Players mingle with Buffalo Sabres staff and ownership during a reception Friday night.
BUFFALO—Forty of America’s top hockey prospects had their fare share of smiles and laughs Friday night as they made their first of many memories at the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.
Many of the top players from across the country will be calling upstate New York home for the next 24 hours and were officially welcomed by USA Hockey and the Buffalo Sabres as part of a welcome reception at the Harbour Club inside First Niagara Center.
Mike Gilbert of the Buffalo Sabres kicked things off by expressing how grateful the city of Buffalo and the Sabres are for being able to host the game. He said the Sabres are just as appreciative to host some of USA’s most talented hockey players.
“Buffalo is a great place to play hockey,” Gilbert said. “Our organization is very proud to host this event and host you [the players]. We are very proud to be hosting this event and worked very closely with USA Hockey. We are very proud they trusted us to launch this inaugural event.”
USA Hockey Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations Jim Johannson thanked CCM, the Buffalo Sabres and the National Hockey League for helping get the event off the ground.
“This is a celebration of USA Hockey and its grassroots programs across America,” Johannson said. “It’s exciting to finally be able to put 40 of the top prospects on the ice going into their exciting NHL draft year and certainly their seasons looking ahead, not only to this year but in the future with USA hockey and our international teams.”
Friday night was the first chance for many of these young Americans to see Buffalo and the First Niagara Center. For Ross Olsson (North Billerica, Mass.) and many others it was truly a breathtaking experience for them as they gazed out onto the ice with the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game logo glistening back at them.
“The first few shifts tomorrow will be all adrenaline,” said the current Lincoln Star (USHL) . “It will be fun. I can’t wait.”
For those few minutes as he gazed into the emptiness of the home of the Buffalo Sabres, Olsson and some of the other players talked about the game that awaited less than 24 hours away.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Olsson said. “I’m just trying to clear my mind before the game starts.”