The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced the dates for the 18th annual NAHL Showcase, which will take place from September 15-18, 2021, at the Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.
All NAHL teams will play four regular-season games at the Showcase, which is one of hockey’s most prominent and popular events of the entire season and has become the ‘Greatest Show on Ice.’
One of the things the NAHL does better than any other junior league is seeing their players earn an NCAA opportunity while playing and being showcased in the NAHL. To date, 334 players have already made NCAA commitments during the 2020-21 season, with 280 of those (84%) being a record number of NCAA Division I commitments.
The NAHL Showcase plays a big role in that success, with dozens of players each season earning an NCAA Division I opportunity during and following their participation in the event.
“We are thrilled to be back in Blaine in September for The Greatest Show on Ice, the NAHL Showcase. After we cancelled the NAHL Showcase in 2020 because of Covid, we are eager to get back to the Super Rink and remind people why this is the greatest event in junior hockey. There is simply no other event like this that brings together the number of scouts that we see during the five days and we look forward to seeing a new crop of players and talent showcase their skills,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld.
The NAHL Showcase attracts over 9,000 people in overall attendance, including more than 330 professional, college and junior scouts. For scouting purposes, the NAHL Showcase is the premier event of its kind and is a yearly gathering for every NCAA program and NHL team as they get their first look at some of the best and brightest hockey talent North America has to offer.
A 2021 NAHL Showcase schedule will be released later during the Summer of 2021. All 2021 NAHL Showcase games will be broadcast live and in HD through HockeyTV, the official broadcast provider of the NAHL.
It will be the first event of the season for the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), which will also be played in conjunction with the Showcase. Entering its 13th season in 2021-22, the NAPHL is made up of USA Hockey-sanctioned teams that compete in the 18U, 16U, 15U and 14U levels. NAPHL teams will compete at the NAHL Showcase from September 16-19.
The Super Rink is the largest ice arena of its kind in the world. The state-of-the-art facility, a $21 million project totaling over 300,000 square feet, features eight sheets of ice under one roof. With all its varied amenities and services, the Super Rink is absolutely unique in the world of ice sport facilities.
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Survive and Thrive
Working hard with a little creativity from beginning to end, the North American Hockey League successfully navigated the uncertain 2020-21 season.
A year after not being able to host a championship, it was with a sense of pride that the NAHL arrived at the end of its Robertson Cup Playoffs, with an added twist.
Along with crowning the Shreveport Mudbugs as champions in Blaine, Minnesota, June 22, the NAHL also conducted a variation of its Prospects Tournament that is usually a midseason recruiting highlight.
After being unable to complete the 2019-20 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAHL embarked upon the 2020-21 season Oct. 8, about a month later than normal. The majority of the 23 active teams — down three from the season before and six short of the number getting ready to enter the 2021-22 season — played 56 games but the Midwest Division played 48 and there were a few other variations.
“Going back to the beginning and watching our owners react and trying to find ways to keep the league going,” commissioner Mark Frankenfeld said. “We’ve got a lot of owners in our league who are entrepreneurs and builders and creators. Those types of people are the ones that find a way. They were getting through this with patience and the perseverance. The ability and the desire to find a way was really refreshing.”
Plans were made, scrapped and revised when necessary as the league dealt with changing times and unforeseen challenges.
Frankenfeld said the respect he already had for the owners grew with what he witnessed.
“Just watching their desire to find a way, watching these folks play games without fans,” he said. “New Mexico didn’t play a home game. Other teams played some games on the road; playing in pods up in the Dakotas and just finding a way for the players to stay on the ice.”
Frankenfeld compared it to the way the league has grown and navigated the changing landscape of U.S. juniors during the 2000s.
“We were just kind of wading through those waters and finding a way,” he said.
The Top Prospects Tournament was one example.
“We did a lot of scheduling and rescheduling,” Frankenfeld said. “We probably looked at 20 different variations and templates. The [NAHL] Showcase didn’t happen and that was a disappointment. It’s one of our marquee events and it’s so important for our players, but with the NCAA blackout on recruiting and other timing, we just couldn’t do the Showcase.
“The owners felt they owed it to the players to do the Top Prospects.”
It paid off.
“We had a lot of commitments,” he said. “We set another single-season record this past season, which included a record number of Division I commitments. We felt we owed it to the players who could get that extra value out of it to have it at the Robertson Cup. Our goal is to make sure that we continue to do our job of developing these players and make sure that when it’s time for them to be seen or time for them to move on to the NCAA, they’re ready.”
The NAHL has built a reputation for doing just that.
During the 2020-21 season, a record number of 395 NAHL players made NCAA commitments, with 293 of those (74%) being a record number of NCAA Division I commitments.
The NAHL Showcase also plays a big role in that success, with dozens of players each season earning an NCAA Division I opportunity during and following their participation in the event. The event returns this week after a hiatus in 2020.
Dubbed ‘The Greatest Show on Ice,’ the Showcase provides for interdivisional play with all the league’s teams in one place and also has divisions for younger leagues. The event is a staple of the opening-month schedule for the league and a highlight of the recruiting season for colleges.
“They’ve retained some really good coaches in the league that are respected, and their word carries weight,” said Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan, who graduated from the league after a successful run with the Soo Indians, which left him as the then NAHL career wins leader for head coaches. “They’ve really found their niche in a couple of areas, including their events.”
Shawhan had 10 former NAHL players on the roster of his 2020 team that won 21 games, seventh best in the country.
He said the presence of some experienced players that don’t fit into the United States Hockey League over-age parameters have helped raise the overall level of play, allowing coaches a better opportunity to assess the abilities of all the league’s players.
“It gives you a really good way of comparison,” Shawhan said, “and it gives late bloomers another means of further development.
“They can really show the players they are.”
The league’s expansion through the years has taken it into more parts of the country, which is another potential reason NAHL players are committing to more college programs. In 2021-22, that will include a record number of 29 teams, including new markets such as Anchorage, Alaska and El Paso, Texas.
“They’ve done a good job from an exposure standpoint,” said St. Lawrence University head coach Brent Brekke, who began his coaching career in the NAHL with the Chicago Freeze. “They run the big showcase in Blaine [Minnesota] with all the different levels of hockey and teams from all regions of the country.”
“They’ve expanded the footprint of the league, which I think is important. It gives an opportunity for colleges located all over the country to see their players. And, they do a real good job with their archived video.”
Tag(s): State Of Hockey