Walking inside the American Heartland Arena, just outside of Chicago, I was greeted with two very familiar hits to my senses; a cold nose (because that’s what happens when I’m in a rink) … and the smell of hockey. If you’ve been around hockey for any length of time, you know the smell I’m talking about. It’s not necessarily a bad smell, but it does take some getting used to. By now, for me, that smell tells my brain that I am exactly where I want to be.
I was asked to cover The Junior Hockey News Pre-Draft Showcase this past weekend (May 3-5). According to TJHN webiste, this showcase gives players “the opportunity to play high caliber hockey in front of scouts from various leagues such as the following: NCAA, ACHA, USHL, NAHL, EJHL, MJHL, WSHL, NORPAC, AWHL. and many more.” The camp/showcase was Fri, Sat, and Sunday, but I could only make the last day… which consisted entirely of games. There were six teams, each with 17 players.
One coach said, “Every kid on this first line is fantastic.” (that line had produced the first three goals in their game). He went on to say that the level of play at this event was better than the last four similar events he has attended. That’s pretty much the idea with camps like these… the talent is getting better and better, and these players need an outlet to be seen by people who make the decisions, at both the Junior and Collegiate levels. This showcase allowed players that exact opportunity.
Jake Hebeisen (Assistant Coach of the Dells Ducks, of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League) echoed the same thing. “It’s long days, and weekends, at camps like these, but the players seem to be better at each event.” Those are encouraging words, for both this showcase itself, and for Junior hockey in the United States. I spoke a little with one of the players… Isaiah Crawford, of Novi, Michigan, and he said the play this weekend was of a fast pace, and a lot of good puck movement.
Photographing and writing notes from around 9am until Noon, and then 2pm until 4 produces an aching back, tired feet, lots of hockey and lots of photos. There was also lots of hearing players chirping at each other; in fact, I recall seeing one fight, and a couple others started and but they never really went anywhere. I photographed from the stands, behind the nets, the benches, and up on top of a stairwell that still had a pretty good view of the ice. Again, whenever possible, don’t photograph through the plexi-glass. My favorite spot to shoot from is always the player benches. Always.
There were a few things I heard the players saying to each other that I thought were pretty funny. Most notably from Jake Gevaart, who said, “Oh man, right idea; wrong technique!” when an opponent tried a fancy dangle at the other end of the ice and completely biffed. I suppose it was the way he delivered the line that contained the comedy; I guess it was one of those “you had to be there” type of things. The last games of the day were more or less “All-Star” games that comprised the best guys from the weekend, according to the coaches. Being that every player had their one jersey for the camp, the All-Star games consisted of players of (for example) blue, black, and red jerseys against a team with white and green jerseys. Thomas Leistner said “Man I’ve already got a headache from all these colors out there”.
It was nice to meet and speak with a number of the players, and some parents as well. Talked cameras and lenses with a goalie, and talked about the images I produce with other players, etc. It was a great time, and I really hope I’m able to do it again.
If you are a player, or parent of a player, that was at this showcase and you’re curious if I have images of you/your kid, just use the contact form on my website, http://www.aepoc.com to contact me. Be sure to include the color of the team and jersey number.
Tagged: ACHA, aching back, aepoc, aepoc.com, Alex Reichle, all-star, All-Star game, American Flag, American Heartland Arena, Assistant Coach, Austin Ziakas, AWHL, bench, benches, biffed, Brad Nolan, chicago, Chicago Junior Bulldogs, chirping, dangle, Dells Ducks, EJHL, equipment, Eric Plotz, fast pace, fight, fighting, good puck movement, hockey, hockey fight, illinois, Isaiah Crawford, Jake Gevaart, Jake Hebeisen, Jesse Fracassi, Joe Kolodziej, Joey Keenan, Johnny Schwarz, juggling, Ken Kestas, Kevin Miller, Lindsey Sciacca, long weekends, lots of hockey, may 3 -5, Michigan, Minnesota Junior Hockey League, MJHL, MNJHL, NAHL, Nathan Mortland, NCAA, NORPAC, Novi, player benches, Pre-Draft Showcase, right idea; wrong technique, Samuel Wilbur, smell of hockey, The Junior Hockey News, Thomas Leistner, tired feet, USHL, WSHL, Zay Crawford