Outside of national tournaments, it isn’t often elite-level youth hockey clubs from across North America venture out to the West Coast to flex their competitive muscle.
That’s what makes this weekend’s 2003 West Coast Showdown Exhibition Series so unique - and one that promises to deliver plenty of high-end skill as some of America’s best-and-brightest players take the ice.
The Los Angeles Jr. Kings-hosted event, which will run from Jan. 13-16 at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, will feature four of the country’s top-ranked teams in the 2003 age bracket, including No. 1-ranked Chicago Mission (41-3-3 overall), No. 2-ranked Belle Tire (30-7-2) and the No. 3-ranked Jr. Kings (26-8-1), along with the No. 17-ranked Long Island Gulls (32-11-2).
“Opportunities to attract and host competition like this are few and far between, so we’re extremely fortunate and very much looking forward to the challenge,” said Jr. Kings head coach Jeff Turcotte, who’s assisted behind the bench by James Gasseau and Glen Murray. “Not only is this an important weekend for our club on the ice, but also in terms of proving ourselves - the Southern California hockey community - as worthy hosts.”
“Given how difficult it can be to draw teams out west, there was definitely a lot of planning and preparation that went into pulling this weekend together,” added Gasseau. “It’s all worth it, though, knowing how valuable this experience will be for all of the players and their families.”
Just last month, the Jr. Kings won the prestigious Miami Beach Invitational after forging a 5-1 record against a handful of elite 2003 birth-year teams (they went 1-1 against Belle Tire at the event, with their victory coming in the semifinals).
And with the Western, Ontario and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and United States Hockey League drafts just a couple of years away for the participating 2003 athletes, it’s a safe bet many of them will be playing junior, NCAA and even professional hockey in the not-too-distant future.
“There’s high-end kids on every one of these teams, no question,” said Turcotte. “Many of them are already being looked at by high-level junior and college programs, and it’s weekends like this that only help elevate their status, both as players and people.”
“This is a terrific opportunity to support our 2003 Bantam Minor AAA team while watching some of the nation's top up-and-coming prospects compete in our own backyard,” added Jr. Kings general manager of hockey operations Nick Vachon. “And on top of the talent on display, we hope this weekend helps open more doors at it relates to attracting high-level programs of all age groups out west.”