Well, this has certainly taken long enough, now hasn’t it?
I haven’t blogged since the second round of the NHL playoffs, and I haven’t consistently blogged since this February. After spending the summer pursuing some old favorite interests (thanks to a number of spectacular music-related podcasts, the Detroit Tigers’ surprising lead in the AL Central, the Traverse City Film Festival, and the cycling-friendly culture in the Grand Traverse area), I’m finally back behind the keyboard talking what my true passion….the world of hockey. And in a little more than two weeks, things will shift into full gear as the NHL Prospects Tournament begins for a 12th year on Sunday September 6th at Centre ICE Arena.
For the second straight year, I will have the great pleasure of being behind the microphone doing the P.A. for the tourney (well, for half the games, anyway). This is a tourney extremely reliant upon the power of volunteers, and this year will be no different. The meeting for all volunteers (myself included) was three days ago, to go over all the details and finer points. I am among the privileged to be behind the scenes where all the big names are, but I’m there to work. Snapping photos and hounding players for autographs is strictly against the code of conduct outlined for ALL volunteers, but fortunately I’ve been given the green light to blog about the action on the ice for a second year (a sampler platter of my scribblings from last year’s tourney had previously been made available on the NHL’s fan site/social network, “Connect” - now newly revamped and re-christened “NHL Fans”). It’s all about professionalism once you’re behind the scenes, and that’s more than alright with me.
It seems like the whole concept of NHL teams having a prospects tourney has caught on like wildfire in the last several years. Kitchener, Ontario hosts a four-team tourney with the future stars for the Maple Leafs, Senators, Penguins, and Panthers. Another four-team tourney has been set up out west in Sin City, where the Ducks’ Kings’ Coyotes’ and Sharks’ prospects compete in Las Vegas. Camrose, Alberta hosted a three-team tourney with the rookies of the Canucks, Oilers, and Flames. A handful of other teams paired up to face-off against one another, like the Islanders and Bruins, and the Capitals and Flyers. But the competition in T.C. is the league’s oldest rookie tournament, and by far the largest, and there have been rumblings of expanding to be larger.
A few new notes about this year’s tourney: 7 of the 8 teams who appeared at last year’s tournament return: the host Red Wings (whose training camp follows the Prospects Tourney, starting September 13th), Blue Jackets, Blues, Wild, Thrashers, Rangers, and Stars. Out is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who’d not won a single game in the tournament in at least 2 years (and I’m guessing owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules couldn’t agree on whether or not to send their rookies to Michigan….just like with everything else this sad-sack organization has done since these two goons took ownership of the ‘Ning). New to the fold this year is the Carolina Hurricanes (rumor has it the ‘Canes got in over Colorado thanks to the strength of GM Jim Rutherford’s golf game, a buddy of Wings’ GM Ken Holland).
Apparently the jury is still out on whether or not the NHL Network will return to televise these games for a second straight season. I’ll be sure to post when and if this becomes a reality.
Info on the dates and times of all games are available at the tourney’s website, and up-to-date rosters can be found right here (Minnesota, we’re still waiting on you!). I’ll have more to share on who I’m excited to see in the near future (though I’ll fill you in that I’m disappointed Columbus’ Nikita Filatov will NOT be in T.C. for a second straight year….GRRRR). More to come from Hockeytown North (hey, I didn’t coin the moniker, just goin’ with the flow here).