Ready for some hockey?

Published 9:17 pm Saturday, August 18, 2007

By Staff
TRAVERSE CITY – For most of the year, this resort community on Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay is best known for golf, sailing, fishing, beachcombing and other outdoor recreation.
But for one week in mid-September, the most exciting action here seems to be happening indoors.
Each autumn for the past 10 years, the Detroit Red Wings have been bringing their fall prospects tournament and training camp to the Traverse City's Centre ICE arena. For that brief time, Traverse City is transformed into "Hockeytown North," where hundreds of fans from the U.S. and Canada come to watch and meet players from Detroit and seven other major hockey franchises in what may be the sport's most "up close and personal" events.
"Last year we had people travel here from 38 states and Canada, and we always end up selling out for all the events," says organizer Pete Correia, who persuaded the Red Wings to bring their fall camp to Traverse City in 1997. "Back when they held it at Joe Louis in Detroit, only a handful of people would show up."
The camp's popularity may have something to do with the scenic beauty and casual "Up North" atmosphere of the Traverse City area. But it's also at least partly due to the relaxed and friendly nature of the events themselves. Fans who travel to Hockeytown North can easily find themselves staying in the same hotel or sharing a table at a local nightspot with members of a visiting team; it's easy to strike up a conversation, and even easier to get an autograph.
The Red Wings training camp, which begins Sept. 14, features as many as 60 players divided into three separate training teams. During the first three days of the camp, players work out and play intrasquad games, culminating in a traditional "Red &White" game on Sept. 17 and a unique four-on-four intrasquad game on Sept. 18. Tickets for all the events are priced deliberately low ($15 for daily workouts, $25 for the Red &White game and $10 for the last-day four-on-four game (which includes a hot dog and soda.)
Just as popular and even less expensive is the annual NHL prospects tournament that precedes the Red Wings camp.
Started in 1998 with four teams, the tournament now includes hot prospects from seven teams in addition to Detroit: the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Rink manager Terry Marchand says he enjoys the tournament even more than the chance to watch the Wings at practice.
Since Centre ICE has two sheets of ice, there's action going on almost incessantly during the tournament and the training camp, and spectators are allowed to wander back and forth between rinks during the day. Also, the facility has no rules against fans taking their own photographs; in fact, cameras are encouraged.
For information on tickets for the main camp contact Centre ICE Arena at (231) 933-7465 or log on to Tickets for the prospects tournament are available at the door on game day.