SPRINGFIELD, MA – It was a busy summer heading into the 2016-17 season as the Springfield Thunderbirds had a short amount of time to get everything ready on and off the ice with only weeks to prepare for their second season.
Ryan Smith is the Manager of Media/Community Relations for the Thunderbirds. Smith told The Sin Bin it was a fun ride in year one and exceed a lot of expectations. The bar was set high in year one, and the bar will be set even higher for year two.
“It’s an exciting time and has been nice to actually have a full summer to truly analyze what worked well, things we can get better at and a lot like the hockey team have time to actually just evaluate ourselves more fully then we could’ve last year at this time,” Smith said.
Smith thinks this year team is going to be interesting on the ice. The Florida Panthers have an entirely new coaching staff and with everything changing down in where it has made them start fresh all over. Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said that 23 of the best players were going to play in the Florida Panthers home opener which was held last Saturday night.
The Panthers made some key additions in the offseason signing forwards like Curtis Valk and Alexandre Grenier in which those two players could be vital throughout the year. When you think of other players who could be fringe between Florida and Springfield, you have Maxim Mamin or a Denis Malgin. Malgin did make a spot on the Florida Panthers roster. Henrik Haapala, one of the newest additions to the Thunderbirds, scored a goal on Saturday against the Providence Bruins. He led the Finnish Elite League in points during the 2016-17 season.
Florida heading into training camp last year was hit with the injury bug and missed some key players and thankfully, there were no injuries in training camp this season.
Smith also told The Sin Bin that Thunderbirds Head Coach Geordie Kinnear does not really like to focus on what happened last season or what could happen in the future. Its a matter of getting better every day and doing the little things right. In many ways, it happens to appear that way on and off the ice.
Another addition in the offseason, Nathan Costa was promoted to team president. Smith could not speak for Costa but knowing Costa, from the Springfield area, is taking a lot of pride in ascending to this position. Costa and the ownership group have made it clear that they want to be able to award the staff for the accomplishments that they hit, along with the expectations and goals that they set. It means no resting on their laurels or settling and getting that drum of support at the MassMutual Center.
Smith did say that the team had exceeded in what they had last year with a season ticket database which is really exciting for the team that they have already reached that point.
The Thunderbirds will get ready for their first three-in-three of the season when they travel to Providence on Friday night to take on Bruins, have their sold-out home opener on Saturday night against the Hartford Wolfpack and end the weekend with a home game against the Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon.