Falcons' Landon Retires? Sat. Update
The big news that came out of the MassMutual Center in Springfield on Tuesday was not another victory for the first place Springfield Falcons. No, the big news was the retirement announcement of Springfield hockey icon, Bruce Landon.SATURDAY UPDATE...Bruce's blog on MassLive on Friday:<a href="h
"Life is a series of hello's and goodbye's
Looks like it's time for goodbye again..."
In 1976, when Billy Joel penned that lyric, Bruce Landon was toiling in his final season away from his adopted home in Springfield.
Splitting his time between the Rhode Island Reds and the New England Whalers, Landon's once promising career was winding down.
His "Hello" was in returning to Springfield ice for the 1977-78 campaign. He's been here ever since.
Tending goal for a lineup that boasted future NHL stars Mario Lessard and Charlie Simmer, as well as Steve Carlson of "Hanson Brothers" fame, Bruce suffered a career ending knee injury after a freak collision at practice one day.
Legend has it that Landon, met with then franchise owner George Leary to discuss the possibility of getting involved in the front office.
His passion for the business was evident from Day One and it didn't take long for the accolades to come his way:
1979-80: Ken McKenzie Award, given to the AHL's outstanding executive for PR & Marketing
1988-89: James C. Hendy Memorial Award, given to the AHL's outstanding executive
2001-02: Thomas Ebright Award, given for outstanding contributions to the AHL
Not to be lost in the individual accomplishments, Landon was also the General Manager of Springfield's last two Calder Cup championship teams in 1990 and 1991.
If there was a more recognizable face associated with hockey in the Pioneer Valley over the last 30+ years, I couldn't tell you who that could possibly be.
When the unimaginable happened and the storied Springfield Indians franchise was sold at the end of the 1993-94 season, it was Landon who reached out to former teammate Wayne LaChance to keep the dream alive of high caliber pro hockey in Springfield.
Despite some success in the early going, the prolonged drought that lasted through affiliations with Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Edmonton made the job of filling the aging Springfield Civic Center more challenging than ever.
A renovation that came with a pricetag of nearly $70 million wasn't enough to keep the Oilers in town and the affiliation with the Blue Jackets was announced nearly four years ago to the day.
Through all of it, the mortar that held some, at times, flimsy bricks together has been Bruce Landon.
Although saying his retirement is effective immediately, he will continue on during a transition period and will now carry the title "Director of Hockey Operations".
Falcons owner Charlie Pompea's daughter Sarah has been named interim president while an executive search takes place to find a new president for the Falcons.
Although the Falcons have been the top dog in the league for most of the season, attendance continues to lag with an average of 3620, good for 24th place in the 30 team circuit.
Local scribe Ron Chimelis tweeted after last night's 4-0 shutout over Albany:
Maybe this is where it all comes full circle.
Many locals for the longest time have referred, almost reverently, to Springfield being a "hockey town". Like many areas, the Pioneer Valley has pockets of passion for the game. With each passing year, it becomes more and more evident that there are countless fans who no longer want to plunk down $20 for a game ticket, $7 for parking as well as another $15 or $20 for food once inside The Nest.
I've seen Bruce on game nights, literally for decades, going at a thousand miles an hour, doing his best to say hello to as many people as possible, asking about their experience.
Landon recently wrote a blog post for MassLive where he speaks to the things that make him worry.
When I read his post, I thought of the things that I worry about. Prominent on that list was worrying about what the hockey landscape would look like in Springfield if Bruce ever retired. Now, I guess we get to find out.
Thank you Bruce for everything that you've meant to pro hockey in Springfield over the years.
Looks like it's time for goodbye again.