"Thunderbirds" is the name of the sports teams of the University of British Columbia (UBC), which is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their home arena is the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, one of the venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics. They are members of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA) and U Sports, formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
UBC did not play top tier university hockey until they joined the Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WCIAU) in 1961-62. In 1962-63 the conference was re-named the Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WCIAA, or WIAA). When the WCIAA split in two following the 1971-72 season, the University of British Columbia became a founding member of the CWUAA, along with the University of Saskatchewan, University of Victoria, University of Calgary, and University of Alberta. Victoria has since departed and a GPAC merger and new programs have added new CWUAA opponents at the University of Manitoba, the University of Regina, University of Lethbridge, and Mount Royal University.
As with the other major western universities, UBC competed in local senior competition in their pre-university days. They competed in the Vancouver City Senior League (VCSL) in at least 1920-21. Results from BC hockey in the early days are sketchy. Here are the results available:
- After finishing in 3rd place in the 4 team league UBC caught fire in the playoffs, winning sudden-death quarter-final and semi-final games before defeating the renowned Vancouver Towers 6-5 on aggregate to take the title. There are no other listings for UBC competing in the VCSL in any other season, though records are missing for several seasons. See: List of VCSL Seasons
- After losing the opener to the Victoria Senators 3-2, UBC took game 2 by a 5-3 score. This gave UBC the series 7-6 on aggregate and the provincial title. Unfortunately for them, they won the title too late to challenge for the Allan Cup. Alberta had the same problem, and Saskatchewan's league was under suspension. That left the Intercollegiate winner (who for 3 seasons in the early 20s was granted a berth), the University of Saskatchewan, and the Manitoba and Thunder Bay champions (Brandon and Port Arthur) to compete for the 1920-21 Western Canada Allan Cup Playoffs. So had UBC competed they likely would have faced the University of Saskatchewan in a playoff series for the first time. Also, the University of Alberta came very close to winning the 1920-21 Alberta Senior Playoffs. They won the Edmonton league and then lost the final to Calgary.
- Unfortunately, this is the only season for which annual standings are available for the Vancouver Intermediate League. UBC placed second and lost the semi-final to the Vancouver Nationals.
- UBC played in and won the New Westminster Industrial League. Then, in the provincial playoffs,UBC lost a semi-final series to New Westminster 2 games to 1.
- British Columbia Senior Hockey Champions
- List of British Columbia Senior Playoffs
- List of British Columbia Intermediate Playoffs
- List of VCSL Seasons
- BC Hockey History
UBC entered the old WCIAU in the 1961-62 season. They played for three seasons before departing for two, citing travel costs. The squad returned in 1966-67 and remain there today.
The team has won two WCIAA conference titles, in 1963 and 1971. They qualified for the University Cup in those two seasons, and in 1977. They lost the 1977 CWUAA final to Alberta, who were slated to host the University Cup that year.
1963 was the first season where the CIAU (forerunner of the CIS) held a national hockey championship. The `Birds went 8-1-1 in the regular season. At the U-Cup they beat Sherbrooke 6-2 in the semi-finals before losing the final to McMaster 3-2.
In 1971 the `Birds placed second to Manitoba in the regular season. However, they defeated Calgary in the semi-finals and Manitoba in the final to return to the U-Cup. In a five-team tournament, they lost 3-2 to Toronto, beat Loyola 6-4, then lost the third place game 7-4 to Laurentian.
By 1977 the west was split into the CWUAA and the GPAC. UBC placed second in the CWUAA and then lost to Alberta in the final. In the U-Cup they lost a 2-game semi-final series to Toronto 11-10 on aggregate.
As the 70s became the 80s the Thunderbirds never had a return to glory. They lost the 1978 final to Alberta and then finished either 3rd or 4th in the 4-team era of the CWUAA. Once the CWUAA merged with the GPAC, UBC never saw the playoffs until the field was expanded to 6 teams.
UBC's 4th place finish in 2014-15 was their first finish in the top four seeds since 1989-90, when they placed 3rd. In between they always placed 5th or lower. Also in that period, they won three playoff series, all in the quarter-final (or division semi-final) round. In 2007 and 2009 they beat Lethbridge, and in 2014 they beat Saskatchewan. In all three series they were the lower seed. The 2014 win over Saskatchewan was their first series win over a "Big Four" team since they beat Manitoba in the 1971 WCIAA final. Their 2015 series win over Manitoba was their first home playoff series since the 1971 championship season.
In 2013-14 the program was put in doubt by UBC administration. However, efforts of the Vancouver Canucks and WHL owners appear to have saved the program, for the immediate future at least.
