he always had a smile on his face, and I think T.J.’s mom and dad brought [T.J.] up that way, too.”

Murphy said when he first heard about Oshie, he was still in mites (8 and under). His talent was evident even then.

“I told anyone that would listen that we’re going to watch him play someday. Like, we had a lot of good players come through here, but he was next level,” Murphy said. “People didn’t really know, but I knew early on that he was so much better than everyone else.”

For Murphy, and many others connected to the SJHA, getting the chance to see Oshie play Sunday would be a welcome bonus. But getting a chance just to know him has been the gift.

“You always want more when you get to be around him,” Murphy said. “It is never enough. He’s such a good person all the way around. And the fact that he’s unreal at hockey, that’s not even the best part.”

Note: In addition to Oshie, the Capitals removed forward Nic Dowd (lower body) from IR. Both saw action at San Jose.

Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie poses with the Stanley Cup along with his father, Tim (center), and Mike Murphy in 2018. © Mike Murphy/Courtesy photo Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie poses with the Stanley Cup along with his father, Tim (center), and Mike Murphy in 2018.
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