Despite a somewhat stagnant economy the amount of youth hockey travel has not diminished and may just show signs of increases.
Southern hockey parents feel the pinch more because they take their children to other parts of the country such as Chicago and Michigan in the off season to compete.
Excellent examples of youth players who travelled form home states like Georgia and Florida are TPH Thunder defenseman, Jonathan Shaw and forward, Erik Stroze who played with the Florida Jr Panthers during the regular season.
The Chi-town Shuffle has become the preferred destination for many youth players during the off season and has grown in popularity each year.
According to its webpage “From its modest beginnings in the spring of 2003, it has grown into a tournament of international stature. Top teams from Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have competed alongside international competitors from Latvia, Ontario and Russia.”
Both Shaw and Stroze suited up for the DHI Octane team that advanced to the final round against the Michigan Stars.
The other southern player who made the trip was Michael Khudenko who played with the 2000 Atlanta Fire squad last season and played for the East Coast kings during the tournament.
The boys participated in the annual Chi-town Shuffle tournament comprised of 165 teams and 16 divisions of AAA youth players from all over the country and performed well.
According to organizer and Tournament Director Kevin Mann “When you increase the level of competition, you get more people excited about it,” he said "It feels great to see this tournament grow in stature every spring and provide some fresh and excellent competition for teams from around the country."
In games against St. Jude, Peoria, Glendale, and the Vikings, the DHI Octane went undefeated before losing in the finals 3-2.
Erik Stroze produced a standout performance with 3 goals and 8 assists to go with 30 crunching body checks. Jonathan Shaw added 3 goals and 3 assists and had a plus 5, 20 blocked shots and was credited with 19 body checks during the series.
Representing te Southern region of the country both boys exhibited standout performances.
The following weekend both boys travelled to Detroit, Michigan to participate in the annual Showdown in Motown tournament. The new season has not begun yet, but hockey has never stopped.
The tournament winners by division were as follows:
Division Champion Runner Up
2005 Detroit Crush 200 x 85
2004 AAA Warrior Wizards 200 x 85
2004 Elite AAA Bauer Selects Team Zoom Tan
2003 AAA Warrior Wizards DHI Blue
2003 Elite AAA California Brick Chicago Jr Blackhawks Black
2002 AAA Peoria Evanston
2002 Elite AAA Bauer Selects MN Blades
2001 AAA Wisconsin Flyers Great Lakes Blues
2001 Elite AAA Bauer Selects Little Ceasars
2000 AAA Mid Michigan Stars DHI Octane
2000 Elite AAA Bauer Selects Chicago Mission
1999 AAA Grand Rapids Wisconsin. Jr Jets
1999 Elite AAA Belle Tire Chicago Mission
U16 AAA Chicago Hawks Huskies
U16 Elite AAA Wisconsin Flames DHI Octane
U16 Girls Pacific Selects Chicago Mission
Tournament organizer Andrea Hahn echoed Kevin Mann saying "It feels great to see this tournament provide some fresh and excellent competition for teams from around the country."