Hockey Season Ramps Up on Labor Day Weekend
After a few United States-based teams dipped their toes in the water and got their 2023-24 seasons underway during the weekend of Aug. 18-20, last weekend even more tournaments and showcases were held leading up to the numerous Labor Day events that take place annually.
While teams can begin entering their scores into the MYHockey Rankings system and counting them toward their 2023-24 MHR rankings for games that take place on or after Aug. 15, the upcoming holiday weekend for years has served as the unofficial opening weekend of youth hockey play In the United States. And for the most part, it still is even as more teams start their seasons earlier in August every year.
As always, Labor Day Weekend 2023 features many large tournaments in different areas of the United States. In addition, many more smaller tournaments, jamborees and play days have and will be held around the United States and Canada by the close of the weekend. The official start of the youth hockey season in Canada still is about a month away.
Labor Day Weekend will be highlighted in the United States by several large girls tournaments, including three in the Northeast. AAA tournaments featuring many traditional club hockey American and Canadian powerhouses are scheduled for the Pittsburgh and Boston areas, while the second National Girls Hockey League (NGHL) Showcase of the year will bring some of the top AA teams from around the U.S. to Connecticut.
The Premier Ice Prospects Labor Day Girls Fest is scheduled for Sept. 1-3 in and around Pittsburgh. An event that includes American AAA (Tier 1) and Canadian AA teams in the 14U, 16/17U and 19/20U age groups, the Labor Day Girls Fest welcomes a total of 66 teams that will play more than 170 games at the Baierl Ice Complex, RMU Island Sports Center, UPMC Lemieux Sports Center and Ice Castle. Each of those four rinks is serviced by LiveBarn, so most, if not all, of the games should be streamed.
The tournament includes some of the top programs in the United States and Canada, including clubs such as Team Illinois, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, Little Caesars, Mid-Fairfield Stars, Assabet Valley, Stoney Creek Sabres, Burlington Barracudas, Chicago Mission, Belle Tire, East Coast Wizards, Barrie Sharks, Massachusetts Spitfires, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, Bishop Kearney Selects, Honeybaked, Boston Jr. Eagles and Minnesota Northern Elite.
Meanwhile, another perennial national-powerhouse program, North American Hockey Academy, will be hosting its annual Labor Day Tournament Sept. 1-3 at five Boston-area rinks. Also boasting teams from the U.S. and Canada, the NAHA tourney features more than 70 Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams competing at the 14U, 16U and 19U age levels.
Three of the rinks hosting the tournament have LiveBarn feeds, so many of the games should be available for viewing. Check the schedule to see which games might be streamed; the rinks that have LiveBarn are Boston Sports Institute, William Chase Arena and Bavis Arena.
Traditionally strong programs sending teams to the NAHA Labor Day Tourney include Team Illinois, Massachusetts Spitfires, Minnesota Whitecaps, Nepean Jr. Wildcats, Stanstead College, Team Wisconsin, Team Colorado, Syracuse Valley Eagles, Arizona Kachinas, Assabet Valley and the Ottawa Lady Senators.
Just a few hours south of Boston, the National Girls Hockey League (NGHL) will be holding its Labor Day Challenge for primarily Tier 2 teams in its Blue Division at three rinks in the Cromwell, Conn. area. Games will be played at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell, Newington Arena and Enfield Twin Rinks, all facilities that offer LiveBarn feeds.
The NGHL is dedicated to the promotion and growth of girls ice hockey programs across the nation and supports its member clubs’ visions for player-focused development and progression to the next level. League member teams and guest teams from around the United States compete in NGHL events, and NGHL offerings include league play, showcases and exposure clinics.
Some of the traditionally strong Tier 2 programs that will be among the nearly 60 teams competing in about 150 games between Sept. 2 and 4 include the Arizona Kachinas, Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, Connecticut Northern Lights, Connecticut Polar Bears, Shoreline Sharks, Florida Alliance, Mid-Fairfield Stars, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, North Suburban Wings and Princeton Tiger Lillies.
Let’s Hear it for the Boys!
The girls won’t be having all the fun this holiday weekend as big Tier 1 and Tier 2 tournaments are being held all over the United States.
Top AAA boys programs will head to the Eastern Alliance Kickoff in the Boston area and the Chicago Mission Labor Day Showcase, while AA and A level teams will compete in the Dallas Stars Labor Day Kickoff in Texas and AA clubs will travel to the Mid-Atlantic region to take part in the Atlantic Hockey Federation Showcases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New York.
More than 200 prep, junior and college scouts are expected to be on hand to watch Tier 1 and Tier 2 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U teams compete in the Eastern Alliance Labor Day Kickoff being held at the New England Sports Center, New England Sports Village, Canton Ice House, Foxboro Sports Center and Rodman Arena.
One of the nation’s premier youth hockey organizations, the Chicago Mission, will be hosting its annual Mission Labor Day Tournament at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Ill., and Fifth Third Arena in Chicago. The game schedule can be found by doing a search at Gamesheet.com. Both arenas have LiveBarn feeds.
The Mission Labor Day Tournament features 32 Tier 1 teams across nine age groups competing in 68 games between Sept. 1-3. Top AAA clubs from as far away as California, Idaho and New Jersey will be sending teams to compete in the event. Some of the nationally prominent clubs that will be represented include the Chicago Reapers, Team Illinois, Ohio Blue Jackets, Carshield, Team Wisconsin, Minnesota Blades and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite.
