NHL Booster Club Convention – Raleigh NC
By Gary Harding
A yearly tradition awaits for me this week. A week that gets me pumped up for the upcoming season.
As a member of the New York Islanders Booster Club, we are invited each August to the National Hockey League Booster Club Convention. A week of socializing, hockey talk, and great comraderie, as folks from across the US and Canada get together in a different city each year, to celebrate the game that we love so much.
This August, the Carolina Hurricanes Booster Club are the hosts in Raleigh, NC, for a week of activites, and fun for all.
People have been arriving at the Marriott Crabtree in Raleigh since the weekend, and for the weekend festivities, a couple of hundred folks, from some 15 – 20 Booster/Fan Clubs (including some whose teams left their cities in some cases DECADES ago), will be on hand.
As previously stated, this is not a convention of rules, decorum and discussions on the CBA, or labor negotiations. This is fans, hanging out with other fans, and enjoy the love of each other and our game. Yes – in this convention, Flyer fans and Penguins get along great. Islander fans and Devil and Ranger fans are buddies here. It does not matter what team you root for. Hockey is the common denominator.
There are activites all week, showing the visitors with what the hosts city/area provides. Some are going to the Wilmington coast, some are heading to Charlotte motor speedway to drive a Nascar at speeds over 130MPH. Some are going to a great dinner/mystery theater; and some will be making bears and taking them to one of the children’s hospitals in the area.
The weekend will feature a Pig Roast (what else in Carolina…), and a beach party weekend to frolic, dance, and just have a great time.
Well – there is some business…(not major). Each team will have a representative get up to speak to the convention on what their club has done for the season, and their plans for the upcoming one. Cities who wish to host future conventions will give their view of their city and what they hope to do for the next convention. The 2012 event will take place in South Florida. 2013 will be somewhere in Georgia (Hearing Savannah). The Atlanta Flames (yes – I said Flames) fan club will be hosting that one.
The convention is a great opportunity to make friends for life from all across North America. For me – this is my 23rd consecutive convention. I began as a ‘rookie’ in 1989 in Chicago. In 1997, Long Island was the proud hosts of the convention. I was just becoming President of the NYI Booster Club at the time, and I was responsible for making sure that the conventioneers got to our hotel from the Airports (Did about 3,000 miles of driving for about 10 days). They are an absolute blast.
The only requirement to attend this event, is you must be a member in good standing in a recognized NHL Booster/Fan Club. These clubs are NOT run by the NHL teams, but by the fans (many NHL cities do not have these kinds of clubs – example, Toronto, Montreal). We have organizations such as the Flames, Hartford Whalers, Cleveland Barons, California Golden Seals, who still are members of the organization and still attend proudly.
I head to the convention on Wednesday. During the week, I am going to talk to some Boosters, and get their views of the Convention, their teams, the NHL in common, and what hockey means to them.
Speak during the week.
John may still be doing some updates. I will actually change gears, and begin to talk about what is NEXT for the Islanders as we start to inch closer to training camp.