After the explosion, Tim Pipes nearly threw in the towel. Then, a month later, he was robbed. Pipes has also undergone spinal fusion surgery and back surgery to remove a herniated disk. He’s been through a difficult divorce. But despite all these, the place he loves most, The Angry Beaver, a small, 80-person hockey bar he owns in the heart of Greenwood — that serves countless batches of poutine — has subsisted. And he has subsisted right along with it.
Born in Winnipeg, Canada, the 56-year-old Pipes grew up in Toronto. A graduate of Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, Pipes moved to Seattle in 1991 to play rock ‘n’ roll (once he opened for local legends Heart and Queensrÿche at the Gorge Amphitheatre). But he fled back to Toronto in the early 2000s after the ugly divorce. While living with old friends there, Pipes fell in love with hockey again. He cheered happily for the home team at his local watering hole and he adored seeing hockey nets in every driveway.
When he returned to Seattle, Pipes carried his love for the game with him. He took a job as a teacher in a private school for 10 years. But in 2012, he decided to make his sharpest career turn. He sold the Apple stock he’d fortuitously bought in the 1990s and opened Seattle’s first hockey bar, packing its kitchen with Canadian fare like peameal sandwiches (bacon wrapped in corn meal, slapped on a bun) and an array of poutine (French fries decadently smothered in melty cheese and gravy).
“I’d been going around to bars in Seattle for 10 years and no one showed hockey,” said Pipes, just a few days removed from hosting his fifth annual Canadian Thanksgiving at his bar, which included turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. “So, I thought I should open a hockey bar and if it fails, at least I get to watch hockey for a year.”
But it didn’t fail. Pipes tapped into an underserved audience — both “Canadian orphans,” as he calls the ex-pats, and hockey fans. The journey hasn’t been without its trials. The year Pipes opened The Angry Beaver, the NHL decided to lock out its players over financial disputes. He lost three months of games. In 2016, he was forced to shut down for four months because of the devastating Greenwood gas explosion. He missed the year’s playoffs.
Steadfastly, Pipes rebuilt his shrine to hockey. And the customers returned. There is a real audience for the game in Seattle and that adoration will only grow with the announcement of the new expansion team. But while The Angry Beaver should draw new customers with new hometown pride, Pipes said his bar will remain welcoming to all fans.
“It won’t change,” he said. “It will still be an all-inclusive hockey bar. We love that people from Chicago, Tampa, Detroit all feel comfortable here.”
The Angry Beaver, perhaps above all else, is a mini museum to hockey. Jerseys from every NHL team line the walls of the bar, including some from teams that no longer exist. Between them are various (and valuable) bits of hockey memorabilia, from a signed Wayne Gretzky poster to a license plate once owned by Boston hockey legend Bobby Orr. One can visit and, without a game on a TV, can feel steeped in the tradition, as the aroma of poutine gravy wafts around you.
But with six 60-inch televisions and one 105-inch HD projector going nightly in the modest space, Pipes can’t help but humor ideas of expansion. He said he can envision opening a new place near KeyArena, serving Angry Beaver poutine inside during games, and potentially a third location in Northgate where the new as-yet-unnamed team’s proposed practice facilities would be.
“Whatever happens,” said Pipes, “I want to make sure my little place in Greenwood offers whatever Seattle hockey fans need. I’m going to do all that I can to make that happens.”