The Springfield Thunderbirds are opting out of the 2020-21 American Hockey League season. The team says the decision, made in conjunction with its NHL affiliate the St. Louis Blues, was based on safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Thunderbirds say the pause will allow the organization to fully focus on the 2021-22 season. Team President Nathan Costa said given the current status of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, it became clear the team would not be able to host fans in the foreseeable future. As an independently-owned franchise, he said the foremost obligation is to ensure the team is financially viable for the long term, something that is not possible without gameday revenue.
"Our organization has built one of the most exciting stories in all of professional hockey and remains as committed as ever to building upon that success in Springfield," Costa said in a statement. "We continue to have a strong relationship with the St. Louis Blues, the City of Springfield, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and all those who have both been helpful and supportive during this time. We have already turned our attention to next season and are actively working with the Blues, our season ticket holders, and corporate partners to ensure that 2021-2022 is our strongest season yet.”
“Professional sports have been impacted by the inability to open arenas and facilities to their fans," said St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations/General Manager Doug Armstrong in a statement. "That is particularly true at the minor professional level where fan attendance is the lifeblood of business operations. We were truly excited to come to Springfield this season and are disappointed that COVID-19 has prevented this from happening. We look forward to working with the Thunderbirds in the 2021-22 season and beyond.”