Wednesday, April 06, 2011

North Stars to stay in Traverse City

Well before the 2011-12 season kicks off, the Traverse City North Stars will be right where they’ve always been: Plying their trade at Centre ICE Arena.

The Stars announced their slate of summer tryout camps, kicking off with the pre-draft camp in May and culminating with the July 29-31 training camp.

“We’ve made some of the same annual in-house evaluations that we’ve made every year at this time, and there really isn’t much to say about that other than to confirm that we’ll continue to play right here in Traverse City,” said majority owner Raj Wiener. “There has been some degree of speculation about that, but it can officially be put to rest.”

The club joined the North American Hockey League in 2005, making the playoffs thrice in its first six seasons, and advancing to its first Robertson Cup national championships last spring. The Stars have ranked among the league’s elite over the past three years, posting a 107-54-13 regular season mark and 11-6 playoff record. Only five other teams can lay claim to that many victories since the start of the 2008-09 campaign.

Even more impressive is the veritable Traverse City-to-college pipeline that is presently gushing with NCAA Division I-quality talent. No fewer than 10 current players or alums have committed to top-tier collegiate hockey programs this year alone – tops in the NAHL – and more than 50 alums have already taken their talents to the proverbial next level.

“That is exactly the goal of junior hockey,” Wiener offered. “To provide opportunities for student-athletes to refine and further their abilities on the ice, in the classroom, and as members of the community. In that respect, we’ve enjoyed tremendous success.”

More than a dozen locally-grown players have suited up for the North Stars over the first six seasons (Scott Ponstein, Joe St. John, Nathan Peterson, Jake Erway, Mike Glaesmer, Spencer Sonneveldt, Eric McLintock, Eric O’Hearn, Dallas Kniss, Sean Burke, Matt Zaremba, Eric Rivard, Chris Dienes, Mitchell Snider, Jared Van Wormer), with the current club boasting four players who learned the sport through the local Grand Traverse Hockey Association youth program and Traverse City high schools.

“The quality of the North American Hockey League product is tremendous,” Wiener continued. “The speed and physicality of the Junior A game, the skill involved are first-rate. That’s why so many colleges come to NAHL rinks and stock their rosters with alums from this league.”

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