"Scotty (Bowman) loved the idea of moving the main camp and I kind of stumbled onto Traverse City and was introduced to Pete. After spending the day with him, I was hooked and called him two months later to tell him we would accept his offer of holding camp there. The following year (1998), we started up the prospects tournament with other teams."
-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland
Pete Correia will never forget his first encounter with legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman.
It was the summer of 2001 and the Detroit Red Wings
, coached by Bowman at the time, were in town as one of four teams competing in the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. For some reason, Bowman had an issue with the start time for his game that evening and wished to have it pushed back to 11 p.m.
After getting over the initial shock of the request, Correia, who organizes the prospects tournament, responded as any customer-conscious businessman would.
"I said, 'Wait a minute Scotty, I've already sold all these tickets that have a start time of 9:30,'" he said. "It would have been impossible to change the time in that short notice after already selling out the place and promising a 9:30 faceoff. The thing was, no one from the Red Wings stepped in there to help me out on this one since, after all, this is Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. No one really questions him.
"But I didn't really know him that well and told him, 'Scotty, you can get mad at me if you want, but we're having this game at 9:30 and I cannot flux from that since people waited in line for days for these tickets.'"
Bowman conceded and the game began at 9:30.
Chalk one up for the 40-year banker with unlimited ties in the community where he has become such a recognizable fixture. It's his dedication to the city and determined effort to run a memorable event that drives the 63-year-old Correia even today.
It's also the reason why, in 1997, Wings General Manager Ken Holland never thought twice about approaching Correia to host the team's training camp and eventual NHL prospects tournament at the Centre I.C.E. Arena in Traverse City.
"We used to hold training camp at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit when I became GM (in '97), but as a player, I remember the excitement I had entering another city to play and have a chance to bond with your teammates," Holland recalled. "Scotty (Bowman) loved the idea of moving the main camp and I kind of stumbled onto Traverse City and was introduced to Pete. After spending the day with him, I was hooked and called him two months later to tell him we would accept his offer of holding camp there. The following year (1998), we started up the prospects tournament with other teams."
Correia, who dedicated three years of his life in the planning, building and managing of the aesthetically sleek Centre I.C.E. Arena, has never looked back.
"I've been in this community for 32 years so I know just about everybody and when something is needed, I usually get it done," Correia said. "Half the people that come into the bank ask me about the Red Wings and half that come to the rink ask me about banking so it's pretty funny how both areas have intertwined into my personal life. There are about 200 volunteers involved in the prospects tournament and camp, a lot less than the 600 we had when this all began, and each is required to work a certain amount of hours. Once they reach 12 hours of service, they can get an item autographed by one player. Additionally, all our volunteers have their picture taken with one of the teams and we'll give that to each of them as a memento of the occasion.
"I'm a banker who's always trying to treat the customer right, so I take that same attitude with our volunteers."
While he has no problem rewarding hard work, Correia also runs a very tight ship.
"If you're a security guy standing by a door and I catch you asking a player for an autograph, you're done on the spot," he said. "I'm a nice guy, but there are rules that need to be followed and never do I want the customer to feel like our volunteers hold an advantage."
The graduate of Michigan State is also proud of the ice complex he helped erect in the late 1980s with the assistance of Involved Citizens Enterprises (I.C.E.), a non-profit organization committed to providing affordable and accessible skating programs to Grand Traverse area residents.
While there has been discussion of possibly expanding the tournament from an eight to 12-team field, Holland noted that the 95,000 square-foot facility that holds two rinks (David's Rink, Citizens Rink) and 18 locker rooms is currently "maxed out." Each team is limited to using only four professional hockey players, mostly those in the AHL and CHL. Fighting is allowed, but any player involved in a second fight in any one game is ejected from that game.
Preparation for the prospects tournament and Wings camp begin early for Correia and his crew.
"We usually start during the winter months, arranging the housing and transportation for all the participating teams," Correia said. "I don't care if it's Steve Yzerman
or the assistant equipment manager, everyone is treated the same when you come to Traverse. This way, when Ken Holland asks who would like to return, every GM and coach is raising their hand.
"It's great hockey to watch since all these kids are solid draft choices and very hard workers." -- Pete Correia
"It's great hockey to watch since all these kids are solid draft choices and very hard workers," he continued. "We think it's the best hockey you will ever see up here. In addition to hockey, we provide players and coaches the chance to do some recreational activities like golf or fish. We've also had players go out on motorcycles and on hot air balloon rides."
For some, however, off days are better spent relaxing with teammates.
"On the off days, guys just really toured the city, went to the mall or just relaxed," said Atlanta center Riley Holzapfel
, who will be making his third appearance at the prospects tournament this year.
"In years past, we stayed in a hotel right on the beach, so we'd get together, swim around the lake and just hang out as friends."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.