Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Icemen Returneth: Your 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament Primer

We’re less than 48 hours from start of the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, and while most of the rest of the Western world is focused on the return of football, my mind is right where it belongs – on hockey. Nothing like the return of the NHL’s best and brightest young stars to cure an 7 ½ - month case of writer’s block….

(Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded if the NFL remained locked out forever, but I digress.  That's a rant for another day.)

A few changes to the tournament this year have been made. Last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning brought their prospects back to Northern Michigan after a one-year hiatus, replacing the Atlanta Thrashers. For this year, Tampa will host their own three-team rookie tourney with Nashville and Florida (word on the street was the Thrashers would’ve been a part of this tournament as well, but they apparently moved north or something like that). In the place of the Lightning are the Buffalo Sabres, who will make their debut at Centre ICE in the tourney’s first game, taking on the defending champion Minnesota Wild. The remaining seven teams return for the tourney’s 14th edition: Detroit (the host team), Minnesota, Dallas, Columbus, St. Louis, Carolina, and the New York Rangers.

Speaking of the Blueshirts, their local TV affiliate, the MSG Network, will be coming to Traverse City to telecast the games featuring the Rangers’ prospects. These games will be broadcast live, and will also be simulcast on the NHL Network (along with multiple repeat showings if you can’t catch the live broadcast). This will be the first time since 2008 that any of the tourney’s games on be shown on TV, and hopefully the presence of the MSG Network will bring other broadcast teams to cover these games (the Red Wings fans I see on a daily basis are befuddled at the opportunity Fox Sports Detroit is missing by opting not to telecast these games).

For those of you familiar with my work here at Spittin’ Chiclets, you know the drill with how I operate, but here’s a primer for all you newcomers to the blog: I work as one of the public address announcers for these games, so I have an ice level view of the action from the scorer’s box. I’ll be providing coverage of the games I’m scheduled to work, plus I’ll include snippets of the games I won’t be working, which I’ll be catching bits and pieces of during intermissions of the games I do work (Centre ICE has two adjacent sheet of ice, and games will occur simultaneously, staggered by ½ hour delays for the start of each game.) The luck of the draw would have it this year that I’ll get to see all eight teams play at least one game during the round robin portion of the tournament (which hasn’t been the case in years past).

The schedule for the tournament is below (with the games I’ll be working and covering in bold and italics):

Saturday, September 10
3:30 pm Minnesota / Buffalo (David’s Rink)
4:00 pm Dallas / Carolina (Huntington Rink)
7:00 pm NY Rangers / St. Louis (David’s Rink)
7:30 pm Detroit / Columbus (Huntington Rink)

Sunday, September 11
2:30 pm Columbus / Buffalo (David’s)
3:00 pm St. Louis / Carolina (Huntington)
6:00 pm NY Rangers / Dallas (David’s)
6:30 pm Detroit / Minnesota (Huntington)

Monday, September 12
No games scheduled - Day off for practice

Tuesday, September 13
3:00 pm NY Rangers / Carolina (David’s)
3:30 pm Dallas / St. Louis (Huntington)
6:30 pm Columbus / Minnesota (David’s)
7:00 pm Detroit / Buffalo (Huntington)

Wednesday, September 14 (my work schedule is still to be determined for the final day)

3:00 pm 7th place - 4th Place Howe Division / 4th Place Gretzky Division (David’s)
3:30 pm 5th place - 3rd Place Howe / 3rd Place Gretzky (Huntington)
6:30 pm 3rd place - 2nd Place Howe / 2nd Place Gretzky (David’s)
7:00 pm Championship - 1st Place Howe / 1st Place Gretzky (Huntington)

Howe Division
Detroit, Minnesota, Buffalo, Columbus

Gretzky Division
NY Rangers, St. Louis, Dallas, Carolina

I'm always happy to plug the fine work of others, so I'm more than willing to direct you good folks towards Sarah at The Left Wing Lock (not to be confused with the Left Wing Lock site which reports starting goaltenders for you fantasy hockey players out there).  She's been covering the tournament and Red Wings training camp for much linger than I have, and she does a fine job.  There's also standings, rosters, stats, and boxscores of every game from the good folks at Pointstreak.

Certainly some of these young men will make an impact with their respective clubs this season. So tomorrow, I give a brief rundown on the young stars to watch in this tournament (or at least who I’ll have a close eye on). Perhaps this year’s Calder Trophy winner will be playing in this event, much like last year when Jeff Skinner made his debut in a Carolina Hurricanes sweater.

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