Hockey fans who want to catch a few Blackhawks and other NHLers with Chicago roots fine-tune their game this summer are in for a treat.
The Chicago Pro Hockey League, sponsored by ProStockHockey.com, kicks off its inaugrual six-game season at MB Ice Arena on July 11.
Familiar names in the four-team league include the Hawks' Brandon Saad, Vinnie Hinostroza, Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Jordan Oesterle, and Hawks prospects Henri Jokiharju, Anthony Louis and Roy Radke. Also playing are former Hawks Brandon Bollig, Ryan Hartman, Tommy Wingels and Brandon Pirri, as well as Wheaton's Ryan Dzingel and Winnetka's John Moore.
"It will be cool to hang out," said Pirri, who scored 29 goals for the Chicago Wolves last season and signed a one-year extension with the Vegas Golden Knights on June 30. "I don't know how competitive it will be, but those things kind of play out as they will. I'm sure as we get closer to those last couple of weeks and the championship game approaches, it'll get a little more competitive."
Two games are scheduled every Wednesday at 6:20 and 7:50 p.m. through Aug. 15. They will be played 4-on-4 and in 25-minute halves, but the semifinals on Aug. 22 and title game on Aug. 23 will be 5-on-5. Cost to attend is $5 with proceeds going to a designated charity.
Other successful pro summer leagues have been run in Minnesota and Boston.
Said Pirri: "If you build it, hopefully they will come. You know, guys from the Hawks will stick around (during the summer) a little more."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters at the NHL draft he'll probably check out a few games.
"Looking forward to it," he said. "The Boston league seemed to work well. Players have fun with it. It's good for their conditioning and keep their skills a little sharper."
Fans who want to attend the opening night can watch Saad, Hartman, Wingels, Pirri and Bollig's team take on DeBrincat and Johnson's group at 6:20, then stick around for Game 2 when Schmaltz and Dzingel's team take on Hinostroza, Jokiharju and Oesterle's squad.
Complete rosters, schedules and rules can be found at chicagoprohockeyleague.com.