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Today in the "A": Falcons Opening Night Guests

The Springfield Falcons offically announced today two very special guests for Opening Night 2011. This season's home opener matches the Springfield Falcons against the Providence Bruins.

Opening Night will be the first of three commemorative nights during the season where the Falcons organization will honor Springfield's seven past Calder Cup champions.

The home opener will salute the 1990 and 1991 championship teams. Be sure to check out the clip below. I was at the Springfield Civic Center that night, and the unparalleled excitement when Wayne McBean blasted a shot past Darcy Wakaluk was like nothing I've ever experienced.

One of the more gossipy fun facts from that 1990-91 season. McBean was dating a young Hollywood starlet from one of the biggest sitcoms of the era. Occasionally during the season, the starlet would be in attendance at the Civic Center. No luxury boxes back then. No special seating. Just the starlet and the commoners. The starlet?

A very young Alyssa Milano.

True story.

The real story in the present day though is the appearance of Springfield coaching icon, Jimmy Roberts. Although he never enjoyed the same level of success as an NHL coach, Roberts was the master of getting the most from a group of players who were not expected to go far.

Roberts piloted the New York Islander farmhands to the 1990 Calder Cup. After the championship, the Islanders pulled their prospects and the Indians had to find a new NHL affilate.

The Hartford Whalers,based about 20 miles to the south, were eager to place their prospects closer to home . Roberts was allowed to remain coach of the Indians. Marc Bergevin and a couple of other mainstays remained. Other than that, Roberts had his work cut out for him, as the remainder of the team was the previous season's bottom of the barrel, Binghamton Whalers.

The 1990 Binghamton Whalers were one of the worst teams in the history of the AHL. Over an 80 game schedule, the 1989-90 Whalers went 11-60-9 for a wretched 31 points. The team scored 229 goals, while allowing 366.

Coach Roberts accepted the challenge and would not let the newfound Springfield Indians dwell on "last season". Roberts got through to these guys and guided them to a most unlikely Calder Cup victory.

In the broadcast booth for both of those championships was current Carolina Hurricanes and Versus broadcaster, John Forslund.

As is the case in just about any minor league season, Forslund was responsible for more than just the pictures, descriptions and accounts of the games.

Loyal and local, Forslund seized the opportunity and used it as a springboard to much bigger things.

Roberts and Forslund. Two good guys forever linked to one of Springfield's greatest hockey eras. It will be great to have them back, even for one night only.