Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Showcase Returns

From SJHL.ca

After a one-year hiatus, the SJHL’s Showcase returns in 2009 with a couple of new wrinkles, but with essentially the same message that was intended when the first ever Showcase took place in 2003.

For the first time, the SJHL Showcase will be held in an SJHL center, with the Battlefords North Stars stepping up to play host over the three day event. It’s also being held later in the season than it has in years past, this time being played over November 26, 27, and 28.

In addition, Strike Energy has stepped up to become a host title sponsor while the National Hockey League is a league partner in presenting the three day event. “The decision to take last year off as far as the Showcase is concerned was something that was done with a lot of thought and we knew there would be some negatives associated with it. We knew the players would not be pleased and rightfully so; however,

we under-estimated the value the NHL placed on the Showcase. We were pleasantly surprised to hear the disappointment on their end, it is simply the best way for the SJHL to promote our players to the highest levels of hockey,” said SJHL President Laury Ryan.

The Showcase has truly evolved from the inaugural weekend, which was held in Saskatoon during the preseason of the 2003-04 campaign. Rosters were not finalized and, therefore, although scouts were getting an opportunity to see all twelve teams under one roof, they were not getting a true feel for the SJHL. Instead, they were getting a look at prospects one and two years in advance as clubs were icing rosters with some regulars, but also with midget aged players with futures

down the road as far as SJHL careers were concerned.

In 2004-05, the SJHL Showcase was moved to the Gemini Arena in Saskatoon and was held during the first week of the regular season. The Showcase included the CIS with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hosting games and the two Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey Saskatoon based teams also playing in the event. The improvements from year one was very noticeable and crowds for each game were extremely impressive.

The 2005-06 event shifted to the Credit Union Centre, with some games played at twin arena next door. The SJHL, U of S Huskies, Saskatoon Contacts, and Saskatoon Blades, member of the Western Hockey League were pleased to present a Showcase of Hockey to our fans and scouting fraternity. Hockey fans saw all 12 SJHL teams, each playing 3 regular season games; 5 Western Canada CIS teams, each playing 2 exhibition games, 2 Saskatchewan Midget Triple AAA

Hockey League teams playing 1 regular season game against each other. In all, Showcase 2005 involved 25 games, covering every level of elite hockey in the province.

In retrospect, Showcase 2005 was a landmark weekend as a major press conference took place announcing the creation of the Saskatchewan Development Model. It was also the opening weekend of the Western Hockey League season and there was a SJHL night that was hosted by the Saskatoon Blades. It was truly a Saskatchewan Showcase with the

SJHL, WHL, SMAAAHL and the CIS all participating in the event.

The Harold Latrace Arena welcomed the Showcase in 2006 and 2007 and that proved to be most ideal location of all as far as Saskatoon was concerned. There was one main ice surface that allowed for a large sized crowd as well as a private viewing area for scouts to take in the action comfortably. While this paved the way for ‘feature’ games, there was still a secondary rink inside the complex which made it simple for all

teams to congregate under one roof and play the mandated two games over the course of three days.

The SJHL went on its own these years concentrating on their 12 member teams and shortened the event from three games each team played to two.

Saskatoon was chosen as the host city for the Showcase for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the close proximity of an international airport. The airport allowed scouts to easily fly in to a major city, book hotel rooms, and travel a very short distance to see all teams. Having twelve teams in one city for three days also poses accommodation challenges, which Saskatoon was able to handle. The event also drew media attention from the province’s largest city, and that gave even more exposure within Saskatchewan.

Junior ‘A’ hockey is often associated by hockey people as a springboard to the NCAA for players looking to continue playing careers following graduation; but one thing the Showcase has proven is that the National Hockey League is taking notice from a scouting perspective.

With numbers ranging from 75-to-100 on any given year, business cards floating around the scouts’ viewing lounge indicated the NHL, other minor pro ranks, CIS, and WHL organizations were also taking notice in addition to the NCAA. The 2009 event figures to see much the same cross-section of scouts.

Following the 2007-08 season, it was felt a period of reflection was needed to determine what could be done to make the Showcase a more viable entity for the SJHL. Competing leagues were staging similar style weekends on the exact same date. While the SJHL still received a strong showing of support from scouts, it became tougher and tougher for evaluators as they were forced to choose which events they were going to attend.

The SJHL Showcase is back in 2009 and it will be held in the Battlefords and in an SJHL arena. It will be played later in the year when the level of play is higher than what it would be in September and with rosters that are significantly closer to be finalized. The requests of the players and scouts were simply too great to ignore and the Battlefords look forward to creating a new benchmark for the event

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