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Annual prep showcase highlights some of the best hockey talent

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published February 9, 2011

 Cranbrook senior Spencer Tamler moves the puck up the ice during a 3-2 loss to Grosse Pointe North on Jan. 29. The Cranes will have a shot at revenge during the MIHL Showcase when they battle North on Feb. 11.

Cranbrook senior Spencer Tamler moves the puck up the ice during a 3-2 loss to Grosse Pointe North on Jan. 29. The Cranes will have a shot at revenge during the MIHL Showcase when they battle North on Feb. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Where there’s no need to tinker, why even try?

When the players, teams and games themselves have served as the perfect calling card to just how great an event this really is, why change anything for change’s sake?

Those are the questions Andy Weidenbach faced leading up to the 2011 Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Prep Showcase.

And the more he pondered them, the clearer his answer became.

“It’s going to be business as usual,” the MIHL President and Bloomfield Hills Crankbrook-Kingswood coach said last week. “There’s not much we need to or could change. It’s essentially a gathering of some of the best teams in the state for a three day hockey spectacle.”

The 2011 version, set for Feb. 10-12 at Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton, is the 11th Prep Showcase for the MIHL. This year’s event, dubbed “A Perfect 10,” is the 10th straight year Kennedy Ice Arena and the city of Trenton have served as hosts.

“The city of Trenton, the Trenton Parks and Recreation Department and the Trenton Hockey Association have all always had a great partnership with the MIHL,” Weidenbach said. “Working together from one year to the next, we feel like we’ve worked most of the bugs out.”

If there is one noticeable difference in this year’s showcase, it’s the number of squads involved. The initial event, held at the Troy Sports Center in 2001, featured all of 12 teams.

This year’s event has 40, including Hill Academy from Ontario, one of eight teams participating for the first time ever and the first from outside the country.

“It’s the No. 1 tournament we wanted to be in,” said Grosse Pointe South coach James Bufalino. Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett are also attending. “The atmosphere for every game is so great, and we have some kids who hope to play beyond high school. This gives them the perfect chance to play in front of some scouts and get that exposure.”

“There’s always a buzz in the air,” said Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach Brain Klanow, whose Eaglets will face Livonia Stevenson Feb. 12, marking the first time the two programs have ever met. “It’s one of those things that everyone is excited to be a part of.”

Each team plays two games during the three-day weekend, with draws carefully mapped out based on success throughout season.

The goal is finding some of the best matchups possible.

“It’s going to be cool,” Warren De La Salle coach Dan Barry said of his squad’s Feb. 11 game against Hill Academy. “They’ve got some kids who’ve already been drafted by (Ontario Hockey League) teams or who have already committed to college teams, so it’s a different level of hockey. It should be something else.”

Weidenbach expects the 2011 version to be the biggest yet.

Last year’s Showcase drew more than 10,000 fans and welcomed in more than 75 scouts from a number of junior leagues, colleges and even eight NHL teams.

More than 1,000 players and 250 volunteers are expected to take part this season, all with a very clear set of goals.

“The main objective is to promote Michigan high school hockey,” said Weidenbach, whose team will face Grosse Pointe North and De La Salle.

“At the same time, you want good, quality hockey, with good teams and good sportsmanship. That’s what you’re going to get here. Good, clean, fast, hard-hitting hockey in front of thousands of fans in an incredible atmosphere.”

For a complete schedule, including teams, game times and specific rinks, visit www.MIHL.org.