The Springfield Thunderbirds are a minor league professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League that began play for the 2016–17 season as the affiliate of the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers. Based in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Thunderbirds play their home games at the MassMutual Center.
|League||American Hockey League|
|Founded||1975 (In the NAHL)|
|Home arena||MassMutual Center|
|Colors||Red, navy blue, sky blue, white, gold|
|Owner(s)||Springfield Hockey, LLC.|
|General manager||Eric Joyce|
|Head coach||Geordie Kinnear|
|Media||The Springfield Republican|
WHYN NewsRadio 560
CBS 3, 22 News
|Affiliates||Florida Panthers (NHL)|
In May 2016, following the relocation of the Springfield Falcons to Tucson, Arizona, after the team was sold to the Arizona Coyotes, the AHL's Portland Pirates were sold to a Springfield-based group who intended to relocate the franchise to Springfield for the 2016–17 season.
The new owners were a consortium of local business interests seeking to keep hockey in Springfield, and included Paul Picknelly, owner of the Springfield Marriott and member of the family owning Peter Pan Bus Lines, as well as several local hotel owners. A team from Springfield has taken the ice in the AHL and its predecessors for all but seven years since 1926, and in every season since 1954.
The Thunderbirds inherited the Florida Panthers' affiliation with the Pirates. The Panthers assigned their assistant general manager, Eric Joyce, to be Springfield's general manager and named Geordie Kinnear as the new head coach. The Thunderbirds also named Bruce Landon, the Falcons' and Indians' longtime president and general manager, as a consultant, while hiring AHL executive Nathan Costa as their executive vice-president in charge of business operations. The team's new name was announced at a press conference on June 15, 2016. Team management explained that Thunderbirds invokes both the mythological Thunderbird and the United States Air Force presence in the region, such as the Barnes and Westover Air Reserve Bases.
The Thunderbirds played their first game on October 15, 2016, a 4–2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Anthony Greco scored the first goal in team history. On October 22, 2016, the Thunderbirds played their home opener, a 5–4 win, against the St. John's IceCaps. Dryden Hunt scored the first goal on home ice, and MacKenzie Weegar scored the game winning goal in overtime in front of a sellout crowd of 6,793. While the inaugural season did not result in a playoff berth, average attendance rose from 3,108 in the Falcons' last season to 4,618 and including three sellouts.
On February 17, 2018, it was announced that the Springfield Thunderbirds and the MassMutual Center would host the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic and Skills contest, to take place on January 27–28, 2019. This will mark the first AHL All-Star Game in Springfield since 1959. MGM Springfield will be the corporate sponsor and host of the event.
The market was previously home to:
|2016–17||76||32||33||9||2||75||.493||197||206||6th, Atlantic||2017||Did not qualify|
|2017–18||76||32||37||5||2||71||.467||210||233||7th, Atlantic||2018||Did not qualify|
|2018–19||76||33||29||9||5||80||.526||250||241||7th, Atlantic||2019||Did not qualify|
Note: Shore's number was retired by the Springfield Indians, and Murray's by the Springfield Falcons; the Thunderbirds continue to honor both numbers. Former AHL President Jack Butterfield and Vice-President Gordie Anziano, longtime Springfield residents, former Indians general manager and Falcons founder Bruce Landon, and Willie O'Ree, the first African American to play in the AHL, have been honored with banners raised with the retired numbers.
- Goals: Anthony Greco, 30 (2018–19)
- Goals by a Rookie: Anthony Greco, 16 (2016–17)
- Power Play Goals: Paul Thompson, 9 (2018–19)
- Short Handed Goals: Anthony Greco, 6 (2017–18)
- Assists: Curtis Valk, 42 (2017–18)
- Points: Curtis Valk, 62 (2017–18)
- Penalty Minutes: Sena Acolatse, 147 (2016–17)
- Appearances by a Goalie: Samuel Montembeault, 41 (2017–18)
- GAA: Adam Wilcox 2.02 (2016–17)
- SV%: Adam Wilcox, .932 (2016–17)
- Shutouts: Harri Sateri, 4 (2017–18)
- Career Penalty Minutes: 235 Bobby Farnham
- Career Goaltending Wins: 26 Samuel Montembeault
- Career Shutouts: 4 Harri Sateri
- Career Games: 224 Anthony Greco
- Career Goals: 75 Anthony Greco
- Career Assists: 67 Jayce Hawryluk
- Career Power Play Goals: 16 Dryden Hunt
- Career Short Handed Goals: 13 Anthony Greco
- "Portland Pirates to leave Maine and move to Springfield, MA". WCSH. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
- "American Hockey League Announces Franchise Transaction". OurSports Central. May 23, 2016.
- "The investors of Springfield's new hockey team revealed". Western Mass News. June 5, 2016.
- "Kinnear named coach of Florida's AHL affiliate". AHL. June 7, 2016.
- Pignatello, Jim (June 8, 2016). "Springfield AHL team names city native Nathan Costa as Executive VP; Bruce Landon to serve as consultant". Springfield Republican. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- Pignatiello, Jim (June 15, 2016). "Springfield Thunderbirds announced as name, mascot of city's AHL franchise". MassLive.com. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Springfield Thunderbirds Roster". American Hockey League. 2017-10-04. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
- "Springfield Thunderbirds Elite Prospects". Elite Prospects. Retrieved April 14, 2019.