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Published: Sunday, 8/23/2009

Walleye tryout draws prospects from around world

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Austin Seiple, of Maumee scored for the blue team in Saturday's scrimmage. Austin Seiple, of Maumee scored for the blue team in Saturday's scrimmage.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Han Ki-Hoon promised his father that a 14-hour flight to Canada and a six-hour drive to Toledo would be his last stab at playing pro hockey.

Ki-Hoon flew from his native city of Seoul, South Korea, to Toronto and drove here yesterday to try out at the Toledo Walleye free agent camp.

Ki-Hoon was among 60 prospects who paid $250 to sign up for the camp held at the Team Toledo Ice House.

"My father doesn't like hockey," Ki-Hoon said. "He is giving me one last chance."

Ki-Hoon said he found the camp by surfing the internet for open tryouts in the U.S. and registered through the team's Web site. The 23-year-old defenseman, who played five games in the Southern Professional Hockey League last season, said he invested more than $2,000 in his endeavor to make the Walleye team.

"I don't have an agent," he said. "I just like hitting. I just hope to make the ECHL."

About 200 fans, scouts, agents, and other spectators attended a scrimmage of two 20-player teams. The Blue team beat the White 9-4.

Lauren Anthony Johnson, plays for Wright State. He tried out at goalie at the Ice House Saturday. Lauren Anthony Johnson, plays for Wright State. He tried out at goalie at the Ice House Saturday.
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Walleye coach Nick Vitucci kept his evaluations close to the vest and did not say if or how many of the prospects would be invited to the team's main pro camp in early October. Vitucci, who scribbled notes on a clipboard, said he will complete his assessments after two more scrimmages today that will wrap up the two-day camp.

"I've been pleasantly surprised," Vitucci said. "There's a wide range of talent. There are some higher end players. There were a couple of nice solid defensemen with good puck movement. There were a couple of forwards that had good speed."

Louie Valenzuela, a 21-year-old left winger, traveled from Phoenix to attend the camp.

"I wanted to see where my skill level was at," Valenzuela said. "I did not want to have any regrets before I'm done playing hockey. And it's fun to meet new people and hang out. That's what hockey is about."

Another native of Arizona, left winger Matt Winstanley, was the oldest to try out at age 31.

Maumee native Austin Seiple, who played junior hockey for the Toledo Cherokee, scored on a one timer in the second period. Center Matt Moffatt, who stood out with a multiple point effort yesterday, assisted on the goal.

Jim Moffatt of Cambridge, Ont., made the three-hour drive to watch his son try out.

"Matt has been playing hockey his whole life, and it's been his dream to play in the higher leagues," Jim Moffatt said. "Matt has tryouts with two teams in the IHL, but he wants to get invited to an ECHL camp."

Lauren Anthony Johnson, a goalie from Fairborn, Ohio, was among the youngest players at age 20. He gave up two goals.

"I think I have a good shot," said Johnson, who plays for Wright State University. "It was everything I thought it would be. I wasn't nervous. I got the feel for the puck."

The scrimmage also whetted the appetite of avid area hockey fans who have missed the sport since the Storm played its last game in 2007.

West Toledoan Scott Reeves has been a Toledo hockey fan since the days when his grandfather took him to Mercury games. He said he was at the Ice House at 8 o'clock yesterday morning to greet the campers.

"I have always come out and welcomed the players to Toledo," said Reeves, who was wearing a Walleye jersey and baseball cap. "I see a few promising players."

Reeves and his friend Scott Gage, who have been season ticket holders since 1974 when the Goaldiggers played at the Sports Arena, said they missed the sport.

"I'm a dyed-in-the-wool hockey fan. I love the smell of the ice," Gage said. "I'm very interested in the team that Vitucci puts together. He's had two years. I'm excited."

The camp continues today with a game at 9 a.m. and another at noon. It is free and open to the public.

"It has exceeded my expectations," Vitucci said. "There are a lot of quality players."

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6354.



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