Elite League's premier hockey model vs Team USA
Kai Weigel of Moorhead, left, and Dane Callaway of Hermantown have been selected to the Elite League's All-Star team that will play against USA Hockey’s U.S. National Under-17 Team on Saturday and Sunday. Photos by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com
USA Hockey’s U.S. National Under-17 Team comes to New Hope Ice Arena this weekend for two games against an Upper Midwest High School Elite League All-Star squad.
The Elite League is proud to showcase its talented high school-age players. The league has the ultimate model for players to stay home and play against top-level competition while attending their own high schools. During the week they skate with their high school teammates at captains’ practices, attend regular school-day classes with their favorite teachers and participate in extracurricular activities. They do it all in their hometown, while landing in their own beds at night.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a path to high-level hockey. But most players have too many other things that are important to them (and their moms and dads) while in high school. The Elite League offers the option to stay home -- and many parents say they want their son to be growing up with and learning from, being disciplined by, and answering to them, not to billet parents.
“The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if a young athlete has the athletic talent, passion and compete level … the chosen path ends up making little difference to the eventual highpoint of that athlete's career,” said Keith Hendrickson, an amateur scout for the Vegas Golden Knights and former Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl coach. “This player will rise to his highest level regardless of the path chosen. For most, the risk of leaving early may not be worth any perceived rewards for doing so. So for those who consider leaving early, it must be done so with a lot of thought and perspective. For there is no shortcut to greatness, no matter what some may try to tell kids and parents.”
The High School Elite League is a proven path to critical exposure. Colleges, junior leagues, and professional scouts attend every one of the league’s games, and this weekend's matchups (games are set for noon on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday) against the National Team Development Program U-17 squad will no doubt attract a large group of onlookers. Elite League players can expect to receive feedback from scouts from all levels.
“Minnesota High School hockey is a wonderful thing,” Hendrickson said. “Playing with childhood friends in the community they have grown up in can be very gratifying. Winning a championship and playing in the state tournament is a special experience that stays with those who have done it for life. More needs to be said about the quality of the athlete's journey because that too has an effect on the athlete's development and overall experiences. I have always been a big believer in enjoying one's journey.”
The league also provides something that is less tangible than achievement but equally critical. The player gets to experience high school, just like everybody his age. There is merit in these regular high school activities to balance out the dedication, determination and sometimes even stressful pressures of hockey at the elite level.