The Detroit Red Wings announced today that they want a little more blue in their Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament next September. For the first time, the Toronto Maple Leafs will join seven other teams in a much more extensive tournament than the Leafs have participated in lately.
The tournament divides the eight-team field into two four-team divisions. Teams will play each team in their division during the round robin before a crossover on the final day of the tournament, capped off with the first-place finishers in each division meeting for the championship on the final day of the tournament. A complete tournament schedule and rosters for each team will be released at a later date.
Last fall, the Leafs participated with the Ottawa Senators and the Montréal Canadiens in a three-team even in Laval. For Leafs fans, it was frustrating. The only broadcast was in French, but at least it was streamed online. Or at least most of it was. The Leafs and the Canadiens added another game on the last day since they weren’t leaving town right away, but that was never shown. For fans who want to engage with the prospects and rookies on the way up in their team’s development system, it was a dud.
The previous year, the Leafs used the same format when they hosted the event in Toronto. In prior years, the event had more teams and had been in the home of the London Knights, which provided a full house of fans for most games. The crowds in Laval were sparse, even for the games Montréal was in.
All of that is secondary to the Leafs. They want a chance to see their own players in a competitive environment, and this larger format offers that. It will also offer a look at some other prospects out there for when trade talks roll around. This tournament is usually heavily scouted as well.
The arena in Traverse City has a listed capacity of 1,800, so if you live in the area (Western Michigan on the shores of the lake) and want to watch some games, watch for the tickets to become available and jump on them.