A Symbol of More Big Things to Come


Sports all-star games have been enduring somewhat of a public-relations crisis in recent years.

Indeed, the NFL’s game, now played the week before the Super Bowl, has become almost a farce, with players opting not to play, fans opting not to show up, and viewers opting not to tune in. The NHL and NBA games, meanwhile, have become circus shows where no one plays defense, and in the latter case, the game is actually upstaged by the slam-dunk contest the night before. Major League Baseball still has the best game, but that league, too, has struggled to make the so-called midsummer classic captivating and relevant, especially to younger audiences.

No, it’s not the best of times for these games.

But the narrative is a little different with the American Hockey League and its decision to play next year’s game in Springfield. Here, the story isn’t about the game, the gimmicks, or the weekend’s supply of festivities that may or may not work.

Instead, it’s about what the game means to the city and its hockey team, and what it symbolizes in terms of what comes next. All of that came together late last month when the logos for the event and the official corporate partner, Lexus, were unveiled.

Don’t forget, 27 months or so ago, this city didn’t even have a hockey team. And when a group of area business people came together, bought a franchise, and brought it to Springfield, there were many who doubted whether this franchise would fare any better than the one that just departed for Arizona.

To say those doubts have been dispelled would be a huge understatement. The team has become one of the best business stories of the past few years, and BusinessWest chose the team’s owners and managers, collectively, as its Top Entrepreneurs for 2017.

But the AHL All-Star Game coming to the City of Homes next February is not just about the Thunderbirds and the remarkable work done by President Nathan Costa 2018 40 Under Forty’s top honoree to revitalize hockey in Springfield and make the team part of the fabric of the community.

It’s also about the city’s resurgence and the arrival of MGM and its $950 million casino, MGM Springfield, which will serve as presenting sponsor of the all-star game. MGM now manages the MassMutual Center, and it no doubt played a prominent role in effectively bringing Springfield into the discussion when it comes events like this All-Star Game.

To say that it wasn’t in those discussions for the past decade and more would be another understatement. It is now, because of its resurgence, the team’s incredible surge, and MGM’s ability to help put on a good show.

And this combination bodes extremely well for the city moving forward. The game came to Springfield as a result of effective partnerships and strong teamwork, and these potent forces can bring more shows and meetings and conventions to this city and this region.

As we said at the top, all-star games have suffered some bad press and some tough times lately. In many respects, the games are no longer a big deal.

This is a notable exception, and one the city should be proud of.