Springfield Thunderbirds announced as name, mascot of city's AHL franchise
Springfield Thunderbirds, it is.
The city's new American Hockey League franchise, and affiliate of the Florida Panthers of the NHL, announced the team's nickname and mascot in a public event Wednesday at the MassMutual Center (watch that press conference here).
"The Springfield Thunderbirds' name represents the strength and pride of western Massachusetts," team Executive Vice President Nathan Costa said in a release from the team. "It is is a nod to our hockey past, a tribute to the men and women 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."
The unveiling comes after a "name the team" campaign solicited suggestions from the public in a coordinated survey through a partnership with MassLive and The Republican. The survey received over 2,600 responses.
"We would like to thank the thousands of fans who participated in this survey," Costa said in the release. "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."
Thunderbirds calls back two prior Springfield AHL hockey teams, the Indians and Falcons. It refers to the animal of Native American legend that creates thunder and lightning by flapping its massive wings. It is also a fierce bird of prey, like the falcon.
The name also serves to honor the famous U.S. Air Force demonstration planes as an homage to Barnes Air National Guard Base and Westover Air Reserve Base in Westfield and Chicopee, respectively.
"Again, so thankful, but not surprised that these outstanding corporate citizens continue to 'step up' for our City of Springfield," Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said in the release. "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 also launched its new website, www.springfieldthunderbirds.com and social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.