Being a sports scribe has got to be one of the best jobs around and I make no apologies for being able to write about junior hockey in July as a version of a midsummer day's dream.
Besides, you are reading this, right? So, I am guessing that you want to read about junior hockey as much as I want to write about it. Ergo, without further ado, let's take a late July mini-tour through a few North American Hockey League stops.
SOO V. FRESNO
From up north in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to the southwest coast of Fresno, California is quite the hike. Better to meet at a neutral site.
Which is exactly what Soo Eagles and Fresno Monsters will do when they will face off against one another at the NAHL Showcase, which will be held September 12-15 in Blaine, Minnesota.
All 24 NAHL teams will play four games in four days at the Showcase. All games will count in the regular-season standings.
Interesting that Fresno will play the Soo in that Monsters coach-general manager Eric Ballard opined to me a while back that he thought the Eagles would do well in their first NAHL season under their coach-GM Bruno Bragagnolo.
"Bruno's a good hockey guy. I think the Soo is going to surprise a few people," said Ballard.
The two have a competitive history that dates back to when Ballard was running teams in northern Minnesota and Bragagnolo was coaching in Chicago.
HONEYBAKED IN PH
Among the players who have been tendered by Port Huron Fighting Falcons are three 1994 birth year forwards who all skated with Detroit Honeybaked under-18 AAA squad last season: Mitch Maloney, Timmy Moore and Bryan Yim.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
An up-and-coming goaltending prospect and name to remember is Nate Gay, a 6-foot-5, 210 pounder from Bowling Green, Ohio.
A 1994 birth year, Gay is built along the lines of Anthony Stolarz, who went from being an undrafted, untendered free agent to signing with the NAHL's Corpus Christi Ice Rays a year ago, having a spectacular 2011-12 season with them, getting a Division 1 scholarship from University of Nebraska-Omaha and then being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of this year's National Hockey League draft.
I am not saying that Gay will be the second coming of Stolarz, who rose from obscurity to prominence in the space of a single season. But I have heard whispers of comparison between Stolarz and Gay.
Gay, who played high school hockey in Bowling Green in 2011-12 along with suiting up for the Sylvania Maple Leafs under-18 nationals, has invitations to attend the main camps of three NAHL teams.
I think I know which NAHL team Gay is going to end up but I don't think it would be fair to tip my hand.
Gay and fellow goalie Chris Truehl could well be this year's NAHL, free-agent, goaltending finds.
Truehl, like Gay, has multiple invites to upcoming NAHL main camps.