Players were announced as they skated to the blue line, the song, the fans — the first Northern Illinois Hockey League Premier Select All-Star Games is a happy memory for many boys, girls, and women.
The experience encouraged sportsmanship, and helped players become better.
“Coming in everyone were rivals, like, you’ve got to defeat that person,” said Jordan Davila of Glenview Stars, goalkeeper for the Glenview Stars. He played in the NIHL 14-under All-Star Game at Vernon Hills’ Glacier Ice Arena on Jan. 24.
“We expected it would be very tense and very awkward. But everyone was open with one another, it was a very friendly environment. It was almost like “we have nothing to hide, and we are all friends.” It felt very normal.”
The game’s speed was unusual.
“It was definitely speed,” said Charlie Walker of Northbrook Bluehawks, who was on winning side in that 14U game, which ended 3-2. He also had an assist in the game.
“Taking the top kids from each team was a great way to have fun with them all. There were some very fast kids and some really skilled kids. I think the best thing about moving on as you get older to new leagues and teams is that the game gets faster, stronger and more exciting. The All-Star Game was a great experience.
Larry Beller, NIHL treasurer, and all-star chairman, stated that approximately 200 people watched each of four all-star hockey games. They started at 5 p.m., with the 10U “squirts”, and ended with a mixture of 16U-18U players in a final match that ended at 10:30.
Players represented teams in Glenview (Northbrook), Winnetka, Winnetka and Vernon Hills. Hoffman Estates, Evanston, and many other places. The NIHL programs reach Chicago, South Bend, Indiana, Kenosha and points north and South.
Bob Apter, President of NIHL, stated that the object was to show off our highest level and he thought it was fantastic. “The event was enjoyed by all – the parents, the children, and everyone.” I can’t believe we are having the second annual event next year.
Bluehawks blue-liner Charlie Rosen, who is also a Bluehawks player, received the all star nod from Ben Stein.
Rosen, a Glenbrook North freshman at 14 years old, said, “He texted me.” “It was great to be one of the five people selected by our team. He’s been a great coach all year and it was a huge honor to be selected for me.
Davila was in the net when the Bluehawks, Evanston, South Bend, and St. Jude in Chicago combined forces scored the winning goal with just five minutes remaining in a 3-2 win in the 14U game.
Davila, who played hockey since fourth grade, stopped a shot from a point, stopped an rebound, but couldn’t stop a third chance opportunity.
“Obviously we wanted win, but we couldn’t get the victory. But it was still fun,” said Davila. He was also encouraged by the fact that his Glenview Stars were leading the Premier Select Bantam Division at 14-1-3 and in team goals against at 2.28. Davila also mentioned that Cameron Christopher and Evan Claffey were all-star Stars, as was Cade Harazin and Blake Hoffer, Matteus Johannsson, Aidan Weller and Cade Harazin.
Davila said, “My favorite part would probably be the time I shared with my teammates and with teams across leagues, walking on ice and being in that NHL aesthetic where they call everybody out to the blue line, and when everyone is up, they do the national song.”
Walker said, “It’s the first time they did that in the NIHL.”
Rosen was a beneficiary of the All-Star Game the next time they were in league play, a 4-3 Bluehawks victory over the Vernon Hills Ice Dogs Jan. 25.
Rosen stated that he felt a different mindset when he entered the game. “I felt more confident and positive. I also knew the names of some of their best players, which helped me.”