AHL Names Springfield Thunderbirds Team of the Year with President’s Award
SPRINGFIELD — The American Hockey League (AHL) announced the Springfield Thunderbirds as the winner of the President’s Award for the 2021-22 season during the Board of Governors’ annual meeting in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Bestowed upon the team that demonstrates overall excellence both on and off the ice, the Thunderbirds captured Team of the Year honors following a historic season that set team records across a wide range of business categories, including average attendance (5,375), season tickets sold, overall ticket revenue, and corporate sales revenue. The T-Birds achieved these milestones while winning the AHL’s Eastern Conference Championship. This marked the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance and Springfield’s first trip to the Calder Cup Finals since 1991.
“On behalf of the entire Thunderbirds ownership group, we are honored to receive the AHL’s prestigious President’s Award for Team of the Year,” Thunderbirds Managing Partner Paul Picknelly said. “In a short six years, we went from the precipice of losing professional hockey in Springfield to Eastern Conference champions and three sellout crowds in the Calder Cup finals. None of this would have been possible without team President Nate Costa, the entire T-Birds staff, our partners at the St. Louis Blues, and, of course, the best fans in all of hockey. This award belongs to all of them.”
In addition to the President’s Award, the Thunderbirds were previously recognized at the AHL Team Business Awards for reaching 600 new full-season equivalents (FSEs) during the 2021-22 season. One FSE equates to one full season ticket sold. The club was also lauded for achieving a greater than 83% renewal rate in corporate sponsorships.
During their run to the Calder Cup Finals, the Thunderbirds’ MassMutual Center attendance numbers soared to new heights, with an average of 6,134 fans on hand for the team’s 11 home playoff games. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as all three of the club’s home games during the Calder Cup Finals, featured sellout crowds of 6,793. In the process, the Thunderbirds smashed their club record for single-game ticket revenue multiple times and created a high-energy, in-game presentation that turned the Thunderdome into one of the toughest buildings for opposing teams during the postseason.
“I could not be more proud of our amazing staff for their tireless efforts throughout this historic year,” Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa said. “From day one, we all believed this organization was capable of establishing itself as one of the model franchises in the American Hockey League, and this recognition serves as the ultimate validation.”
The Thunderbirds’ success could be seen in their digital footprint as well. Over a 365-day period, the T-Birds’ social-media platforms saw more than 5 million users reached, more than 4 million new page visits, and more than 20,000 new followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In the month of June alone, as the club marched into the Calder Cup Finals, the team saw more than 2 million visitors across its social outlets. Its #WeAre413 marketing campaign was also recognized as the Marketing Campaign of the Year last month by the AHL.
Despite a year that still featured some COVID-19 restrictions, the Thunderbirds’ community presence was felt throughout the region, with team mascot Boomer making more than 125 visits during the season to a wide variety of community and charitable events. Perhaps no one program was more prevalent than the team’s Stick to Reading initiative, which featured a franchise-record 24 participating schools.
The awards did not stop with the Team of the Year for the Thunderbirds, as General Manager Kevin McDonald was named the recipient of the Thomas Ebright Memorial Award for outstanding career contributions in the AHL over his three decades in professional hockey. McDonald joined the St. Louis Blues organization in 2001 and has overseen the Blues’ AHL affiliates for the last 17 seasons.