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Thunderbirds co-owner reflects on team’s success, playoff run

The Springfield Thunderbirds are set to hit the ice Wednesday for Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Finals.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 1:47 PM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 4:57 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Springfield Thunderbirds are set to hit the ice Wednesday for Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Finals.

In 2016, the Springfield Falcons were sold to the Arizona Coyotes and after more than two decades in the city of homes, the franchise left western Massachusetts. This deal nearly ended the city’s 80-year affiliation with the American Hockey League, but that’s when 25 local business owners decided to step in and help.

“So we decided to get together and kind of save hockey in Springfield,” said Thunderbirds co-owner Paul Picknelly.

We spoke with Picknelly to get some background on the sale.

“Charlie Pompea was the owner at the time of the Springfield Falcons and he decide to sell the team and he really did that kind of under the radar. I woke up on Monday morning, just like everyone else in the city of Springfield, just was shocked and kind of see the team was sold and they were on their way to Tucson, Arizona,” Picknelly explained.

Picknelly, president of Monarch Place, said he and about two dozen other business owners purchased the Portland Pirates a week later and moved them to Springfield. He told Western Mass News he believes it’s a special group.

“Well, I think it’s very unique to have all of the owners being local...Every one of our owners help and assist in marketing the team,” Picknelly added.

Fast forward six years, the Thunderbirds excelled on the ice with a historic season. For the first time in franchise history, the team has reached the AHL playoffs.

After a sweep of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the team plays in Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Finals Wednesday night against the Charlotte Checkers. The T-Birds shut out the Checkers 6-0 in Game 1.

Picknelly said that the team’s triumphs are also a huge win for the city.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Springfield Thunderbirds, but more importantly, it means we have a bustling downtown. It means our garages are packed, our casinos are busier and fun is in the air for everyone here,” Picknelly noted.

As for Wednesday’s game, puck drop is slated for 7:05 and the Thunderbirds told us they will have a moment of silence for the victims of the Texas elementary school shooting preceding the national anthem.