TRAVERSE CITY — North versus South.
That’s the framework for this weekend’s inaugural eight-team Traverse City Showcase at Centre ICE.
The lineup features four northern hockey teams — Traverse City West, Traverse City Central, Bay Reps and Escanaba — squaring off against four southern teams — Livonia Stevenson, Grosse Pointe University Liggett, Macomb Dakota and Utica Eisenhower.
The concept is the brainchild of the three local coaches — Bay Reps’ Todd Spaulding, Central’s Chris Givens and West’s Jeremy Rintala.
“We’re always talking about getting some teams up here, having a North-South format,” Spaulding said. “Most years we go to the big showcase tournament in Trenton, but a lot of teams love coming to Traverse City. Last year we had a couple of these teams (Dakota and Eisenhower) come up to play us and Escanaba. Central and West were able to free up part of their schedules this year to become part of it.
“Eisenhower and Dakota had a ball up here last year and wanted to come back. Livonia Stevenson comes up every year to play Central and West. When we were putting this together, Chris asked Stevenson if they wanted to be part of this — and still play Central and West — and they were all for it That meant we only had to find one team and University Liggett jumped all over it.”
Liggett was here over the holidays, too, finishing second to Saginaw Heritage in Central’s tournament. That loss is the only blemish on Liggett’s 10-1 record.
Stevenson, meanwhile, is the defending Division 2 state champion. The Spartans are currently 13-1.
“They have the two leading scorers in the state,” Rintala said. “They’re solid.”
West opens with Eisenhower, then plays Stevenson on Saturday.
“It’s a chance for our boys to see how they measure up against some of the top dogs in the state,” Rintala said.
Dakota sports a 7-4-1 mark while Eisenhower is 8-5.
Central plays Stevenson on Friday and Dakota on Saturday. The Reps face Liggett and then Eisenhower.
“Great teams, great competition,” St. Francis athletic director Tom Hardy said.
Hardy said he’s already received several inquiries from other schools eager to participate if the Showcase is expanded.
In addition, the Traverse City North Stars U-19 girls team will be hosting a four-team tournament. That field will also include University Liggett, Walled Lake and Regina.
“There’s going to be some good hockey teams in town,” Spaulding said. “It’s going to be fun.”