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The party has ended, the memories linger

by Paul Kukla
Yes, this is Detroit Red Wings-related, but you too can and should do something like this in the future.  It will become an event you will never forget.

Let me lead off with this quote from John Hahn, senior director of communications for the Detroit Red Wings. "Having a fan from Brazil travel to Detroit for his first hockey game goes far beyond what we envisioned when we developed this year's theme: 'Hockeytown - No Limits.' The best part of the 'Herm To Hockeytown' program is that it was completely conceived and operated by the bloggers and fans. It shows the passion of Red Wings fans everywhere and the unique ability of social media to connect fans from around the world."

The afterglow of the Herm 2 Hockeytown (H2H) weekend is slowly fading, but the memories will be etched in my mind forever.

By making the dreams come true for a Wings fan from Brazil, a small group of a huge fan base just got a little tighter.

The generous donations of hockey fans (not just Wings fans) allowed us not only to pay for Herm's trip to Detroit, but also donate over $5300 to the Children's Hospital of Michigan.  Little did we know at the time how another Children's Hospital was helping out a family of 1 of the 19 (a tag Wings fans wear proudly).

Usually when a group of around 150 people meet for the first time there is a sense of nervousness and hesitation. But not this time, you see there was one thing we all shared and we all knew about it in advance, we were all Detroit Red Wings fans and fans of the game.

Seeing people introduce themselves to others was amusing.  Everyone knew each other's screen name or user name from different hockey blogs or forums, but putting the names to the faces was new for everyone. Some people looked like I expected, others not so much, but that was part of the fun.

Walking around the room and listening in on the conversations, only two topics were really touched on, welcoming Herm to Hockeytown and the Detroit Red Wings. So often in these types of gatherings, discussion is hard to come by, but in this case, when you have a room filled with hockey fans, well, hockey is the main topic.

I was also surprised on how many people flew in from different parts of North America to take part in this very special weekend. Virginia, Oklahoma, Washington, Arizona and Toronto were some of the places folks traveled from to make this event what it was.

After about two hours of the pre-party, it was off to the Joe Louis Arena to catch the Wings take on the Minnesota Wild

From Zamboni rides, to watching the pre-game skate from the penalty box, to an in-game interview with Herm on the large scoreboard, the Detroit Red Wings staff did a great job in making this night a memorable one for many.

Herm was now in dreamland. You have to remember this 21-year-old from Brazil had never witnessed a live hockey game or even met another hockey fan before his visit to Detroit. A video game got him hooked on hockey and reading about the 2002 Detroit Red Wings made him a Wings fan for life.

Friday morning Herm was able to watch the Wings morning skate and that was only the start of a day many of us wish we could experience. Along with numerous TV interviews, Herm was able to meet Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond of the Wings TV crew, talk with Wings GM Ken Holland for a few minutes and meet his favorite player, Darren Helm, in the Wings' dressing room after the game. Helm also passed on a signed game-used stick, along with signing Herm's No. 43 Helm sweater.

On Saturday, Herm was on his way back to Brazil with memories of Detroit that will remain with him forever. But that was not the end of the H2H weekend. Parties sprouted up all over metro-Detroit. I hosted some out-of-towners and we watched the Wings/Predators game and also got to know each other a little better. As the night closed to an end, I think everyone had the same feeling, the feeling of even though we just met, we seemed to know each other more than what we thought did.

After all, we are hockey fans, dedicated, hard-core fans at that.  We love the game and even though we come from different places, different jobs and different backgrounds, the game brought us together and I must say together we will stay.

Reading through the numerous comments and tweets, so many others wished they would have attended the event. I am sure this annual weekend will grow and grow as the years go by and as a hockey fan, I encourage other fan bases to try doing something similar. 

This was an experience where everyone came as individuals but left as one.  It is hard to describe to those of you who did not attend, but again, it is something I will never forget, it just felt right and I want more of that feeling in my life.

Thanks to Vicki Morton of Digital RetroSpectives for the use of the pictures in this story.  You can see more pictures of the pre-game party here and also check out this post at Abel to Yzerman for comments from many of the "19" on their experience plus pointers to other sites that include pictures and stories on H2H.

Happy birthday Gordie -- A day early but I can't let this day pass without wishing Happy 82nd Birthday to the man who was referred to as "Popeye" by his teammates.  Enjoy the day Gordie Howe!

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