Falcons welcome new NHL affiliate

The new Springfield Falcons away jersey
March 31, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The Falcons will be adding a pop of color to their uniforms and their lineup next season, courtesy of their new National Hockey League affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Falcons President and General Manager Bruce Landon told a crowd of supporters at the MassMutual Center on March 25 that his organization has entered into a one-year affiliation agreement with a one-year option with the NHL franchise. The Falcons were forced to find a new affiliate when the Edmonton Oliers decided to move their minor league team to Oklahoma City, Okla., at the end of the 2009-2010 season.

"We can't guarantee that the Columbus Blue Jackets will give us a Calder Cup winning team," Landon said. "I will guarantee that the Columbus Blue Jackets will give us a team we can be proud of."

The Falcons have struggled on the ice for several years and are currently ranked last in the Atlantic Division. The organization has also struggled to keep fans coming to the arena, averaging the second lowest attendance in the AHL.

"We have to do our very best to build attendance here," Landon said. "We can't do it without the support of the community."

He added that attendance at Falcons games must increase from the average 3,500 to between 4,500 and 4,700 in order for the franchise to sustain itself financially.

"If we can't get it up above 4,000, do we really deserve to have a team here?" Landon asked.

Chris MacFarland, assistant general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, said he believes his organization can help boost attendance and the quality of the on-ice talent.

He noted such talent includes defenseman John Moore, 18, of the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, and left-winger Matt Calvert, 20, of the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings.

"The young guys drive the boat -- they're the [reason for the] success of a good AHL team," MacFarland said.

He added, "This is a good place for young players to develop as hockey players and as people. We want to build a solid, competitive hockey team."

When asked why the Blue Jackets only entered into a one-year agreement with the Falcons, MacFarland replied, "If you want to be married to someone, you really want to get to know them [first]."

He added, "We've been with the same [AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch] for 10 years. It's all we've known. The one-year agreement gives us the option [to see how well we fit in Springfield]."

Landon said the most important thing is that there will be hockey in Springfield next year.

Mayor Domenic Sarno agreed, adding that the organization is an important part of the downtown economy. "When the Falcons are in town, downtown is hoppin'," he said.

Sarno, a season ticket holder, also urged fans to renew their season tickets and invited others to join in the family-friendly entertainment the Falcons offer.

To learn more about season ticket packages, visit www.falconsahl.com.

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