The only thing that shines brighter than the lights of New York City will be the stars who come out to support a great cause across the Hudson River at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.
As the hosts of the 2011 USA Hockey National Championships welcome an influx of tomorrow's stars competing for youth hockey's Holy Grail at the 12 & Under and 14 & Under Tier I levels, down the road at the Marriot at Glenpointe an all-star lineup of hockey stars and dignitaries will join forces to raise money for a very worthy cause.
On the heels of hosting one of the most successful USA Hockey National Championship tournaments in 2008, local organizers will look to take this year's festivities to the next level by staging a benefit on March 31 in support of the Tomorrow's Children Fund and the Hackensack University of Medical Center.
Appropriately titled, "Hockey Cares," the event looks to raise money for the Tomorrow's Children Fund, which supports children who are battling cancer and serious blood disorders.
"This project came about because our [USA Hockey National Championships] opening ceremony [in 2008] was such a huge success with the glamour of a big NHL event," said Glenn Carlough, master of ceremonies for this year's inaugural event.
"We wanted to let people know more about the personality of the hockey community, and with a hospital right around the corner [from the rink] it also created a very local and very personal tie for us."
The evening gets under way at 6 p.m., with a cocktail hour followed by a buffet dinner. There will also be live and silent auctions where attendees can bid on items such as Rangers and Devils tickets, game worn items and autographed memorabilia.
Those in attendance will have an opportunity to rub elbows with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman along with NHL vice president of hockey and business operations Brendan Shanahan, Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello and a number of former NHL players who live in the area.
"We are very fortunate to have a pretty good guest list for this event," Carlough said. "To have the New Jersey Devils so supportive and with [former New York Ranger] Mark Messier a huge benefactor for this particular charity, the possibilities are endless to the number of hockey superstars we can get to attend."
Staging the event in conjunction with the National Championships will add another layer of pomp and circumstance to the preeminent youth hockey event of the year as 24 teams will converge on Hackensack for a tournament that begins March 30 and ends with the championship games on April 3.
"Running the event in conjunction with the Nationals will help get exposure for both events," said Carlough, who coached the North Jersey Avalanche to the 12 & Under title in 2005 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
"We set it up at a time where parents can come in after their games and grab a bite to eat and mingle with some of the best in the game."
The hope is that this will become a regular event, regardless if Ice House is hosting a Nationals tournament or not.
"If we can get some good footing and traction started this year would like the event to get the footing and traction where we do it every year, and get people excited about it," Carlough said. "I have no doubt it will be successful for years to come."
Tickets for the Hockey Cares charity event can be purchased at atcfkid.com.