North America’s largest Youth “A” Tournament is back for its 32nd consecutive year, the Midwest Regional. There are a handful of great Youth Tournaments every calendar year for our great sport of Ball Hockey, unfortunately only one remains where the best have to play the best and there are no High-end teams beating up on newcomers.

The Midwest Regional is one of the 4 Tournaments that was the Original Dek Hockey “Cycle” for about 20 years. It was Bellmawr, Penn Hills, Leominster, and Niagara Falls (Mayer in Long Island was apart of this cycle early on as well). The primary 4 tournaments still exist. Bellmawr has a great event for “A” and “B” teams, as do the other fantastic Jersey organizations. Leominster still has the great “Dek” Hockey Nationals and has been joined by Mylec and their “Mylec Cup” up in the New England area. And Niagara Falls recently has made an impressive come back to the tournament circuit as well. Each tournament has “A” and “B” Divisions that allow for more competitive games on Sunday for more teams, and is inevitably great for the sport.

What makes the Midwest Regional special, in my eyes, is that it is an “A” Tournament for “A” teams. We of course let “B” teams register for the event and strongly encourage organizers to do so to introduce their players to the top caliber of competition and help them understand what it takes to play at the highest tier that our sport has to offer. However there is only ONE Champion for each division. Only one team for Penguin-Beaver-Cadet-Freshman will walk away happy on Sunday April 9th, and in my opinion, there is no better feeling as a player, coach, or parent knowing your team is posing for their Championship photo in their Midwest Regional Quarter Zips.

The games are intense. Everyone from the Players to the Coaches to the Fans to the Referees are heavily involved in every second of the tournament. I personally have played in 13 Midwest Regionals as a player, and won 7 of them as a part of the Penn Hills All-Star Organization, and there is something special about playing in a Semi or Final at the MWR, with hundreds of people layered on top of each other standing on tables and on each other’s shoulders to watch the best teams go at it. And from a Pittsburgher’s point of view, it is unfortunately the one tournament in our City that hosts the Best of the Best in a particular age group. There are dozens of Fantastic youth and adult tournaments every year in Pittsburgh, but the MWR is the only one unfortunately where the best take on the best that the country has to offer. And for an area that makes up over a 3rd of the Men’s U.S. National team, and a significant portion of the Junior National teams, you’d think we would host some more elite level tournaments. Hopefully that will be the case again one day soon.

What also makes the MWR an elite event is it is a primary event for USA Junior Scouts to get a look at the Cadet and Freshman aged kids who are eligible to represent their National Team in the upcoming World Championships. There are a number of events were the Junior National team staff will watch and recruit to get some ideas on players, but with Penn Hills having a “dek” surface and yellow line icing, it’s an ideal event for the staffs to see how the players can handle the ball which is an important factor in choosing a player for the WC’s.

All of the previous attributes of the MWR are all part of what makes the event special, but the biggest aspect of our event, is it’s history. Between the Youth event, and when the MWR used to be an elite “A” Adult tournament, every well known name in our sport at one time or another has played in this tournament. Every Rink and Organization from Chicago to Massachusetts has had a player representative that has had a memorable performance at the MWR. Players like Bobby Housser and Andrew Hildreth from Leominster have had dominant showings here. Brian Steen and Jonny Ruiz out of Bellmawr and Monroe from the New Jersey area both put on spectacular performances in Penn Hills at one time. Matt Clark from long Island raised some eyebrows as a youngster playing in the MWR. And countless Pittsburgh Area players have cemented their elite status while participating in the Regionals. Players like Chad an Jason Eshbach out of Reading, PA had notable impacts on the tournament in the youth age group. Players like Steve Gregory and John Rethage from Team Pittsburgh. Anthony Asturi, Frank Tedesco, CJ Dempsey, Joe Haldey, Ryan Jones, Jim Recoupero, Ryan Crossey, Korey Sweeney, and Anquan Smith from Penn Hills to name a few.

If you’re a dek or ball hockey fan, the Midwest Regional is a must to attend. If you’re a U20 player or under and want to play in arguably the toughest tournament in North America, the Midwest Regional is a must. We are exited to welcome the over 30 teams once again to Penn Hills in a few months for the Annual Midwest Regional. I’m sure the competition will once again be 2nd to none, and I for one cannot wait for April 6th to come along.

Article Submitted by:

Billy Sullivan
Director of Hockey Operations
Greater Pittsburgh Dek Hockey