At the joint Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League/Manitoba Junior Hockey League Showcase, eight Flin Flon Bombers got victories, exposure, and much more.
“Playing at the showcase is awesome because the pace of the game is so high and it elevates everybody’s game – creating a very talented and fun environment,” Bombers defenceman Calvon Boots said. “This environment is what hockey is all about. It’s what makes the game fun to play; guys who love the game coming together to play their best with guys they don’t even know at first and then it creates a bond that is very special. It’s what makes hockey so incredible. Going and playing at the showcase makes me enjoy the game even more. Every time I’m in an event like that it makes me fall in love with the game even more, which I never thought was possible.”
The event, held Jan. 14 and 15, drew many of the leagues’ top players to Regina to compete against each other in front of scouts from various levels of hockey, including the NCAA and NHL. It was the second year of the event.
“It was fantastic,” Flin Flon head coach Mike Reagan said. “I thought our guys played really well. Every one of them was able to catch the eyes of some schools.”
The Bombers bench boss emphasized that the main objective of the SJHL/MJHL Showcase is to focus scouts’ attention on players. He noted that three or four Bombers could possibly have earned an opportunity at the next level from being seen at the event.
The showcase pitted three teams of SJHL players against a trio of their MJHL counterparts. The SJHL won four of the event’s six games. Team Kunitz, which featured six Bombers and Reagan as an assistant coach, went 2-0 with wins of 3-1 and 8-1. In the final game, the Bombers combined for five goals and 13 points.
“I got lots of buddies who play in the MJ,” Bombers captain and Team Kunitz player Nate Hooper said. “I’m from Manitoba and it felt pretty good to beat them twice… It was awesome we had a bunch of Bombers at the showcase representing the SJHL. I was pretty pumped when I found out I got to play (on a line) with two of my teammates.”
Hooper skated alongside Flin Flon teammates Chrystopher Collin and Donavan Houle-Villeneuve. Collin and Houle-Villeneuve each had four points in the tournament, while Hooper and Caleb Moretz recorded three apiece. Boots had two points, while Marchi recorded a goal.
Cade Kowalski, obtained by the Bombers a few days before the Jan. 10 trade deadline, had an assist at the showcase. His Team Mitchell won 8-5 and lost 4-0.
Flin Flon rookie Vincent Nardone played on Team Schwartz, which lost 4-3 in a shootout and won 4-2. He had a bout of food poisoning and missed his team’s first game.
“Just to be able to play that next day is incredible,” Reagan said.
Although Nardone is on the NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List, he struggled with his energy level, Reagan said. He had an impressive outing nevertheless.
One aspect of the event the Flin Flon players enjoyed was being on the same side as some rivals. Boots said it did not take long for players to get comfortable and for jokes to be flying around the locker room like they had been together all season.
“It’s pretty cool being teammates with guys you usually play against because you’re like enemies on the ice, but then you meet them and they’re totally different,” Houle-Villeneuve said. “Everyone was cool and friendly. Everyone was laughing and talking with each other, so we made lots of new friends who it’s going to be fun playing against now.”
Reviews of the showcase’s second edition were very positive.
“I thought the league did a great job of putting on a first-class showcase and everyone was impressed,” Reagan said.
He praised how the event was an actual hockey broadcast. On maxTV, maxTV Stream, and Facebook Live, the showcase broadcast featured game coverage, player interviews, and more.
Reagan said that the showcase would be an enjoyable experience for Bombers fans. He thought they would be impressed with how good the hockey is and the quality of the event the league puts on.