SportsEvents Readers’ Choice Awards: Best Live or Virtual Sports Event Planner of 2020

1st – Kevin Delaney, President – American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA) Stan Mikita Hockey School 

Kevin Delaney, President of the AHIHA – Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing grew up playing hockey and attended the school during his teen years. He returned to the hockey school as a volunteer power skating coach before being named president in 2017. He is also the power skating coach for the Chicago Blackhawks and owner of Delaney Hockey.

The AHIHA – Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has served its players since 1973. The school was started by NHL Hall of Famer Stan Mikita and Chicago businessman, Irv Tiahnybik for his deaf son, Lex, struggling with the Game.

Since its inception, the hockey school has hosted its annual hockey school in the Chicago area each summer for 48 years. Players attend the week-long school with their families and travel from across the country to participate. Between 50 to 80 players from youth through college level receive instruction from professional coaches and alumni each year. Volunteers and medical staff work with players to develop hockey skills in an inclusive environment. Social activities are also planned during the week to pit deaf and hard of hearing players against local teams.

“Due to COVID, we were unable to have the hockey school, so knowing how much the week means to our players and families, we knew we had to get creative and decided to take our AHIHA on the road,” said Kevin Delaney, president. “We focused on the cities where the majority of our players come from – Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. We held the first clinic in Chicago over three days in early August for the local players in the area. At the end of August, we traveled to Boston for two days and in October did a one-day clinic in West St. Paul.”

Delaney said virtual Zoom meetings were also held for age groups, including Freshman (ages 6-11), Junior Varsity (12-15), and Varsity (16-up), which included many members of the Gold medal-winning 2019 Deaflympic team and the Girls/Women’s team.

“While these events were not the same as the hockey school week, we are very proud that we were able to connect with so many families and host these events in a very challenging situation due to COVID.”

The organization hopes to return to Chicago this summer.

“Our organization is more than just hockey,” Delaney said. “It’s about family and friendships that have developed over the years. Players and their families all come together because they not only love hockey, they share a common bond being deaf or hard of hearing. The support they receive gives them the confidence they need to succeed in hockey and life.”

Delaney lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife Kate, two daughters, Lily and Ryen and a son, Brud.

2nd – Sheri Rhodes – National Events Manager – USA Archery

Archery has been an integral part of Sheri Rhodes life for more than 40 years. She started learning about event management as a member of the Arizona State University archery team and was part of the team that helped make the events successful.

“Along the way, I have been fortunate to have worked at the highest level in our sport – the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Rhodes said. “USA Archery was formed in 1879 and is the national governing body for archery in the U.S. The organization boasts 19,000 current members and traditionally hosts 10 national events that serve 6,000 participants.

“I enjoy sharing our events with organizations and venues that don’t typically serve archery,” Rhodes said.

This year, the 136th USA Archery Target Nationals & U.S. Open were the first USA Archery event to be successfully held during the pandemic. The events hosted in Virginia’s Henrico County and with Richmond Region Tourism welcomed world-class athletes to Dorey Park for a weekend of competition in August, where 258 adult senior and master archers competed. Participants included Olympians, Paralympians, World-class athletes, and newcomers.

3rd – Roy D. Schindele – Executive Director of Sales & Marketing – Mission Inn Resort & Club

Named the executive director of sales & marketing for the Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida, in 2019, Roy D. Schindele brings extensive marketing and golf experience to the resort, which is located 25 minutes northwest of Orlando.

He served 14 years as executive director of sales and marketing for Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.

Last year, Schindele negotiated to bring The Symetra Tours inaugural Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship event to Lake County and the Mission Inn Resort & Club during COVID-19 and executed the event within 90 days of the booking.

The LPGA event provided young women with an opportunity to participate in the championship from Oct. 11-17 to battle for a total purse of $125,000 on the El Campeon course. Visit Lake, the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, the resort and others worked with the LPGA to deliver the Symetra Tour event this year.

Mission Inn Resort is also well known for other events such as hosting more than 20 NCAA Championships, numerous U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateur qualifiers, and the Pro-Am event this year during the tour week.

The Symetra Tour entered its 40th competitive season in 2020.

Mission Inn is a four-season resort that features classic Spanish Colonial architecture, 176 guestrooms, suites and villas, two championship golf courses, three restaurants, two lounges, and a poolside bar. Recreational amenities include eight tennis courts, trap and skeet shooting, jogging and biking trails, volleyball courts, outdoor pools, and a 52-slip marina, and many other features and space.

Honorable Mentions:

Ben Rausa/Eric Atnip/Scott Langen – IRONMAN

Grant Harrington/Sarah Maxwell – Snohomish Running Company

Brian Kaminskas – LAX Bash