Team Colorado aiming to make noise at America’s Showcase
Team Colorado is headed back to America’s Showcase only this time, bigger and hopefully, better than ever.
America’s Showcase is an annual five-day hockey tournament held in the spring at Robert Morris University in suburban Pittsburgh. It gives premier junior and senior high school players representing their state an opportunity to compete and display their skills for college and junior hockey coaches and scouts who are watching games live and online.
Only 10 players from Colorado participated in 2014, so the team picked up players from New Jersey. Last year, Team Colorado sent a full 20-player contingent. There’s a possibility two teams will represent Colorado from April 14-18 at this year’s tournament.
Heritage High School hockey coach Jeremy Sims, coach and manager for Team Colorado and president of the Colorado Prep Hockey League, is a huge fan of America’s Showcase.
“Our kids love playing against teams from across the country and they can showcase their talents for scouts from every major hockey institution in the U.S. including the USHL, NAHL, Tier 3 junior leagues, ACHA and NCAA,” he said.
Chris Gassman, hockey coach at Columbine High School, also is a Team Colorado coach. He likes other aspects of the tournament.
“It’s good for our guys to be on the same team with guys they normally play against,” said Gassman. “Plus, a lot of our guys are the best player on their team, but they have to learn to play together for us to be successful. There are no superstars.”
Charles Stewart played for Team Colorado last year and he’ll play again this year as he pursues his goals of playing junior hockey and then college hockey. He plays center for Heritage, but he said he helps out wherever Team Colorado needs him.
“The best part about the tournament is competing against kids from other states and getting to know the kids I play against in Colorado,” Stewart said.
December tryouts for Team Colorado attracted nearly 40 players. More tryouts will be held in March. Sims said tryouts were held earlier than usual in part so Team Colorado coaches can watch prospects play during the Colorado High School Activities Association season.
So what do Team Colorado coaches look for during tryouts?
“We pay attention to all aspects of a player’s game,” Sims said. “Attributes like skating, puck control, passing, body positioning, ice awareness and hockey instincts.
“We obviously want the best Colorado high school hockey players on the team, but that doesn’t mean only kids who can score goals. We want kids who work hard, can make plays, and show a desire and determination to play at the next level.”
Team Colorado players pay most expenses for competing in America’s Showcase, but Sims said sponsors are being sought and fundraising is being done.
A few more wins at the tournament held at Robert Morris’ Island Sports Center also are being sought.
Team Colorado went 0-4 in America’s Showcase in 2015 after going 2-2 in 2014, all in pool play.
On a positive note, Gassman said several former Team Colorado players have gone to play college and junior hockey.
It was Sims who got the puck rolling for Team Colorado to be formed. He said he played in the Chicago Showcase — America’s Showcase’s predecessor — in 1994 with Team Michigan.
“When I became a high school hockey coach, I did research on the tournament and found it had moved to Pittsburgh and become America’s Showcase,” he said. “I contacted other high school hockey coaches around Colorado to see who was interested and got the team registered.”
— Steve Stein