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Aggie Hockey takes 3rd in Nationals as Boosters Hang up Skates
The USU hockey team has wrapped up the 2012-13 season with a national title and high hopes for next year. The Aggies placed third at the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s national championships.
“The boys played their hearts out,” said team coordinator Alys Staten.
“Utah State hasn’t been to the Frozen Four since the 1997-98 season,” she said, “so this is a huge accomplishment.”
Incoming team captain Brian Gibbons is equally excited about the team’s prospects next year.
“We only lost one guy,” he said. “Most of the team is coming back, and we’re getting more talent in as well.”
But despite all of reasons to celebrate and prepare, one behind-the-scenes family is sad to see the end of this year’s season.
It’s time to hang it up both for the hockey team, and for the Aggie Blue Booster Club, which has supported the team since 2011. Patty Bigelow, outgoing Aggie Blue Booster Club president, says she can’t lead the group any more.
“This is very hard for me,” she said. “A lot of blood, sweat, time and money went into this on my part, as well as my husband’s.”
Gibbons and his teammates are grateful to Bigelow and her fellow boosters. “I definitely admire how passionate she was about it,” he said.
Staten and Bigelow created the club in 2011 to help fundraise for the hockey team, which doesn’t receive university support because hockey is a club sport at USU. The booster club would contact sponsors, organize fundraisers, distribute funds and involve the community whenever possible.
“I can’t tell you what a privilege it has been to work with this amazing group of guys,” she said.
Julie Johnson, Bigelow’s “right-hand man” and booster club assistant, said they pounded a lot of pavement. Now, without Bigelow’s efforts, hockey club traditions and sponsors may fizzle out.
“I would have to say it’s a group effort,” Staten said, “but most of the work is done by our players and by Patty Bigelow.”
“She’s been a great person to work with,” Johnson said. “You need one person dedicated to this cause.”
Volunteering her time for almost the past 18 months, Bigelow began by collecting donations from companies such as Chick-fil-A, Noodles & Company, the Huntsman Intermountain Cancer Center and Schreiber Foods to fund both the team and the booster club.
She, Staten, Johnson and hockey players organized fundraisers such as Pink in the Rink, Veterans Night, and the Teddy Bear Toss to involve the community. Bigelow and the booster club conducted public relations/marketing, advertised games and events, and coordinated parades.
Goalie and team president Bryce Scherschel recognizes that losing the booster club could mean losing important ties to the community and fans.
“We’re a volunteer organization, and we need all the help we can get,” he said.
Gibbons says that, with the help of the booster club, fundraising for the team’s trip to this year’s nationals wasn’t as extensive as it has been in other years, “because of such a great turnout from fans.”
“I’ve never seen a booster club or community this willing to open their homes and wallets to support a local team,” said USU student and Game Day Supervisor Laura Wilson.
Scherschel says the boosters’ efforts have been separate from the team.
“It has been kind of invisible to us,” he said, which helped the team focus on games instead of finances.
“I did this because our family loves the sport. We love the team,” Bigelow said. “They are a great group of guys with big ideas and hearts. If I was able, I would continue to help.”
At a time when the booster club president would traditionally pass the torch, Bigelow says she hasn’t been able to find anyone willing to take over to keep Aggie Blue Booster Club alive.
“It takes hard work both on and off the ice to see success,” Wilson said.
Johnson and Scherschel agree that Bigelow leaves big shoes to fill, and they hope other Aggie hockey fans will step up to keep the boosters alive. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or Staten at email@example.com for more information.