Since last weekend, many National Hockey League teams have been running their rookie camps in various parts of North America. While I love the concept of giving these kids additional looks ahead of the main camps, I am confused as to why these camps are held in places such as Traverse City, Michigan.
Now don't get me wrong, Center Ice in TC is a great facility that had adequetely played host to their rookie tourney for several seasons. I had a chance to attend the very first one several years ago and watch Thrashers rookies Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatly make their professional debuts. In fact, I had the opportunity to do Kovalchuk's first ever North American interview, albeit with help of a translator.
But why Traverse City when places such as Atlanta and Tampa and Carolina and Nashville are screaming for hockey attention?
Kitchner, Ontario is the site of another rookie camp. This makes total sense. Fans of the Sens and Leafs, etc. can jump into a car and be a part of the week long event. Not so for those fans in the Southeast Division who have to rely on website updates and television that's either a day old or non-existent. As an example, here in Atlanta, the Journal-Constitution has yet to post a single Thrashers score in their daily sports section, or have their beat writer file print stories around the tounament. Monday, I awoke to a front page story about Erik Christensen and his excitement for the start of training camp. It was a good story that was "evergreen" enough to be held until later in the week. I believe fans would be more interested in knowing how Angelo Esposito or Zach Bogosian or Riley H are doing up north.
Seriously folks, from a Southeast Division standpoint, why isn't this rookie camp conducted in Atlanta? Or Tampa? Or any other team from the division?
Let's assume for a moment that the Thrashers play host next season. The 2009 rookie camp could be held at Philips Arena. All practices and games would be open to the public and free of charge. The team's sales and marketing departments could build campaigns around the camp as a way of reconnecting with season ticket holders and casual fans. It would become a value added event for the team. It would create opportunities to reach out and provide additional business and revenue opportunities for their hotel and restaurant partners. Connect with local youth hockey teams. have a select-a-seat night. It would be an excuse to get the fan base thinking about hockey again. It would allow the prospects a true taste of life in the NHL as they dress in major league locker rooms, play in a big time arena and get used to the professional routine on game day.
Why isn't this happening? No offense, but why should we reward Traverse City? Do the owners not see this flaw in the system? Shouldn't it be offered up to the local fan base?