Springfield Thunderbirds set to open the 2019-20 season with high expectations

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Thunderbirds kick off their 2019-20 campaign at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday, and coach Geordie Kinnear is ready to go.

"I enjoy this time of the year because I look forward to the process and the daily grind of getting better every single drill and every single workout," Kinnear said regarding the team's season opener. "More importantly, though, I think a fast start is essential. Being at home, we have an identity that there's an expectation on how we want to play versus teams that come in. We're going to be miserable to play against, especially in this building because we want it to be one of the toughest places to compete in.

"But then again, those can't be just words. It has to be the execution part of it, the velocity part of it and how much each individual brings to the table."

Despite a second-half surge last season, Springfield missed the Calder Cup Playoffs for a third consecutive season. However, after signing several playmakers in the offseason, including Tommy Cross and Aleksi Heponiemi, Kinnear remains optimistic the team will find its stride once again and reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

“I think the focus has to be on the daily routine,” Kinnear said. “Everyone can talk about the playoffs, but how are you going to get there? I think my job as an AHL coach is to just help my players reach their ultimate goals in playing in the NHL. Part of that process, however, is just teaching them how to win. That’s why depth is important, but my top focus remains on helping them get better so they can reach the next level.”

The team's home opener is Saturday, Oct. 5, and fans are encouraged to attend the Thunderbirds' Fourth-Annual Opening Night Block Party presented by Community Bank at downtown's Court Square between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

"We're going to have a big Opening Night Party as we've always had, and we're just excited about it because we want to see folks at the rink," Springfield Thunderbirds president Nathan Costa said. "We're going to have a ton of giveaways, including rally towels behind everyone's chair, we're going to have magnet schedules at each exit, and it will just be a celebration symbolizing the start of our season.

"We're looking forward to seeing the place packed, so I urge fans to order their tickets sooner rather than later because they're going to go fast. It's exciting to be here talking about the success we've had inside my fourth year with the organization."

A full list of the Thunderbirds’ 2019-20 season schedule can be found here and the promotional schedule can be found here.

Over the past three years, Springfield has recorded 21 sellouts thanks to numerous promotional nights and celebrity visits. And according to Costa, they currently have 20 events scheduled, including hosting ‘The Office Holiday Party’ featuring Leslie David Barker AKA Stanley -- which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the MassMutual Center.

“We had gone down a different path for ideas, and it didn’t work, so we started talking about a possible Office Holiday Party and who could we get?” Costa said. "Then, we stumbled upon Stanley’s name because he’s interactive, fun, and out there doing it. Fans will have some time to get a photo with him; we’ll have “Office” themed stuff throughout the evening, a pretzel special because it’s one of his favorite foods and a crossword giveaway as well.

“Our staff has put a lot of effort into our promotional schedule, and I think our pride showed when it came to looking around what other AHL teams are doing and just trying to take our abilities to the next level.”