Now that the arena contract drama has finally come to a close (and with a very happy ending!) we can get back to the business of getting ready for the upcoming season! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!
One of the things I got to do this summer was attend the CHL’s annual Booster Club convention. Each summer, members from the various booster clubs get together and party have a series of informative and helpful meetings. This year’s meeting was hosted by the PT Booster Club (and yes, that’s still their name) up in Bloomington IL.
The weekend officially got underway on Friday evening. The conference was held at The Chateau Hotel and Conference Center. After Mr. Gibbie and I checked in we found PT members sitting in the lobby waiting to greet folks. I got to meet a lot of these folks last summer at the CHL Booster Club in Wichita. They really are a great group of people and I’m happy that they’re going to have a team after all this coming season. After sitting and chatting for a while it was time for the evening’s meet and greet at the Blueline in downtown Bloomington. (Look for them on Facebook, I’d post a link but the photo is a little risqué so Google at your own risk!) The PT Boosters also arranged for limo transport there and back, so no one had to worry about driving. The Blueline is a new and very nice sports bar in downtown. They gave us two hours of exclusive use of the bar (cash) and provided appetizers. It gave me a chance to reconnect with some folks I met last year and get to know some new people as well. It’s good to talk to other club members and leaders and get an idea of what they do for their teams.
The next morning started with the obligatory “go around the room and introduce yourselves” and then a talk by Jim Wylie, Director of Hockey Operations for the league. Jim attended last year as well and is always very informative and forthright. A large part of his job deals with handling referees so he spoke a lot about that process, how they’re hired, how they’re managed and how they’re scheduled. It was very interesting. There are only a handful of full time refs in the CHL and the rest are hired as needed based on their geographic location, such as our favorite, Kevin Mallin. Referees are continually evaluated and while not many are fired, many are not asked back. I didn’t ask about anyone specifically coming back or not, but I was sure tempted. He also talked about how his typical game night is like. He monitors every game as it’s happening, either via CHL TV or Pointstreak. He’ll only actually watch a couple but he knows what’s going on in all games. So from the time the first puck drops in the Eastern time zone until the last game is over in Arizona, Jim’s watching hockey. All I could think was “what a great job!” He also talked a little bit about the review process for games and what happens when coaches call in and complain. It was all very interesting.
After Jim’s talk we herded back into the bus from the previous night and headed over to the US Cellular Coliseum for a tour. I’d been there a couple of times but it was nice to see it from ice level and the backstage areas. The general manager of the arena took us around himself and showed us the locker room, the Zamboni (and we all got to sit on it!), and up into the club suites. One awkward moment was had by me when the questions turned to parking. I asked him about the parking situation and told him that Evansville’s new arena had no public parking attached, a fact that had raised some controversy in town. He looked at me and said “yes I know all about your new arena, my company was the runner up to manage it.” He’d apparently spent a great deal of time working on the bid and I got the idea he’d have been managing it had they won. Oh. Oops. Sorry about that.
After the tour it was back to the hotel for lunch. I shared a table with Jim and a woman from the Mallards organization. They don’t have a booster club yet but want to start one, and she came down to get some information. She was one of two people left in the office after the ownership change in QC and was really happy to still be employed and excited about the future there. After lunch were a couple of more speakers. One of the problems that the PT Boosters had putting this conference together was the fact that people kept running off. Wayne Bonney was supposed to have been contacting some of his refs to come and speak, but then Wayne retired abruptly and never got the word to anyone. Then they were supposed to have someone from the PrairieThunder office speak and then well, there wasn’t anymore PrairieThunder! They were able to snag the Blaze’s new ticketing head and the trainer. Both came and spoke to us a bit about what they do. It was pretty interesting. The ticket guy had some sales tips and the trainer had some gruesome injury stories to share. I’m glad he didn’t have a PowerPoint!
After that it was some roundtable about what we do for our clubs as well as more mixing and mingling. I got some good leads on new merchandise (look for flashy blinky lights coming to a Booster Club table near you!), some ideas for a Hockey 101 clinic midseason and just some ways to support the players, which is after all, why we’re all there. Oh and I won a lovely display case with pucks from most of the teams in the league in it. It was custom built by one of the booster club members. They held a silent auction with the proceeds going to the Community Cancer Center. I had to be pretty aggressive at the end getting my bid in just as she was about to pick up the sheets but I finally snagged it. It’s lovely. It still has a few holes where teams did not respond to the request but I hope to get those filled in with something as we go along.
All in all it was a fun weekend. The Missouri Mavericks club is hosting the next one and I think the Rapid City Rush are ready to go for it in ’13. Everyone is welcome to attend; I’ll send out info next season when it’s available. Will Evansville make a play to host it one year? Maybe… :)