Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Hockey Life: Taking the next step

It all started a couple of months ago with reading a story in the newspaper. The Event Development Institute, a group in Tampa that helps people and organizations transform ideas into realities, was accepting applications for events. Why not, I figured, submit my idea. So, I did, offering a bare-bones description in the online form.

Since then, mostly during my walks, the idea or, more accurately, the concept formulated in my mind. It was more than planning. Sponsorships, logistics, marketing and execution are all a part of the plan. And, yes, I figured it would a long shot. Who was I, some guy working out of a small desk tucked into the corner of a toy room/office, to think it was even worthy of consideration.

Well, guess what?

It seems the idea passed its first test. Last Tuesday, an email arrived sharing the news. I'll be meeting with the institute's advisory committee within the next two weeks to further discuss the concept. By no means does the meeting signify a green light, but it's a step in the right direction.

So, what's the idea? Let me give you three guesses, and the first two don't count.

My pitch is to bring an international level hockey tournament to the Tampa Bay area. Not just one that draws teams from Florida and, maybe, the Southeast. No, the idea is to draw teams from throughout the United States, Canada and, with a little bit of luck, from Europe and Scandinavia. If you're going to dream, you might as well dream big, right?

Think Quebec's pee wee tournament and national gatherings sponsored by big-name hockey gear companies. Rather than appealing to just local teams, the idea is to bring some of the best youth hockey teams from all over the world to the warm, sunny locale during the late fall to winter months. I'm thinking a week or weekend away from knee-deep snow and teeth-chattering cold holds great appeal.

This wouldn't be the run-of-the-mill local tournament, where teams show up, play a minimum of four games and, if the kids are lucky, get a bag tag for their efforts. The idea is to have seminars for league officials, organizations and coaches. Holding clinics or product demonstration sessions for players are a part of the plan, too. And, if the schedules mesh, toss in a Tampa Bay Lightning home game.

In a way, the tournament would be a festival for youth hockey here in Hockey Bay. It would tell the world that our sport of speed is, indeed, played well below the Florida-Georgia line. Hopefully, it would bring people, from as far away as Russia or Sweden, to Tampa Bay's sandy shores. So, yes, there's the aspect that it would continue to build region's brand as a top-shelf tourism destination.

The tournament would also provide solid measuring sticks, so to speak, for local youth hockey organizations and the hundreds of players who hit the local rinks. They'd get an idea of just how far they've come or, perhaps more likely, how much more work they need to do. To me, teaching moments would be plentiful.

Pulling this off would be a monumental task. It's going to take a lot of hard work by myself and many others. The next two weeks will be all about making the necessary contacts and gaining valuable advice. I have to reach out to, and hopefully hear from, associations, companies and people at the national, state and local levels. The better prepared I am going into that meeting, the better chance the idea had of gaining critical support.

It's time, then, for me to get to work.

P.S.:  Here's another shameless plug asking you to help support Colin's fundraising efforts for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For as little as $5.49, shipping included, you can do your part to help him do his part. As always, we appreciate your support.

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