By Dave Leaderhouse
Another Showcase event is in the books and again the annual event that is used to bring all 12 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League teams together for a few days can be categorized as a success.
This one was a bit different, however, as rather than being staged in Warman, the neutral-site location this year was the Hamm Latrace Arena in Saskatoon.
“The Hamm Latrace Arena worked out very well,” notes SJHL president Bill Chow. “The staff was very accommodating – anything that was needed was addressed.”
“Overall, the event was a success,” added Chow. “The change of venue did not affect the hockey on the ice nor did it affect the number of scouts that attended.”
At the beginning of each season scouts from major universities and colleges in Canada and the United States, along with several from major junior and NHL teams, make a tour of similar events across Western Canada to get an early start on evaluating what talent is out there.
This is all part of a year-long recruiting process with players hoping to catch the eye of scouts in the hopes of landing an opportunity to continue playing the game while gaining a post-secondary education once their Junior “A” career is completed.
Chow says that the scouts appeared to enjoy the new venue, but he also indicated that some changes for future Showcases would benefit the event.
“The scouts that I spoke to like the venue,” explained Chow. “In the Hamm Latrace Arena there is an area inside that overlooks the ice surface so when you are in a rink for 8-10 hours a day, sitting where it is warm is appreciated. They also liked the site lines. If the arena was a larger building then they would be further away from the players – scouts like to be up close to the action.”
“The scouts have suggested that putting on an information session for the players and parents on the rules and regulations on NCAA funding for scholarships would assist some players in making decisions that they will have to be making,” added Chow.
While Warman isn’t that far removed from the larger centre of Saskatoon, Chow says he did notice an increase in media attention, which not only benefitted the Showcase event, but the SJHL overall.
“From a media perspective, I believe the coverage was better,” says Chow. “CTV was in attendance and conducted three to four interviews of scouts, players and the SJHL. Global was in attendance, too, and shot some footage. Once we ran the CTV story on our webpage, the fans took a large interest in the story.”
In addition to the television coverage, Chow says a new partnership has been created with Munz Media out of Regina and this will only enhance the promotion of the league going forward.
“Munz Media has created a large library of footage of the Showcase and the league and that footage will be edited and then placed on the SJHL webpage periodically,” states Chow.
While the overall grade for having the Showcase at the new facility was positive, Chow does admit there were come concerns.
“The one thing the teams inquired about was more dressing room space,” says Chow. “I spoke with the Hamm Latrace people and the dressing room space will be addressed for next year.”
Now it is back to the regular grind of touring the province for five-plus months with players hoping they have left an impression on the various scouts. An additional Showcase event featuring players from the SJHL and Manitoba Junior Hockey League will be held in Regina in mid-January to give scouts another opportunity to get together and upgrade their information on particular players. Much of the onus is now in the hands of the players, however, and to pursue opportunities one of the big tasks they face is ensuring they have their academic records finalized.
It is hoped that more players get an opportunity to further their playing careers while gaining a higher education. The Showcase is the first step in that process.