SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) –
The NHL’s loss could be Springfield’s gain, though. The ice at the MassMutual Center is ready, and training camp is just days away. This year Springfield Falcons President and General Manager Bruce Landon says some skilled NHL players will be fighting to skate for the Birds. It’s all thanks to the NHL lockout, preventing the National Hockey League from starting their season as planned this month. NHL owners and players unons have yet to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.
“Unfortunately it’s happening but we’ll take advantage of it and be the sort of center of the media focus and they’ll be some great players here playing in Springfield,” Landon said.
With no pucks set to be dropped in the NHL as long as the lockout lasts, any player whose contractually allowed or a veteran whose cleared waiver wires can play for their NHL team’s minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League.
“We argubably are the second best league in the world, always have been and we may be the best league in the world,” Landon said. “At least for a short time, anyways.”
Among players local fans can expect to see Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson suiting up for the birds. Every other team will be stacked too, including the Boston Bruins affiliate in Providence. The P-Bruins will visit the MassMutual Center a handful of times. During the last NHL lockout in 2004-05, Bruins superstar Patrice Bergeron played against Springfield.
“So many…Jason Spezza. So many great players who have gone on to superstar status in the National Hockey League now came down and played in the American Hockey League,” Landon said. “And all of them will comment and say it was the best thing for their careers as well.”
Landon says during the last NHL lockout, more people filled these seats here in Springfield.
“Attendance was up about 6 or 7 percent across the league. I think it will be even more of a spike this year,” Landon said. “I think hockey has grown even over the lockout in ’04-05. There was always concerns about will the game come back and it did in roaring numbers.”
Falcons fans we spoke with say to see NHL caliber hockey at AHL prices is a bargain.
“I came to one game last year and it was totally sold out. That was awesome,” fan Michelle Shubert said. “I would love to see the majority of the games that way.”
“You can’t beat it. Your going to see better quality hockey,” season ticket holder Dave Genie said. “You’re going to see more competitiveness I believe.”
Season tickets are still available for the Falcons. Individual game tickets go on sale this Saturday. Opening night is coming fast on October 13th.