NY Islanders News

NHL Booster Club Convention – Epilogue

By Gary Harding
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I wanted to write this as the week ended, but due to being so tired at the end of a convention, along with coming home to a flood in my basement, and no cable/phone service, other thoughts were in my mind.

However, it was another great week at convention.  Again – let me stress, this is the great venue to mingle with hockey fans from all over – making friendships that last forever, and creating a comraderie that I challenge you to match.

On Saturday, we had our annual ‘meeting’.  It is a meeting, but it is a forum for each of the attending clubs to let people know what they did during the season.  From the simple (We’re back – from the one attendee from Winnipeg) – to a great Top 10 list from Elyse from the Rangers fan club, to our Islanders Booster Club President George Schutz letting folks know about the Rick DiPietro Self Defense School, light-heartedness ruled the morning.

Then the Florida Panthers Booster Club talked about Fort Lauderdale – which will be the scene for the 2012 event.  After them, the Atlanta Flames Fan Club (no – that is NOT a typo), gave their presentation for their bid to host the 2013 convention.  However, Savannah, Georgia will be the destination, which to this reporter, is a beautiful change in scenery from a typical convention city. (A birdie whispered that St. Louis is looking to do it in 2014)

After an afternoon of relaxation with Bowling and a visit to the RBC Center (ironically – this hockey arena at the time was hosting a free dental clinic; but ironically – no hockey players were there), the Saturday Beach Party theme was ready to go.  Beach clothes, palm trees, and swimmees were the decor.  After a nice Southern dinner, Hurricanes TV play-by-play voice John Forslund was our guest.  And he did not disappoint.  Anyone who has seen him on Versus, or Canes broadcasts know that not only is he quite pleasant to listen to, he is quite a cut up, and does some great impressions to (ask him to do his best Chuck Caiton).  He gave some great descriptions on how Booster Clubs were a factor in his professional career.  From Springfield, to Hartford, to Carolilna, they all played a part of his growth in hockey, and in life.

On a personal note, John was an influence to my Islander fan experience, calling the games in 1990, when the the Springfield Indians (an Islander affiliate at the time), were going for the Calder Cup, the league trophy of the AHL.   His broadcasts, got me into following the game from the minor league level, and his “Hey hey, what do you say, Springfield, the Calder Cup is yours” line always resonates in my mind.  What I found out, is that the “Hey, hey, what do you say” line, came from his dad, and was not a catch phrase line that many media thought was the case.  Thanks John, for being a part of my hockey life.

Then – it was dancing, partying and just plaing enjoying each other’s company.  A bunch do an annual tradition of “surviving” – which means staying up all night on Saturday.  Some have done it for over 2 decades straight.  Not me – bed was calling.

Sunday was a day of goodbyes and well wishes for the upcoming season.  For some, the bad weather in the east meant delays and cancellations.  It never fails that this convention that bad weather is the focus for getaway day.  In my case, I strategically planned to leave a day later; but as it would be fate, my flight was nearly two hours late.  Then – I come home to the flood.  Welcome home!

As I close this out, let me thanks Clare Cook, and the rest of the Canes Booster Club, for showing all a great Southern week.  We all had fun.  As it goes with the planning of these conventions, they never go perfect (I know that – as Long Island hosted it in 1997), but they persevered, and should be commended for a job well done.  Thanks to all that attended.  To the old friends whose visions I enjoyed once again, to the new folks, who have become a part of this great fraternity.  All I can say is until we meet again – whether it be at an NHL arena this upcoming season, or in Fort Lauderdale – 51 weeks to the future, may your season be one of fun, excitement and joy.

To anyone that is a fan of an NHL team – find out if they have a fan or booster club.  It is not just a group of people that support their local NHL team. On the contrary, it a bunch of passionate people that reach out to their communities and get involved.  They love their hockey, but love each other and the places they call home.  Get involved.  Stay involved.

Next week – it is back to Islander hockey, and previewing the upcoming season.  What lies in store for the Orange and Blue, and what do John and I expect.

Also – we need some more writers for Eyes on Isles.  If you are interested, please send me a note (gharding14@gmail.com).  Thanks and have a hockey day!

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