Naperville Hosting Nation's Top Hockey Teams

Article excerpt

Byline: John Lemon

So, you are an Illinois hockey player who thinks this area offers as high-level competition as anywhere in America.

A couple of Naperville high schools are trying to prove that this week.

Naperville Central and Naperville North are hosting their 14th annual Windy City Hockey tournament at All Seasons Ice Arena.

The 16-team tournament started Monday and ends today. It not only includes local Illinois foes like Barrington, Providence and St. Rita, but some of the best high school teams from around the country.

Imagine if the renowned Proviso West boys basketball tournament that features Illinois' No. 1 ranked team Westinghouse also brought the best teams from talent-rich areas like Detroit, New York, Memphis and Los Angeles?

This week is high school hockey's version of it.

"We see a lot of great teams," Naperville North coach Phil Gabrielson said. "California, Wisconsin, they come from all over.

"It gets you out of playing the same teams. You get to see some fresh faces. A lot of these teams are a step up for us. You definitely have got to pick up your game to another level."

The Huskies found that out the hard way when they opened play Monday against the Waterloo Warriors from Iowa. Naperville North lost 6-0.

The Redhawks got off to a better start Monday when they defeated the South Coast Sabres from California. Naperville Central should have as good of shot as anyone at winning the tournament.

Besides California and Iowa, there also are teams entered from Wisconsin, Missouri and Kentucky. Some of the teams are high school varsity squads like the Napervilles, but others are select travel teams that compete at an even higher level.

Gabrielson said the winners have come from all over the country in the past.

Even with all the out-of-state talent, this year's champ could very well come from our own backyard. Naperville Central has raced off to a fast start in Metro West play this winter.

While Naperville North is an up-and-coming, young team, Naperville Central has proven it can play with any team in Illinois. Now the Redhawks are hoping to show the same against teams from other states.

"They could win the tournament," Gabrielson said. "They are one of the better teams here. …