Hockey's popularity on the rise in Florida

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - If you didn't know better, you might have thought you were in Massachusetts or Montreal.  

Nine hockey teams gathered for an event drawing the interest of college coaches all over the country. The host city wasn't Pittsburgh or Lake Placid though, it was Lake Worth.  

"I would say we've arrived," claimed a very proud David Falkenstein, the Commissioner of the Eastern Junior Hockey League South.  

Last weekend's Palm Beach Junior Showcase was a four-day tournament featuring six teams from around the state of Florida, as well as clubs from Atlanta, North Carolina and Virginia.  

Thanks in part to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as a number of new rinks popping up around the state, hockey has never been more popular in the Sunshine State.  

There's also been a trickle-down effect, with stronger competition among youth players.  Compared to northern parts of the country, it's really a question of quality versus quantity.  

Said Falkenstein, "If you take the best players from the Southeast, and the best players from the Northeast, they all look the same.  There's a higher concentration, obviously, in the North, there's a greater player pool."  
Florida Eels defenseman Cody Peckman echoed the sentiment.  "We were just up north playing in the Boston tournament, you know, against the Huskies and all those teams, and it's not far different from them."  

Eels head coach Frank Scarpaci said, "There is some phenomenally-gifted players here, but it all comes down to player development.  I don't care if you're from Boston, or you're from Ft. Myers, Florida, the key is hours. It's the 10,000 hour principle."  

As far as Scarpaci is concerned, it's better to win than lose, but the real prize is getting his players a scholarship.  He said, "It's not about winning a trophy for us.  Getting boys into college is our trophy."

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