Jets' tryout draws skaters from all over
Litke was setting up the chairs—one for himself and one for a player—to begin the painful job of telling the skaters they had either survived the weekend or that they were being cut loose.
“This is the hardest part of the job. This sucks,” Litke said. “You’ve got to tell 50 kids they’re not good enough for your team.”
Just moments after the sixth and final game of the Janesville Jets’ second open tryout camp, players lined up to hear if they were going to be invited back to the main tryout camp July 31-Aug.1.
The prospects had three games and four hours of practice to catch the eyes of Litke and assistant coach Sean Storrie.
Many of the players had played junior hockey at the Tier 3 level. The NAHL, home of the Jets, is a Tier 2 junior league.
Steve Hughes, Nick Manningham and Zack Warson traveled from Flint, Mich., for a shot at moving up. All three played for the Flint Jr. Generals last season.
“We all got spots on that team if we don’t move up,” Warson said.
Hughes was the only one of the three to be invited to the Jets’ main camp.
Three Janesville Bluebirds were on the ice this weekend, too. Ross Mauermann, who already has a tender with the Jets, was guaranteed a spot in the main camp. Teammates Sly Flynn and Logan Lemirand also tried out. Neither made the cut.
Green Bay’s Ben Verbeten was one player who did survive the chopping block. He skipped high school hockey to play for the Green Bay Gamblers’ Triple A midget team.
His parents, Greg and Chris, quietly watched Sunday’s action from the grandstands.
“It’s no secret that when you come to these tryouts, the competition is going to be stiff,” Chris said.
Cam Williams and his son, Cam, traveled 370 miles from Houghton, Mich. The younger Williams played for the Minnesota Flying Aces of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League last year. Williams did not make the cut.
Another player not making the cut was Eric Watters, the son of Tim Watters. The elder Watters played in two Olympics and more than 700 NHL games. He played for the Wayne Gretzky-led L.A. Kings who lost in the 1993 NHL Stanley Cup finals to the Montreal Canadiens.
Lane Mahoney, who traveled all the way from Spokane, Wash., didn’t make the cut. He and his father were looking at a drive to Milwaukee and a 5 a.m. flight today back home. Mahoney had already attended tryout camps for NAHL teams in Albert Lea, Minn.; Topeka, Kan., and Mason City, Iowa. He had played in the Minnesota league last year for the Northern Lights, a team based in Bloomington.
So, what did Litke think of the players who showed up?
“I thought the camp was OK,” Litke said. “There were some quality players.
“We’ll scrape a few players out of here. I feel we didn’t have the quality like we had at our camp in Duluth (Minn.). The goaltending was better than what we had in Duluth.”
All of the weekend’s participants paid $300. That fee covered ice time and a practice jersey.
“It’s really starting to take shape,” Mauermann said of the inaugural Jets roster.
Litke expects the main tryout camp to have about 100 skaters. That will include those who survived the cut in Duluth and Janesville, plus the players the team has already drafted or offered tenders.
Players at the main tryout camp will pay a $400 fee. Those who survived the Duluth tryout and the first Janesville tryout will only have to pay an extra $100.
The 100 or so players at that camp will be cut down to 35 or 40. Those 40 players will participate in an all-star game on Aug. 1.
“We’re looking for players who display a good work ethic,” Litke said. “We’re looking for players with good character and competitiveness.
“I like to see how a kid reacts after he makes a mistake. Does he slam his stick or does he just put it behind him and keep going?”