Deep in the heart of Texas, more than 110 AA and A teams will be traveling to the Dallas area to play more than 260 games at the Dallas Stars Labor Day Kickoff Sept. 2-4. The tournament will have 10U AA, 10U A, 12U AA, 12U A, 14U AA, 14U A, 16U AA, 16U A and 18U AA divisions, with teams from Texas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona and Colorado competing.
Games will be played in Dallas Stars-supported rinks in Farmers Branch, McKinney, Plano, Euless, Richardson, Frisco, Mansfield, Valley Ranch – all rinks that offer LiveBarn feeds.
Back East in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Atlantic Hockey Federation (AHF) will be holding its first showcases of the season Sept. 1-3 in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. The AHF caters to over 500 member-owned clubs, spanning AA divisions for age groups 9U, 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U. Additionally, the league offers A/B hockey at the 10U, 12U, 14U age levels, as well as 16U A and 18U A levels, and an 8U AAA division.
This weekend’s first AHF Showcase will feature AA teams in the 11U, 12U, 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U age groups from states as far away as Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Missouri competing in nearly 400 games. There also will be an 8U AAA showcase.
Many of the rinks hosting games do have LiveBarn feeds. CLICK HERE for the full tournament schedule with rink listings then head over to www.LiveBarn.com and do a VENUE SEARCH to determine which games likely will be streamed.
A Look Back
One of the largest Tier 2 organizations in the United States, the Eastern Junior Elite Propects League (EJEPL), held its first showcase weekend of the season at rinks in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Aug. 25-27. The EJEPL’s season-opening event included about 70 boys teams competing across eight age groups and playing more than 450 games at 21 venues. Schedules and scores for 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U and 14U can be found by CLICKING HERE. Teams in the 15U, 16U and 18U age groups competed as well, and those scores and schedules can be found by CLICKING HERE.
Most of the games still are available for on-demand viewing via LiveBarn.
Teams from 14 different states compete in the EJEPL, with all member teams participating in the league’s showcases and playing a handful of home and away games. League playoffs are held in early February so as not to conflict with local league play.
Last weekend, Capitals Academy out of Arlington, Va., and the Howard Huskies from Maryland went 4-0-0 in the 12U Diamond Division, while the Carolina Stars were 4-1-0. The Nassau County Lions from New York (5-0-0), Red Bank Generals from New Jersey (4-0-0) and Reston Raiders from Virginia (4-0-0) all recorded unbeaten weekends in the 14U Diamond Division.
Two New York clubs, the Mid-Hudson Polar Bears and Saugerties Mustangs – along with the Wilmington Nighthawks from Delaware – went 4-0-0 to pace the 15U Diamond Division, while seven different 16U Diamond tame posted perfect four-win weekends. The Cutting Edge King Cobras (N.J.), Reston Raiders and Central Penn Panthers (Pa.) all went 4-0-0 playing in the 18U Diamond Division.
An early-season AA/AAA tournament for 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U boys teams was hosted by Total Performance Hockey in Michigan Aug. 24-27. The Grand Rapids Kickoff Classic featured 48 boys AA and AAA programs competing in 14U, 15U, 16U, 16U split-season, 18U and 18U split-season divisions.
The Nashville Jr. Predators and Fox Motors went 3-1-0 to lead the 14U group. Nashville’s 15U team also went 4-0-0, while victory Honda topped the 16U Division at 4-0-0. The Naperville Sabres and Michigan Hockey Advancement Grey led the way in the 16U Split Division by going 4-0-0. The Jr. Predators also were perfect, posting a 3-0-0 mark in the 18U Division, and Michigan Elite 18U AA finished on top of the 18U Split Division at 4-0-0.
Another strong early season AA/AAA boys showcase event took place earlier this week as the Beast Series River Rats Jamboree was held Aug. 28-29 at rinks in Southern Massachusetts. Thirty teams in the 15U, 16U and 18U age groups competed in the two-day event, which featured clubs that are perennially in the running for high national rankings such as the Buffalo Regals, Neponset Valley River Rats, Seacoast Performance Academy, Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers, Yale Jr. Bulldogs, Rochester Coalition, Long Island Gulls and Boston Hockey Academy.
East Coast Militia 15U, Boston Hockey Academy 16U, Buffalo Regal 18U posted perfect 2-0-0 records at the Jamboree according to the Beast website, which appears to be missing some results.
On the girls’ side, the National Girls Hockey League (NGHL) held its season-opening Dawg Daze of Summer showcase tournament in Connecticut Aug. 25-27. Featuring 60 different Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams representing approximately 40 organizations, the tournament offered competition in the 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U age groups. Games were held at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell, Conn.; Newington Ice Arena in Newington, Conn.; and Northford Ice Pavilion in Northford, Conn. All three rinks are serviced by LiveBarn, so most, if not all, of the tournament’s nearly 140 contests should still be available for viewing on-demand.
The Rhode Island Sting and Lovell Academy Lions 14U teams each posted perfect 5-0-0 records at the season-opening event, outscoring their opponents by 16-2 and 17-4 margins, respectively. Mid-Fairfield Stars Major 1, Florida Alliance, Boston Advantage Blue and the New Jersey Bandits all were 5-0-0 on the weekend in 16U play, while the BSH Selects, Mid-Fairfield Stars Major 1 and Mid-Fairfield Stars Major 2 were 5-0-0 in the 19U Division. The Valley Junior Warriors captured the championship in the 12U Division.