Surviving And Thriving Under The Showcase Spotlight

We all remember the first time our little one(s) laced up a pair of skates or grabbed a stick. There was something magical to those halcyon days of youth hockey - maybe the pads were just a bit too big (but in a "How adorable!" kind of way), or perhaps it was watching them get back up after falling down. But those early days on the ice were always filled with wonder, excitement, and ultimately a smile.

But times change, which brings us to a bold, new frontier.

I give you The Showcase.

For those of us with older players looking to delve into the world of college recruitment, showcases feature a different kind of wonder. During our first trip to Pittsburgh for a showcase, excitement and smiles quickly gave way to anxiety and looks of confusion. There were girls from all over the country; the games were streamed online; and important-looking people with clipboards scurried to and fro.

It took a while, but we eventually calmed our nerves. Rather than see other hockey families new to the showcase circuit suffer a similar learning curve, I enlisted the help of someone who knows the college recruiting game better than anyone: Paul Flanagan, the head coach of the Syracuse University women's hockey program.

To paraphrase Flanagan, attending a showcase can be a very positive experience for a young student athlete. The benefits can be many, including quality exposure to potential prep schools and college scouts. It can also allow a skater to learn new skills from different coaches and make friends along the way.

Are You the One for Me?

Selecting the right showcase for your hockey player can be tricky. There are a few factors to consider when deriving the greatest benefit for your time and money.

  • Geographical Fit

Pick a showcase that is not too far from home and financially reasonable. Factor in travel, meals and hotels.

  • Competition

Be challenged, but make sure you are not over your head in terms of ability or playing a level that is too easy.

  • Location. Location. Location

Plan trips to areas that may have prospective colleges, universities or prep schools close by to visit during showcase down time.

  • Seminars

Take advantage of showcases that offer seminars. They can be extremely informative for parents, particularly if the process is new. There are different NCAA rules for Div. I and Div. III, and those rules governing recruiting are constantly evolving. Do not be afraid to ask questions regarding contact with coaches, campus visits and eligibility. Ask for a coach's thoughts relative to time commitment, attitude, teamwork and other attributes.

Showcase Showstoppers

A showcase can only hurt an athlete if he or she isn't properly prepared both physically and mentally to attend and give it his or her best shot. To go to a showcase because friends are going, or maybe a parent wants them to go, is a waste of time and money. Skills obviously matter, but so does work ethic and attitude. I suggest going only if the player is ready to work hard, learn new things, meet new people and most importantly, have fun playing the game he or she loves.

Ready or Not?

How do you know if or when your hockey player is ready for a showcase? You'll know. If he or she is competitive night in and out and exhibits characteristics that they can't get enough of the rink, they're ready.


Christie Casciano Burns' new book, "My Kids Play Hockey: Essential Advice for Every Hockey Parent" is due out in August.




Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
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