Ladies ready for MLK Tournament in San Jose
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Over 50 girls and women’s teams spanning 12 different divisions and age groups will descend on San Jose from Jan. 15-18 for the 13th annual MLK Tournament, hosted by the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
The event will be the culmination of close to eight months of behind-the-scenes legwork for tournament coordinator Sheela Mohan-Peterson, who says this year’s event is even larger than usual.
“This year, we have more teams than we usually do,” said Mohan-Peterson. “We’re up to 53, and we try to have an even numbers in each division but it doesn’t always work out that way.
“I think going forward, 50 teams is probably going to be the maximum we’re going to take, and that’s just based on ice availability.”
The age groups attending the tournament range from 8U to 19U, in addition to two women’s divisions.
“We have teams from different states west of the Mississippi, as well as teams coming in from British Columbia,” said Mohan-Peterson. “This year, too, we have teams from Alaska, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as a good contingent coming from Washington, which is a really good sign that they’re growing their girls programs significantly.
“This year, we’ve got the lowest number of Canadian teams that we’ve had in a long time, but the only reason for that is because the exchange rate is so bad.”
The event will be split between the Sharks Ice facilities in Fremont and San Jose, and what can be a scheduling nightmare at the best of times was made a bit easier this year with the NHL’s Sharks electing to forego their traditional practice facility at Sharks Ice in favor of working in their main arena.
“The one issue we usually have during MLK is if the Sharks are in town,” said Mohan-Peterson. “We’re obviously happy to have them as such a great sponsor, but when they’re in town they need practice ice and that affects our scheduling process.
“This year, fortunately for us, they’ve decided they’ll be practicing at SAP Center and that really helps us from a scheduling aspect to be able to get all these games in.”
Now in its 12th year, the event has seen significant growth since Mohan-Peterson became involved seven years ago.
“We’ve grown at least 20 percent since I first got involved,” said Mohan-Peterson. “We’ve also attracted a lot more vendors and of late we’ve started getting attention from some scouts who are able to watch on our webcasts.
“Last year, I sent out e-mails to every NCAA Division I, Division III and club hockey coach informing them of the webcasts, and it’s just another way to raise the profile of the tournament and attract some more attention.”
But that’s not to say recruiting teams to the event isn’t a challenge. While the current exchange rate makes it difficult for Canadian programs to come south, the cost is high for teams on the East Coast to travel cross-country as well.
In addition, Mohan-Peterson says it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recruit high-end AAA programs outside of the state of California.
“The one downside is that outside of California, we’re not attracting as many AAA teams as we used to,” said Mohan-Peterson. “It’s not as easy as it used to be to get the AAA programs to come out because of all the choices they have to play in tournaments out east. So that’s a difficult part, and something we just keep working on.”
The tournament schedule is available online at http://stats.liahl.org/display-stats.php?league=13, and select games will be webcast starting the afternoon of Jan. 15. To view the live webcasts of the MLK Tournament, visit http://www.blackdogenterprises.org/watchMLK.php.
– John B. Spigott