So you probably saw our twitter account last week but if you didn't (go to the box for 2 minutes) it's fair to say that TJHP was definitely in the house for the CCM Denver Showcase. Over 300+ players were in attendance as well as plenty of scouts or coaches from Junior hockey leagues and levels all across the North America.
So, lets review some of the observations that were made during the 3 days event shall we???
1) Total meat market. Don't know what a meat market is? Think of a place where pieces of meat is hung for a large group of people to walk around, size up and judge the quality of in order to purchase for themselves. Players equal the meat, and we size them up and check their quality on the ice and the market takes place in the hall ways by the locker rooms after. This is easily though one of the biggest things that happen at any showcase and there really is no good way to prevent it unless you give the players a shirt that is the exact same color as their jersey and with the number printed largely on the front and back (CCM, I might be onto something). If you were one of the top, I don't know, say top 75 players (or almost half the TENDERS age group) you easily had to have spoken to 5-10 if not even more hockey programs. That means every time you stepped off the ice from a game, you were immediately hounded by a group of guys in team labeled jackets looking to talk to you about why their program was the best and why you should sign with them. One example I saw was one player speak with 6 straight teams, while the rest of the guys on his squad were already showered and out of the building before the player could even make it back to the locker room (I departed after number 6 started going into his long diatribe about his coaching philosophy... time is money bud). Hope your gloves have solid grip trying to carry all those business cards and documents the scouts or coaches gave you. Plastic is slippery especially when drenched in sweat.
2) It's tough watching players look you in the eyes after leaving the ice or locker room hoping you are looking for them to talk to. If it's not difficult for you, then you probably have no soul or might want to seek out professional (therapy) treatment. Yeah its a dog eat dog world, but hell, you do feel bad for the kid who just played his ass off and not a single person wants to talk to him or give them any recognition. That's why if you saw me after a game as you wandered past everyone else in the hallway, I didn't care who you were, I would always tell you "good game" because I get it. While you might not be the "bell of the ball", you still probably busted your ass off to prove you could be and it just isn't in the cards for you right now, or maybe ever.
3) CCM does a great job of treating the scouts and coaches that come out for the showcase like kings. First off, you get an awesome hat which for a bald guy like me will get plenty of use this summer. Second, they give us both lunch and dinner which doesn't happen at a lot of showcases. To me this shows that they truly value the hockey people that come out because without us, nobody would attend and it would be nothing more than 20+ teams of 14-20 year olds playing pick up hockey (lets be straight, without us there would be no showcase). You've got guys flying in from the East Coast, Canada and Southern parts of the US just for this event, so the little things they do are definitely appreciated.
4) Some guys just don't follow rules. Kind of back to the meat market point, but realistically nobody is supposed to talk to any players until they leave and walk into the lobby. I watched as one East Coast USPHL Program break that rule not even 2 minutes after the first game (they were actually right next to the locker room door before the game ended). Okay fine, we all knew the rule wasn't going to last, but some guys just don't care and they live in a world where rules or even courtesy doesn't apply to them. When I'm looking for a player, if I catch them after a game I tell them I'd like to talk with them and I can wait till they drop their equipment (helmet, gloves and stick) off or I'll wait out until their done showering and changing up and meet them in the hall. If I don't catch them after the game and they just walked straight into the locker room, I would knock on the door, slightly push it open and call out the players number and name. To me that's the professional way to do things. A few other guys just say "meh, f*$% being professional" and just walk straight into the locker room calling for players. One program also out of the USPHL (the league is getting a bad rap right now but remember, they have like 100 teams so comparatively speaking it's not an entire league issue) had coaches just sitting in the locker room BSing with the players after a game. Not my cup of tea.
5) Player wise, I was actually impressed with the talent this year that was on the ice. There was some really good players in the "TENDERS" group (mostly 02's and up) and while I watched some of the "FUTURES" games (03's and younger) I didn't see enough as I know those players are a year or two away from being ready to play at the level I'm with. I'll give credit where credit is due, I was very impressed with the Tahoe Prep Academy players that were in attendance. Another two programs I thought had a good showing was the Littleton Hawks and Colorado Thunderbirds. Overall, talent was definitely good in the sense that there wasn't many players that stuck out in a negative way.
6) That said, you can definitely tell what players were brought up in youth programs that focused on skills versus systems and there were about 60-75% system players. Both groups of players were pretty much always in good position for breaking the puck out, but it was the skilled skaters that shined as they wouldn't just toss the puck up the boards as if it was ingrained in their brain. They would look to make other plays with the puck if that option wasn't the best. The skilled defensemen had no problem rushing the puck up the ice or making a quick pass and joining the rush. The system defensemen just hung back and followed the play. The skilled forwards would try and make some quality dekes around defenders, make passes that showed beautiful vision, or changed the angle on their shots if they needed to instead of just putting it in the goalies chest. The systems forwards would get the puck and basically dump it into the offensive zone every single time and not even try and showcase any skills which hurts them quite a bit. I texted a colleague at one point and told him how I was shocked at how many skaters could not make a backhand pass in stride or even pull off a backhand pass period. That's a skill that should start being taught at the Mite/Squirt levels.
Overall, for the price and exposure you get as a player, the CCM showcase is one that is totally worth it and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get quality exposure in front of a lot of programs.. Considering the decline we are seeing in showcases in general, this is one of the best I know of.