Take 1: What a well-run event. Heard lots and lots of positive comments about the venue, the hotels, the food and of course, the hockey. It was a really great couple of days where some of the top talent got to strut their stuff in front of a record number of scouts.
Take 2: One of the major takeaways was just how much the scouts watch games on Hockey TV. Every game in the MJHL is a showcase game. A number of coaches told me that they’ve heard scouts go to watch one player and come out with someone else being talked about. For those who didn’t make it to the event, there’s a lot of opportunity to shine and earn a scholarship.
Take 3: I was blown away by how many people came out to watch the games. There were packed stands and it was electric. Especially when a couple of schools came down. They didn’t really know what was going on but that didn’t stop them from screaming. In fact, some of them screamed the whole time just because! They had a blast when they were put up on the big screen and encouraged to dance their hearts out.
Take 4: Doing rink side reporting was a lot of fun and something I think will grow as we move forward in the MJHL. The tech crew did a fantastic job making sure everything worked out and it was a blast to do. The highlight for me was when I got Jason Hart from Waywayseecappo to toss me an orange, an apple and a granola bar. Caught all of them, I must say. On top of that, Jason also got to toss a little water in my direction. Perhaps the best part was Taylor Harnett who seemed more than willing to do the water tossing himself. Lots of fun and only a little wet.
Take 5: I could go through just about every player that was at the event and say why they stood out but one that really caught my attention, especially in the second game for MJHL 20U Red was Hayden Stocks. He’s a very gifted hockey player and a stand-up young man. Got to talk with him a bit afterward and like so many players, he just loves the game and loved being there on behalf of the Neepawa Titans. It meant a lot for him to have a cheering section as well. He gave them plenty of reasons to make noise.
Take 6: I mentioned Jason already but the other staff behind the scenes are so awesome to be around. Dana Warrener from Virden and Kate Wiens from Swan are great at what they do but also getting to talk hockey with them over the couple days was outstanding. I learned quite a bit about how they see the game and how they view an event like this. There were a ton of laughs with the whole group of people who as Kevin Saurette put it, are true professionals.
Take 7: On the other side a wild story that took place for the SJHL’s Skip Deeg. During one of the games, a player had skate issues. Not regular skate issues, but never before seen skate issues. He blew out 11 rivets. There are 14 in total and he blew out 11 of them. “In 18 years, I’ve never seen that many rivets pop out at the same time” Skip told me after. He showed me the skate and explained that he managed to repair 6 out of the 11 busted rivets, enough so the player could get back out onto the ice. It took him all of about 4 minutes of game action to get that done. Incredible. The player was very appreciative and Skip showed why he’s one of the best around. He’d want me to mention that while he did a lot of great work, it did cost him his Green Bay Packers lanyard that he loved. Snagged on the bench when had to run back to the room to help a goalie fix his mask. Tough break, Skip. Made the coaches and players laugh, though.
Take 8: I heard the story of the tough travel conditions that some had to manage their way through to get home. This was such a great event and it shouldn’t be overlooked what the players and coaches did to get out this way. They traveled through quite the storm on Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday morning. Glad to say they all got home safe. Thanks to the pro’s driving the bus and all involved being patient during tough stretches. It’s not easy being couped up on a bus for hours but Junior A players and coaches know it’s part of the gig.
Take 9: Shoutout sponsors of the event. The accommodations were top notch, the food was excellent and the venue in Winnipeg was a perfect place to host this. Can’t wait for next year. I’m hoping that we can up the game a bit by getting logoed towels for the players for interviews. Maybe won’t be as lusted after as the Hockey Night in Canada towels but I’m sure a few players and their families would get a kick out of the keepsake.
Take 10: Tip of the cap to the officials as well. They came in and did a really great job. There wasn’t much to deal with like there would be in a regular MJHL game but they did have a few minor disagreements to break up. Getting to chat a bit with them in the tunnel, it’s a great reminder they do officiate for the love of the game. Without officials, we would not have hockey, so we thank them for what they do.
Take 11: It’s sounding like the MJHL will be hosting the event next year as well. Already looking forward to it.
Take 12: There were so many excellent people doing photos and videos for their teams. Getting to talk to them, they are just so passionate about what they do and it’s infectious. I hope in the future all the teams can find a way to send someone to help promote their players who are at the event.
Take 13: A very special thank you has to go out to Kevin Pauls, who did a terrific job setting up and testing all the broadcast equipment on top of doing 6 wonderful games of play-by-play or colour commentating. To Darnell Duff who came in well-prepared and knowledgeable, rocking all aspects of the broadcast. Duane, who did a fantastic job on camera and laughed at some of my lame jokes. Andrew, who did the technical video side of things and helped work out any bugs plus made it so we can expand coverage next year. To the time keeper, DJ and score keeper, they did fantastic all six games. The great folks that volunteered to help people in, take tickets, handout rosters or just help fans enjoy the experience were also top notch. Finally, Benny Walchuk, who took some time prior to the event to help with pronouncers for the SJHL. Still got one wrong but that was on me, not Benny. It takes team to make this sort of event happen and working with those people, it’s been a true blessing. They make it fun, professional and they are terrific representatives on behalf of Junior A hockey.