Hockeyday 2022 back in Big E’s young building

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WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA — The Springfield Thunderbirds’ run to the American Hockey League Championship Series last month has restored a level of excitement among fans in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut not seen since the Springfield Indians had back-to-back Calder Cup championship seasons in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

On August 6, more than two dozen former Springfield players, managers and special guests will gather in the Young Building of the Eastern States Exposition, as the Springfield Hockey Heritage Society hosts the 10th anniversary edition of Hockeyday. This annual event gives alumni the opportunity to meet fans, sign autographs and tell stories about their days playing at the former Big E Coliseum and Springfield Civic Center. There will be auctions of hockey items, merchandise for sale and exhibits such as the Thunderbirds team bus and old memorabilia. A cash bar and concessions will be available for purchase.

Early commitments include five players who lifted the Calder Cup while representing the city, either as Indians or Kings: AHL Hall of Famer Bruce Landon (1971); Mark Heaslip, Tim Jacobs and Paul Shakes (1975); and Shawn Evans (1990). At least one representative from the current Thunderbirds organization should attend, according to Society co-founder Steve Bordeaux.

“It should be a great day,” Bordeaux said. “It’s a good group; we like to keep it fresh and have new blood. Everyone always has a good time, and that’s why so many guys keep coming back.”

So far, 15 players who have made it to the National Hockey League or the World Hockey Association have committed to Hockeyday. Three players who participated in the All-Star Games will be present: Marty Howe (WHA, 1976), Norm Barnes (NHL, 1980) and Mario Lessard (NHL, 1981).

Barnes, who now resides in Simsbury, played on the Campbell Conference All-Star Team as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1980. That game featured 15 players who were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame of the hockey, including the legendary father of Marty Howe, Gordie, Phil and Tony Esposito, Mike Bossy, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, Jean Ratelle and the greatest scorer in hockey history, Wayne Gretzky.

The backgrounds and careers of some returning alumni were certainly diverse.

Barnes played just two games for the Indians in 1976-77, while Vern Smith played 316 regular season games for Springfield, but only played one game for the parents of the New York Islanders in 1985 Windsor Locks resident Mike Corrigan, who dressed in 161 games in Springfield, scored 152 goals in 10 NHL seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mark Bousquet, famous for portraying André “Poodle” Lussier in Paul Newman’s classic hockey movie “Slap Shot,” never played for Springfield during his minor league career but stood out at the American International College in the city and is a new inductee into the AIC Hall of Fame.

Hartford fans will be able to meet many Whalers alumni including Landon, Barnes, Howe, Dave Debol, Bill Bennett and Scott Daniels. NHL veterans Gord Smith, Hartland Monahan, Paul Shakes, Dan McCarthy and Gary Coalter are also among those expected to appear.

Springfield’s first professional hockey franchise was founded in 1926. Thirteen years later, Boston Bruins star defenseman Eddie Shore bought the team and owned it until 1976. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the second class in 1947, and his number 2 uniform was retired by the Bruins. He died in 1985 at the age of 82 and is buried in Hillcrest Park Cemetery in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield.

Shore’s son, Ted, was probably the youngest executive in professional hockey history, having been named the team’s vice-president at age 9. He is now 92 years old and plans to attend Hockeyday.

Doors open for the event at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 and can be obtained online at Hockeyday2022.eventbrite.com, or in person at Steve’s Sports, 94 Front Street, West Springfield. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Adjacent to Steve’s Sports is a small museum maintained by Bordeaux. The memorabilia inside the museum covers the entire 95-year history of professional hockey in the city, including jerseys, programs, autographed photos, trophies and bobbleheads.

More information about the Society can be obtained at [email protected], or by calling Bordeaux at 413-746-1696.

The celebration at the Big E Coliseum after winning the 1971 Calder Cup.
AHL Hall of Famer Bruce Landon.
Mario Lessard, who played in the 1981 NHL All-Star Game, will make his first Hockeyday appearance. Photos courtesy of Springfield Hockey Heritage Society
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