Already positioned as one of the largest and most prestigious fall festivals in all of North America, the Sherwood/NAHL Showcase Tournament outdid itself once again last week.
Held at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minn., for the seventh straight year, the event set new highs for attendance and scout presence while ushering in a record number of participating teams.
“I can’t think of another showcase of this magnitude that matches the kind of exposure we deliver for our student-athletes,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “All the feedback I received, from fans to parents to scouts to coaches, was nothing but positive.”
All 19 NAHL teams and the U.S. National Under-17 Team played four games at the tournament, which was won by the Wenatchee Wild.
The week also included the first tournament of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) season, in which 34 U18 and U16 Midget teams competed at the Tier I level.
But the hockey didn’t end there. Twenty-eight teams also made up the at-large field of the NAHL Future Prospects Tournament, which included teams at the U18, U16 and U14 levels.
In all, close to 1,700 players from 82 teams played 184 games throughout the five days, much to the delight of college and NHL scouts alike.
“It’s great to be able to evaluate junior players and Midget Major and Midget Minor players all at the same venue,” said University of Notre Dame assistant coach Andy Slaggert. “It saves us a lot of time and money.”
Los Angeles Kings scout Tony Gasparini, whose team selected Wenatchee forward Nic Dowd in last summer’s NHL draft, agreed.
“It’s an outstanding opportunity for these young men to showcase their talents in front of scouts from all across the country,” said Gasparini. “Having an event like this at this time of year allows every team to get a first look and feel for the league and the players, which is beneficial for everybody.”
“It’s a good opportunity for us to assess the talent in one of the prime junior leagues in the country,” added Florida Panthers scout Fred Bandel. “The league continues to develop players for the college level and the associated Midget tournament provides a great opportunity to assess up-and-coming prospects.”
Greg Vanover, head coach of the Pikes Peak Miners’ U18 team, which was crowned champions of its division with a 5-0 record to open the NAPHL season (the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes won the U16 division), was wowed by the overwhelming scouting presence.
“It was unparalleled as far as Midget hockey goes and what we’re used to seeing when we travel,” said Vanover. “It was excellent.”
The tournament doesn’t come close to reaching its prestige without the Super Rink, the largest facility of its kind in the world. From its eight sheets of ice to its accommodating and experienced staff, no other building matches what the Super Rink delivers.
“The Showcase doesn’t happen without the Super Rink and the great people it has in place, plain and simple,” said Frankenfeld. “They really deserve a lot of the credit for helping make this event what it is today.”
“It continues to grow every year, and it’s not just the hours of ice and the number of teams that make it a success,” Super Rink ice arena operations and program director Pete Carlson said of the Showcase. “Just look at the crowds and all the scouts it brings in.
“Mark and his staff do a fantastic job putting it all together. They have a true passion and commitment for what they do.”
In addition to the abundance of talent, scouts were also impressed with how well the tournament was run.
“I’ve been there the last three years and once again I was very impressed with the level of organization involved with both NAHL events,” said Gasparini. “I thought they were well organized and very scout-friendly.”
“The Showcase is one of the most well organized events I attend,” Bandel added. “It provides a great work environment for scouts and college recruiters.”
And for many of the participating players, the experience will pay off in short time.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is to maximize the exposure of our student-athletes to colleges and NHL teams and that’s what makes the Showcase so special,” said Frankenfeld. “The opportunities at an event like this are endless.”