Season-by-Season Records Table
Senior: 1916-17 to 1960-61
|1921 VCSL||6||2||4||0||19||20||4||3rd of 4|
|1921 Playoffs||4||3||0||1||12||9||7||won league|
|1921 Provincials||2||1||1||0||7||6||2||won province|
|1923 to 1945||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||n/a|
|1950 Hamber||4||3||1||0||17||11||6||won series|
|1951 Hamber||2||0||1||1||5||7||1||lost series|
|1952 Hamber||2||0||1||1||7||11||1||lost series|
|1953 Hamber||2||0||2||0||5||14||0||lost series|
|1954 Hamber||2||0||2||0||4||16||0||lost series|
|1955 Hamber||2||0||2||0||7||9||0||lost series|
|1956 Hamber||2||1||1||0||7||8||2||lost series|
|1957 Hamber||2||0||2||0||7||12||0||lost series|
|1958 Hamber||2||0||2||0||3||19||0||lost series|
|1959 Hamber||2||0||2||0||6||17||0||lost series|
|1960 Hamber||2||0||2||0||6||15||0||lost series|
|1961 Hamber||2||0||2||0||6||23||0||lost series|
WCIAU/WCIAA: 1961-62 to 1971-72
|1962 Hamber||2||0||2||0||6||13||0||lost series∞|
|1963 Hamber||2||1||0||1||5||3||3||won series∞|
|1963 WCIAA||10||8||1||1||42||20||17||1st ∆|
|1963 U-Cup||2||1||1||0||8||5||2||lost final|
|1964 Hamber||2||0||2||0||2||11||0||lost series∞|
|1965 Hamber||2||1||1||0||8||16||2||lost series|
|1966 Hamber||2||0||2||0||4||10||0||lost series|
|1967 Hamber||3||0||3||0||5||13||0||lost series∞|
|1968 Hamber||2||0||2||0||2||11||0||lost series∞|
|1971 Playoffs||5||4||1||0||31||18||8||champion ∆|
|1972 WCIAA||20||14||6||0||129||73||28||W 3rd|
CWUAA/GPAC Split Era: 1972-73 to 1984-85
|1973 Asia Tour||10||9||1||0||73||16||18||exhibition|
|1977 CWUAA||24||14||10||0||110||85||28||2nd ∆|
CWUAA Unified Era: 1985-86 to present
|1996 CWUAA||28||9||17||2||98||130||20||M 4th|
|1997 CWUAA||26||7||16||3||81||105||17||M 4th|
|1998 CWUAA||28||9||15||4||77||94||22||M 3rd|
|1999 CWUAA||28||7||18||3||84||102||17||M 4th|
|2000 CWUAA||28||5||19||4||69||122||14||M 4th|
|2001 CWUAA||28||6||19||3||74||108||15||M 4th|
|2002 CWUAA||28||5||19||4||67||111||14||M 4th|
|2003 CWUAA||28||5||23||0||59||125||10||M 4th|
|2004 CWUAA||28||7||19||2||64||107||16||M 3rd|
|2005 CWUAA||28||5||17||6||75||107||16||M 3rd|
|2006 CWUAA||28||12||15||1||79||100||25||M 3rd|
|2007 CWUAA||28||14||13||1||76||88||29||M 3rd|
|2018 CWUAA||28||16||10||2||83||79||34||4th ø|
- ∆ qualified for Unversity Cup in 1963 and 1971 as conference champion and in 1977 as runner-up to the host
- ∞ indicates Hamber Trophy played as part of regular season
- ø UBC was awarded 4 points from two losses to Calgary as a result of a forfeiture in 2017-18.
- The WCIAA played a two division format in 1971-72: West (W) and East (E).
- The GPAC merged into the CWUAA in 1985-86.
- The CWUAA played a two division format from 1996-97 to 2006-07: Mountain (M) and Great Plains (GP).
- VCSL - 1921
- Savage Cup - 1921
- WCIAA - 1963, 1971
Hamber TrophyFrom 1949-50 to 1967-68, the Alberta Golden Bears and the UBC Thunderbirds played an annual series for the Hamber Trophy. From 1961-62 onwards, UBC was often in the WCIAU or the WCIAA and in those seasons the teams' conference games counted towards this Trophy. The results are on the Season-by-Season Table.
1973 Tour to China and Japan
|Dec 26||Tokyo||UBC||8-2||Japanese College All Stars|
|Dec 28||Tokyo||UBC||4-5||Seibu Railway|
Feb 10 Norway Olympic Team 4 UBC 1
Thunderbirds who played in the NHL
- Ken Broderick
- Doug Buhr
- Ross Cory
- Gary Dineen
- Mike Kennedy
- Danny Lucas
- Barry MacKenzie
- Dan Smith
- Barry Wilcox
- Alberta Golden Bears
- Calgary Dinosaurs
- Lethbridge Pronghorns
- Manitoba Bisons
- Mount Royal Cougars
- Regina Cougars
- Saskatchewan Huskies
- UBC Thunderbirds
CW Teams in Other Leagues
- Canada West Universities Athletic Association
- List of CWUAA Seasons (from 1972-73 to present)
- Great Plains Athletic Conference
- List of GPAC Seasons (from 1972-73 to 1984-85)
- List of WCIAA Seasons (from 1962-63 to 1971-72)
- List of WCIAU Seasons (from 1918-19 to 1961-62)
- Ontario University Athletics
- RSEQ (formerly Quebec Student Sports Federation)
- Quebec-Ontario Athletic Association (with seasons from 1954 to 1971)
- List of OUA Seasons (includes CIAU, QOAA & OUAA)
- List of QOAA Seasons (from 1954 to 1971)
- Ontario Intercollegiate Athletic Association (with seasons from 1965 to 1971)
- Ottawa St. Lawrence Conference (with seasons from 1951 to 1971)
- List of QUAA Seasons (from 1971-72 to 1986-87)
- List of Intermediate Intercollegiate Seasons (from 1902-03 to 1938-39)
- Ontario-Quebec Intermediate Intercollegiate series (from 1902-03 to 1934-35)
- Senior Intercollegiate League (1945-46)
- International Intercollegiate League (from 1936-37 to 1939-40)
- West Point Weekend