Erie to host OHL, other players ahead of NHL Draft

  • Erie Otters forward Brendan Hoffmann helped organize the event, along with three other OHL players based in the United States.
  • Hoffmann: Between 130 and 140 players are already registered to present to Erie; each must pay $ 750
  • Hoffmann: Showcase would like all players from the other two Canadian junior leagues to join them in Erie

Erie hockey fans may be able to see their favorite junior players in person after all.

A group of Ontario Hockey League players, including Otters forward Brendan Hoffmann, have organized an event to be held June 1–13 at ErieBank Sports Park.

Brendan Hoffmann

The PBHH Junior Showcase Powered by Lake Effect reunited shortly after the OHL canceled its return to play plan in April.

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Andrew Perrott, an Owen Sound player who resides in Cleveland, has started contacting other OHL players about a possible summer tournament. A pair of Michiganders, Ryan Beck (Saginaw) and Ryan Humphrey (Hamilton), also jumped on board. PBHH represents the organizers of the event: Perrott, Beck, Humphrey and Hoffmann.

The idea is to give players one last chance to appear in front of NHL scouts in 2021, as many were unable to play at all during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL Draft takes place July 23-24.

Fans watch the Erie Lady Junior Otters play against the Hamburg Hawks during the 2021 Sarah Backstrom Junior Girls Hockey Tournament on February 13, 2021 at ErieBank Sports Park.  The PBHH Powered by Lake Effect junior showcase is scheduled for June 1-13.

Hoffmann contacted Perrott after the OHL ended his hopes of playing in 2021. He began helping junior players connect rinks, hotels and businesses in the area.

“I was able to put myself in a position to help him and benefit the tournament as a whole,” Hoffmann said. “It was their idea. They spearheaded it. I was able to help, just being in the right place at the right time.”

Hoffmann is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, but has connections with northwestern Pennsylvania himself. His parents are from Warren and he still has family in the area. He attended his first Otters game 10 years ago, long before Erie’s club drafted him.

Hoffmann said that between 130 and 140 players are already signed up to present to Erie. Each was to pay $ 750, which will cover ice time and accommodation.

Organizers also offered advice to Canadian players on how to obtain a visa to travel to Erie during COVID-19.

The event attracted mainly players from the Ontario League, although others from the United States Hockey League will join them. European players are also expected at the showcase.

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Erie Otters Brendan Hoffmann, left, and Daniel D'Amato, right, celebrate D'Amato's goal in the first period against the Flint Firebirds on February 7, 2020 at Erie Insurance Arena.

Dave Brown, vice president of operations and general manager of Erie Otters, said the organization had nothing to do with the event. He took phone calls from various NHL teams and agents, but pointed out that the storefront is completely player-managed.

“It’s a bit like sand baseball,” he says. “The players make the whole organization. Sometimes that’s when you get the most out of it. The efforts the guys put in are fantastic. It shows their passion.”

Hoffmann said the showcase will welcome all players from the other two Canadian junior leagues, the WHL and QMJHL, to join them in Erie.

“We are looking to get as many high caliber junior players as possible,” Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann said there is a lot of interest in NHL teams. The general managers and scouts of the NHL teams have contacted the player-organizers.

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Erie Otters’ number of players in town could be the largest since the team split at the end of the 2019-20 season.

A total of 11 Otters will be in town to prepare for the Showcase on Tuesday, Hoffmann said. Others will probably come later.

“It’s not always about hockey,” said Hoffmann. “It’s a lot about the guys you see everyday, day in and day out, training, skating, going out for lunch.”

Hoffmann said some of the Otters haven’t seen each other for over a year. Brown recently went into an otter workout and was overjoyed to see some of the faces arriving in town.

“I was shocked when I saw them,” Brown said. “They looked really good.”

The Showcase format and listings are still under development. There may be enough players to host four games on any given day. Holidays have also been incorporated to allow players to explore and enjoy other parts of Erie.

The hope for the Showcase is to have eight teams. Rankings and eliminations will not be affected. The organizers hope to launch a website in the coming days.

Hockey equipment giant CCM has signed up as a partner of the event and will provide jerseys.

Details on tickets and fan participation remained to be determined.

Contact Josh Reilly at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNreilly.

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