Commentary: Bruce Landon Presents Cause for Celebration
The Springfield Thunderbirds didn’t win Friday night’s game against Lehigh Valley. But only real diehard fans could have been disappointed with the way the evening turned out.
That’s because the night didn’t belong to the T-Birds and their long-shot efforts to make the AHL playoffs. No, it belonged to Bruce Landon, and, therefore, there was cause for celebration. Lots of it.
Landon, or ‘Mr. Hockey,’ as he’s known in Springfield, says he will officially retire next month after nearly 50 years of close association to hockey in this town. Most are taking a ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’ approach to that word ‘retirement,’ but Landon, now 67, says this time, he means it.
The Thunderbirds threw a night in his honor Friday, complete with a bobblehead that Landon says bears a resemblance to Lex Luthor. Maybe, but Lex Luthor is a villain, and Landon has always been a hero when it comes to hockey, Springfield, and hockey in Springfield.
He lived, he breathed it, he promoted it, he championed it. To say that there wouldn’t be hockey in Springfield without him is an understatement. The current ownership team and management personnel are on record as saying they were motivated to launch the T-Birds because of the legacy Landon created and a strong desire not to see it come to an end.
Landon’s career had come to an end, sort of, when the owners of the Springfield Falcons, citing poor attendance, decided nearly a year ago to move the team to Arizona.
Landon didn’t actually retire, though, essentially because the future of hockey in Springfield was anything but secure. Now, it is, and therefore he believes the time is right to step aside.
He leaves with high praise for the new owners and the team’s chief executive, Nate Costa, saying they have the commitment and the passion to keep the game here.
Those are the very same words that defined Landon’s work for nearly a half-century.
In 2013, BusinessWest presented Landon with its Difference Makers award, citing his work to keep hockey alive in Springfield as one of the many not-so-obvious ways that people can make a difference in this region.
As he was being honored that night, the audience was told that hockey, although certainly not appreciated by all, was certainly part of the fabric of the city and the region.
We can still say that in March 2017, and Bruce Landon is a big reason why. And that’s why last Friday night, and the last few weeks of Landon’s career — again, we’ll believe it when we see it — are cause for celebration.