After nearly 60 combined years of invaluable service to the Rochester Americans, two of the franchise’s strongest advocates are being recognized for their endless contributions to the American Hockey League team. The Amerks’ Booster Club, a faction that binds Rochester’s most loyal fans and supporters, and former team owner Steve Donner will be among the 17 to be inducted into Frontier Field’s Walk of Fame later this summer. The Booster Club and Donner, along with 13 other individuals and “two teams of the ages”, become the newest members to grace the Walk of Fame as the Class of 2012.
“It was a total surprise that the Rochester Americans Booster Club was chosen to be in the Frontier Field Walk of Fame,” said Club President and lifelong season ticket holder Virginia Paddock. “Without our past and present members we would not have been able to accomplish all that we have done over the last 46 years. This is a great honor to be inducted into the Walk of Fame with all the great people and teams from past years.”
The Walk of Fame is dedicated to those individuals and organizations whose endless contributions have shaped the landscape for Rochester’s local sports scene, making it what it is today. The group will be honored during a pregame ceremony prior to the Rochester Red Wings’ International League baseball contest against the Empire State Yankees on Sunday, August 19 at Frontier Field.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great fan base here in Rochester and our Booster Club is very much a part of that,” said Amerks Vice President of Business Operations Rob Kopacz. “Virginia and all the members are among the most loyal fans we have and we certainly appreciate their continued support over the years.”
With the honors, the Booster Club and Donner become the 17th and 18th members of the Amerks family to receive a brick in the Walk of Fame, joining past Amerk greats such as original team founder Sam Toth (Class of 2011), former team captain and Rochester native Rory Fitzpatrick (Class of 2010), the 1964-68 Amerk teams (Class of 2006); Jim Hofford, Don Stevens and Hans Tanner (Class of 2003); Dick Gamble (Class of 2000); Don Cherry (Class of 1999); Red Armstrong and Geordie Robertson (Class of 1998); and Joe Crozier and Jody Gage (Class of 1997).
The Booster Club enters the Walk of Fame as the lone organization to be enshrined in this year’s class. Started in 1966 with the help of then Amerks General Manager Joe Crozier, the Booster Club recently completed its 46th season as the team’s top support group. The Club serves the Amerks organization in various projects and fundraisers and each year donates thousands of dollars to local hockey and charitable organizations in the Greater Rochester Area. The loyalty of the Club, whose membership spans over four decades and consists of many current season ticket holders, extends beyond Rochester as every year the Boosters make several road trips to support the team away from home. Current Club officers Virginia Paddock (President), Ann Paddock (Transportation) and Mary Dibble (Executive Foundation) have all been with the organization since its inception in 1966.
The Booster Club has been selected to host the 2013 (AAHLBCC) Annual Association of American Hockey League Booster Club’s Convention in Rochester.
Donner, whose name was synonymous with Rochester sports for over a decade, served a 13-year term as owner, president and CEO of the Amerks between 1995 and 2008 that saw him become a driving force in rejuvenating the professional sports scene in the Flower City. A native of Rochester, Donner’s dreams of owning his hometown team came to fruition in the summer of 1995, and just a year later, he was celebrating the Amerks’ sixth Calder Cup championship in the franchise’s first year of local ownership. That same season, Donner was awarded the James C. Hendy Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding executive, based on his contributions to the league.
Donner was also instrumental in the formation of the Rochester Sports Group, which included the Amerks, Rochester Knighthawks (National Lacrosse League), Rochester Rhinos (A-League/USL First Division) and Rochester Rattlers (Major League Lacrosse). Donner’s vision and commitment to promoting the local sports scene, combined with his passion for winning, produced seven different championships among the four teams in his grasp, beginning with the Amerks Calder Cup victory in 1996. Shortly after that, the Rhinos won an unprecedented three A-League championships in a four-year span (1998, 2000 and 2001), with the 1999 edition of Rochester’s pro soccer team claiming the U.S. Open Cup championship. In 2007, Donner was part of a Knighthawks team that captured the Champion’s Cup with a league-record 17 wins, including 15 straight, which still stands as the second-longest streak in NLL history. The following summer, the Rattlers would clinch their first-ever Steinfeld Cup as the 2008 champions of Major League Lacrosse.