As the calendar turns to September, the North American Hockey League (NAHL) turns its attention to its annual Showcase Tournament, this year sponsored by SBK Hockey.
The eighth annual event, which is widely considered one of the most well-attended and heavily scouted festivals in all of North America, will take place from Sept. 15-18 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minn., where each of the NAHL’s 26 teams will play four regular-season games.
Like previous years, the NAHL, which is celebrating its 35th Anniversary season, won’t be the only league on display. The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), a Midget and Bantam circuit comprised of 38 teams, will kick off its second season in conjunction with the Showcase Tournament. In addition, 22 Midget teams will take to the ice as part of the NAHL Future Prospects Tournament. Both events will run from Sept. 16-19.
It all adds up to another wall-to-wall weekend of premier hockey at the eight-sheet Super Rink.
“Every year, the Showcase seems to outdo itself both in terms of attendance and scouting presence, and I think that speaks volumes about how well our league is received throughout the entire hockey community,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the season.”
Frank Serratore, head coach at the Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey), doesn’t need any convincing. After locking in on 14 recruits from the NAHL last season, he knows full well the value of the Showcase - and the NAHL as a whole - as he assembles his Falcons teams.
“Being a school that has to recruit United States citizens, we rely heavily on the NAHL and the Showcase provides our program with an opportunity to see all of the players in the league at one site, which enables us to create a foundation for our recruiting for the entire season,” said Serratore.
The University of Minnesota also plans to be front-and-center during the Showcase - and with good reason given the WCHA program’s recent success scouting the NAHL.
“Our staff was very fortunate to recruit two very good hockey players from the NAHL last season and being able to see them early in the year at the Showcase was very beneficial,” said Golden Gophers assistant coach John Hill.
Those players were forward Jared Larson of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and defenseman Jake Parenteau of the Alaska Avalanche, both of whom left a lasting impression at last year’s event.
“They were very impressive with their play during the Showcase Tournament and we began to follow their progress early as a result,” Hill said. “We look forward to seeing which players have taken a step in their development this year and which players will emerge as serious recruits.”
The same holds true for the participating Midget and Bantam participants. For many of those who competed last year, it was the first time they were pegged by junior, college and professional teams as legitimate prospects.
“This is an exciting opportunity for these younger players,” said NAPHL director Denny Scanlon. “To be showcased in an environment with so many scouts and coaches watching is a chance that doesn’t come around too often, but one that makes our league so unique.”
And while what happens on the ice steals a majority of the headlines, it’s the behind-the-scenes work that helps the Showcase elevate its reputation year after year. The tireless efforts of the Super Rink staff, along with those of Visit Minneapolis North, the tournament’s hotel partner, play a vital role in making the event come together with precision.
“I’ve said it before: The Showcase doesn’t come close to reaching the level of prestige it holds today without the great people at the Super Rink and at Visit Minneapolis North,” said Frankenfeld. “They truly are in a class of their own when it comes to running events of this magnitude and we can’t thank them enough.”
In the end, it equates to successful weekend enjoyed by all.
“To get so many people who are excited about our league under one roof is always special,” said Frankenfeld. “And to see it evolve the way it has over the years is just as rewarding.”
For more details on the SBK Hockey/NAHL Showcase Tournament, North American Prospects Hockey League and NAHL Future Prospects Tournament, including ticket, hotel and schedule information, visit NAHLShowcase.com and NAPHL.com.