Five lucky students watch Thunderbirds game with Springfield Police officers

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Dozens of local families spent their Friday night at the Mass Mutual Center, celebrating community and the career of one notable local athlete. 

“I kind of felt great I felt awesome,” said William Mozell of Springfield. “Not like the cool kids, but like wow I was actually being one of the chosen ones.” 

Hundreds of hockey fans alike flooded the Mass Mutual Center for Friday night on the ice! The Springfield Thunderbirds took on the Hershey Bears at home. 

For most, the night was spent with family and friends, but for others, it was a little more special. Five lucky students from a local elementary school spent their Friday night doing something they wouldn’t normally do and it’s their hard work that brought them here. 

The First Line program created by the Springfield Patrolman’s Union, in partnership with the Springfield Thunderbirds, is a way for hardworking students to enjoy a night out doing something fun with local police. Students were chosen due to their test scores and academic status at school. 

“Very excited about an opportunity to not only spend time with police officers but to have an opportunity to go to a Thunderbirds game because a lot of our students have never had that experience,” said Mark Laurenzano, a Kiley Middle School teacher. 

President of the Springfield Police Union, Joseph Gentile told 22News its important for police to build relationships with the community and relationships with children are even more special. 

“Any opportunity to have positive interactions with children is always incredible for us,” said Gentile. 

The night was made more memorable when East Longmeadow native Frank Vatrano, who currently plays in the NHL for the Florida Panthers, made an appearance. He told 22News why it’s important for him to visit western Massachusetts. 

Vatrano said, “It’s super important to me. it’s a place I’ve grown up my entire life. Spent my summers here too. To come back and see friends and family it’s always fun I look forward to it.” 

The festivities continue Saturday with 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic Hockey Gold Medalist, Mike Eruzione. 

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