SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The new AHL team in western Massachusetts will be named the Springfield Thunderbirds, a name designed to pay homage to the history of hockey in the city.
The name and logo were disclosed in a news release just before a big public announcement at the MassMutual Center in Springfield late Wednesday morning.
The Springfield Hockey Franchise LLC. registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the Springfield Indians and Springfield Thunderbirds recently.
Paul Picknelly, an investor for Springfield Hockey LLC, told 22News the number one choice among many fans was the Indians, but they would not be naming the team that. Another suggested name that was rejected is the Springfield Isotopes, which is a reference to a minor league baseball team in The Simpsons.They also decided against having the new team name associated in any way with gambling, or the MGM casino being built in the city’s South End.
According to a team news release sent to 22News, the Thunderbirds name is designed to honor both the Springfield Indians and the Springfield Falcons. The logo features a bird of prey, like the falcon, while a Native American legend holds that the thunderbird creates thunder and lightning by flapping its massive wings.
Though its name is not associated with the casino, the Thunderbirds will have a marketing relationship with MGM.
Mayor Domenic Sarno thanked longtime fans of professional hockey in the city, and urged people in the area to come out and show support for their new hometown team.
The Thunderbirds will be an affiliate to the NHL’s Florida Panthers, which recently named Geordie Kinnear the head coach of the AHL team in Springfield. He had an eight-year professional career, mostly in the AHL, and also coached in the AHL for 10 seasons.
The Panthers and the Thunderbirds have signed a four-year affiliation agreement, Picknelly said.
A group of 10 major local investors purchased the Portland Pirates after the Springfield Falcons were sold to their NHL affiliate, the Arizona Coyotes, who intend to move them to Tucson.