The United States Hockey League, as part of its continuing effort to expand the League’s brand and accessibility to the best players in North America, will significantly increase its showcase efforts for top North American youth players this year.
During the 2013-14 season, the League’s Player Development group will partner with a number of its Member Clubs to present top-quality youth hockey tournaments, with the USHL Clubs as hosts and scheduled in concert with weekend USHL games. These new events join the USHL’s increasingly popular “Young Guns” showcase series, launched last year in San Jose with the cooperation of the San Jose Sharks and again set for Labor Day weekend, and continuing for a third season in Philadelphia as a partnership with Team Comcast and the Philadelphia Flyers (date still pending). The League has also announced a major new showcase as part of the first USHL Atlantic Challenge, scheduled for the second weekend in September at new sites in New Jersey and Long Island.
Taken together, the League will recognize this youth-driven initiative as the USHL Youth Challenge Series. All of the events in the Youth Challenge Series – the Young Guns tournaments, the Atlantic Challenge showcase, and the USHL Club-based open-invitation events – will offer top-level competition for youth teams at multiple age levels and access to top coaches and scouts. Just as important, the Atlantic Challenge and the Club showcases will give all participating players a “nose-to-the-glass” opportunity to watch USHL games and be exposed to the on- and off-ice elements of elite junior hockey.
“There is no better way to promote the USHL experience to the best youth players in North America than to give them the chance to see the USHL in action,” said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. “It is a cooperative commitment by this office and our Member Clubs to expose the best bantam and midget players in the country to see their future – to show them just how good they can be, and why the education-based American development model delivers the goods like no other. As USA Hockey’s flagship league, we need to not only be the best on the ice, but teachers of how to get there. That’s what this is about.”
This season’s edition of the USHL Youth Challenge Series will begin again in San Jose, California as the San Jose Sharks organization enters its second year of a partnership with the USHL to host the Sharks’ Western Shootout – the tenth anniversary of one of the Northwest’s top showcase events, traditionally held on Labor Day Weekend.
The next weekend, September 6th through the 8th, marks the launch of USHL Atlantic Challenge, a combination USHL preseason tournament and youth showcase. Held in East Meadow, New York and Hackensack, New Jersey, six USHL teams will compete in major preseason competition, while some of the region’s top under-14, under-16, and under-18 teams meet in a tournament competition wrapped around the USHL games.
USHL Clubs hosting USHL Youth Challenge events this year to date include the Indiana Ice, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, and Tri-City Storm. All three organizations operate major youth programs (the Indiana Junior Ice, Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, and Las Vegas Storm, respectively), and are HPHL affiliate organizations with a full schedule of competition against other top youth teams across the country.
The Indiana Ice launch the Club-based competition this year with their “Bigfoot Hockey Showcase,” which will run parallel to this year’s USHL Fall Classic East in Indianapolis from September 13-15th. Participating youth players will have the opportunity to watch preseason games featuring all eight USHL Eastern Conference teams, in the final action prior to the launch of the 2013-14 USHL regular season.
Challenge Series events hosted by the RoughRiders and Storm are currently in planning and will be announced after the USHL’s 2013-14 regular season schedule is completed to insure great matchups for tournament participants. Other USHL Member Clubs may participate as well in the expanding series.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)