Every player crowned at USA Hockey's Youth National Championships -- which began March 30 and wrapped up on April 3 -- felt on top of the world as they hoisted youth hockey's coveted title. And in the 2011 host town of Hackensack, N.J., not only were the 12 & Under New Jersey Colonials and 14 & Under Belle Tire teams named champs, but the Tomorrows Children's Fund clinched victory too.
Held down the road from the tournament's home at the Ice House, the inaugural 'Hockey Cares' fund raiser at the Marriot at Glenpointe raised $31,000 to go towards TCF and the Hackensack Medical Center.
"This was a great event for us with a very local tie," said Tournament Chair Ryan Gibbons. "You are able to see the rink from the hospital and a former player with our [North Jersey] program was a patient at TCF. Ultimately it's just a great way to give back to those kids and tie it in with a great weekend of hockey at the National Championships."
With the majority of proceeds directly benefiting TCF, auction items sold for as low as $100 upwards to $3500 for a suite at a New Jersey Devils game and the action never seemed to stop for more than 200 in attendence.
Out to support the cause with hockey families and fans alike was some of hockey's greats including: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello, former NHLers Jim Dowd and Brendan Shanahan along with USA Hockey representitives.
"All of the 'big stars' were almost as happy to come as the local people were," Gibbons said. "They thanked us for hosting an event like this and they were happy to mingle and tell stories, giving hockey fans the chance to get up close with some of these legends all while supporting a great cause.
"My dad and brother were at the event and seated next to Lou Lamoriello and they told me they couldn't believe they were sitting next to someone like that, having dinner and chatting like old friends."
And plans for next year's event are already in the works -- 2012 nationals host city or not.
"We couldn't be happier with the outcome of our first event," said Gibbons. "Whether we are a host site for USA Hockey's National Championships or not, we know we can get this event bigger and better year after year and we can't wait to see it grow in 2012."
For more information on TCF visit atcfkid.com