Don't look now, but the NAHL Showcase Tournament is just a week away and there's plenty of excitement on the horizon.
"This is really shaping up to be quite an event," said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "To have this many top-caliber teams participating at one venue is creating quite a buzz around the entire hockey community and we couldn't be happier."
Celebrating its 5th Anniversary this season, the Showcase will take place September 19-22 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. The event will feature all 18 NAHL teams, as well as 30 of the top Midget teams from across the country in the first leg of this year's NAHL Midget Showcase Series.
"There's no other event like this in all of North America, from the sheer magnitude of teams to the number of future college and NHL stars that will be competing under one roof," said Frankenfeld. "It's awesome."
The U.S National Team Development Program's Under 18 Team, always a popular draw among the hundreds of college and NHL scouts and local hockey fans, will once again be competing. Thirteen players from that club last year were picked in June's NHL Entry Draft, including James vanRiemsdyk, who was selected No. 2 overall.
In addition to the quality hockey, the NAHL will usher in its newly-formed partnerships with Next Testing, a cutting-edge program designed for players which has set a new standard for athletic performance testing, and B2 Networks, which will provide video broadcasts of every Showcase game live over the Internet.
"To form long-lasting associations with these two entities and to be able to highlight them at our Showcase is exciting," said Frankenfeld. "Our goal, as a league, has always been to improve the development and exposure of our athletes and we took a huge step forward in that regard this season by partnering with Next and B2."
The NAHL has also announced that Sherwood, the official equipment supplier of the NAHL, will sponsor the MVP awards of the three tournaments (Junior, Midget Major and Midget Minor), as well as the three All-Tournament Teams.
Nike/Bauer will sponsor the Midget tournaments' Top Scorer awards, providing a Nike/Bauer iD stick to both Midget scoring champions.
OT Sports, the official jersey supplier of the NAHL, is sponsoring logoed practice jerseys for each of the two Midget champions, while Southern Sports Supply is sponsoring the Top Defenseman award to the tune of one pair of skates for each the NAHL and both Midget tournament champion teams' top blueliners.
Another NAHL partner, OGP Enterprises, the league's official puck supplier, will provide the event's pucks, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car has joined the festivities as the tournament's official rental car company.
Visit Minneapolis North, again the official lodging bureau of the NAHL Showcase, continues to accommodate to the fullest despite the growing number of teams that participate in the event year after year.
"Visit Minneapolis North has been instrumental over the years in making this tournament a success and we're very thankful for all the hard work they put in," said Frankenfeld.
For the first time, the NAHL is introducing its Father/Son ticket coupon discount, in which all youths 15 and under will be admitted into the Showcase free of charge with a paid adult. The coupon can be found in the September issue of Let's Play Hockey Magazine. In addition, the first 100 to present the coupon will receive a free Vapor XXXX knit toque, compliments of Nike/Bauer.
The NAHL is also offering free admission to high school hockey coaches, and half off the price of admission on daily passes for high school hockey players.
"We're really trying to connect with the entire hockey community," said Frankenfeld. "I think it's important for the local high school players and coaches to become more familiar with our product in regards to the talent level and atmosphere and what better way than to see a handful of games in person."
Fans, parents and scouts can also mingle and talk hockey with the North American Hockey League's staff, coaches and owners at the "NAHL Meet & Greet" reception at the Time Out Restaurant and Sports Bar on Thursday night from 7-9 p.m.
Time Out Restaurant and Sports Bar, an official sponsor and a preferred team meal provider of the NAHL Showcase and NAHL Midget Showcase Series along with Majors Sports Cafe, is located just seconds from the Schwan Super Rink.
Phantom Fireworks, EHK Sports and Caribou Coffee are also proud sponsors of the event.