SPRINGFIELD, MASS. — Springfield’s new American Hockey League franchise will take the ice for the upcoming 2016-2017 season as the Springfield Thunderbirds. With hockey fans and local dignitaries looking on from center ice seats at the MassMutual Center Arena, team officials announced the new name through a pulsating two-minute video on the arena’s state of the art LED scoreboard.
“The Springfield Thunderbirds’ name represents the strength and pride of western Massachusetts. It is a nod to our hockey past, a tribute to the men and woman of the Air Force who are so vital to this region, and a symbol of the new energy and spirit that is palpable in Springfield,” said Nathan Costa, the Thunderbirds Executive Vice-President.
Thunderbirds is an allusion to two previous Springfield AHL hockey team names, the Indians and the Falcons. The name refers to the animal of Native American legend that creates thunder and lightning by flapping its massive wings. Like the Falcon, it is also a fierce bird of prey. The name also refers to the famous demonstration planes of the U.S. Air Force and serves as an homage to Barnes Air National Guard Base and the Westover Air Reserve Base, in Westfield and Chicopee respectively.
The announcement follows a “name the team” campaign that solicited suggestions from the public in a survey coordinated in partnership with MassLive and the Springfield Republican. The survey received over 2,600 responses.
“We would like to thank the thousands of fans who participated in this survey. We were overwhelmed by the creativity and enthusiasm of those who submitted suggestions. Our fans wanted a name that honored the proud history of AHL hockey in Springfield while at the same time reflecting the new energy and excitement of this franchise. We believe the Thunderbirds captures this spirit, ” commented Costa.
The logo features a bird’s head in bright blue with a curved beak against a background of red and yellow. The team’s name is picked out in yellow and white.
"The City of Springfield has a long and storied relationship with the American Hockey League going back to the days of Eddie Shore. For 80 years, professional hockey has been played in our community, and many fans could not imagine a season without a local franchise playing home games at the Mass Mutual Center. Next season, the ‘Springfield Thunderbirds’ will take the ice in pursuit of their first Calder Cup. And we have the ownership group to thank for the efforts to keep a charter member of the AHL in downtown Springfield. I am certain that local fans will welcome this exciting new team to The Nest, and that the 2016-2017 season will be a successful partnership between the Thunderbirds and the Florida Panthers of the NHL," said Congressman Richard E. Neal.
The name was announced today at an event at the MassMutual Center Arena attended by team owners and executives, local hockey fans, local dignitaries, AHL officials, and representatives of the team’s National Hockey League affiliate, the Florida Panthers.
In coordination with the team name announcement, the franchise also launched its new website, www.SpringfieldThunderbirds.com
and social media accounts. Fans can now log onto the website and place a deposit for season ticket memberships. The team’s social media handles are:
- Facebook: Springfield Thunderbirds
- Twitter: @thunderbirdsahl
- Instagram: thunderbirdsahl
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno states, "Again, so thankful, but not surprised that these outstanding corporate citizens continue to 'step up' for our City of Springfield. Their continued belief and investment in our Springfield is deeply appreciated. Now we need to 'pack the house' to help assure that professional hockey is here to stay for many years to come - 'drop the puck!'"
The team will play its home games at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
“The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is proud and excited to host the Springfield Thunderbirds’ home games at the MassMutual Center,” said MCCA Deputy Director Fred Peterson. “The MMC is one of the AHL’s premier venues and we look forward to working with the team and all of our partners in western Massachusetts next season and for many years to come.”
The Springfield Thunderbirds will operate as the AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers.
“We are excited to have our AHL players take the ice next season with the Springfield Thunderbirds name and logo on their jerseys. This is the start of a new era for AHL hockey in western Massachusetts and we look forward to being a part of it,” Florida Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko said.
Founded in 1936 and now with franchises in 30 cities across North America, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88-percent of today’s NHL players are AHL graduates, and for the 15th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games in 2015-16.