It started as a joke.

Frustrated with the on-again, off-again nature of the Ontario Hockey League, and watching a full season pass by, Andrew Perrott, a defenseman with the Owen Sound Attack, joked with his good friends Ryan Humphrey and Ryan Beck.

“What if we just ran our own showcase?” Perrott remarked. “Put it together ourselves, something for the players.”

They laughed. It was a joke. But then they stopped and thought about it again: what if we really could pull this off?

This was in early April. Over the next three weeks the three OHLers, joined by the Erie Otters Brendan Hoffmann, organized and launched a junior hockey showcase that will be held in Erie, Pa. between June 1 and 13. The PBHH Junior Showcase Powered by Lake Effect is scheduled for six weeks before the 2021 NHL Draft, giving some players that missed an entire season a final chance, or in most cases, a first chance to play in front of NHL scouts this year.

A website for the event is expected to launch on May 3.

Right now the showcase has close to 100 players signed, nearly enough for six full teams, with hopes of having enough players for an eight-team showcase. The showcase is built around individual players, there won’t be any standings or eliminations, with the hopes of saving the careers of some junior players that may have slipped through the cracks.

“Even if they don’t get drafted, you still need to perform and play well enough to earn rookie camp or development camp invites,” Perrott said. “I know I was fortunate to go to Boston Bruins camp and it’s a memory I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. And I was never drafted. I know that it was a big deal for me to just go to a rookie camp. And I don’t see how guys could even go to rookie camps if they don’t play at all. It might be hard for NHL teams to take a guy if they haven’t played a single game.”

“That’s one of the reasons we’re putting it on,” Beck said. “I know a lot of kids. It takes them a year and then that second year, they come out and they just, they light up the league, and then they get drafted really high. And they’re moving on with their hockey careers. And so a lot of kids couldn’t do that this year, they were stuck. They couldn’t show what they’ve done over the offseason.”

Turning their idea into reality started with social media. Perrot, Humprhey, and Beck started messaging players across the OHL, through Twitter and Instagram. They pitched the idea, interest was there, and the sheer number of players who wanted in vindicated the trio as they started to tackle the difficult part of figuring out the logistics of the showcase.