Thunderbirds playoff run begins Wednesday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Springfield Thunderbirds are only hours away from their first-ever playoff game.
The city of Springfield nearly lost minor league hockey in 2016. Now six years later, the entire community is rallying around the Thunderbirds as they begin their quest to bring a championship to western Massachusetts.
“The team’s really brought the city back together and brought this new type of excitement to downtown. It’s phenomenal,” said Thunderbirds season ticket holder Dave Rice.
When the Springfield Thunderbirds take the ice on Wednesday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it will mark their first Calder Cup Playoff game in franchise history.
“I mean it’s great. Obviously, we’ve been working towards this for five-plus years, the group that’s been here, so to finally be able to host a home playoff game is really exciting stuff for the organization and the region in general,” said Springfield Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa.
Costa told Western Mass News that it’s a night six years in the making after the Falcons relocated to Tucson, AZ and a group of local investors, including managing partner Paul Picknelly, rallied together to purchase Portland’s AHL franchise and move them to Springfield.
“We have so many local ties. It goes deep into the roots of downtown Springfield and that was the whole idea behind it, so I know those guys are pumped up about us having a playoff game too, you know. There’s nothing more exciting than playoff hockey,” Costa explained.
The franchise’s six-year run included a voluntary season-long pause due to COVID-19. Now, attendance figures have jumped from dead-last in the league when the new ownership group took over to eleventh this season, which has helped propel the Thunderbirds to the most home wins in the AHL this season.
“We hope that it’s going to be rocking here. We’ve had a home ice advantage I feel like all year,” Costa noted.
After an already historic season, it has the team on the cusp of what Costa and the team hopes is a lengthy playoff run.
“The guys on the ice have appreciated it. We’re hoping that the fans come out and then some tonight and tomorrow night and make this a tough place to play,” Costa said.
The puck drops for Game 1 at 7:05 p.m. at the MassMutual Center. Tickets are still on sale for tonight’s game and Game 2 will be on Thursday night, again in Springfield.
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