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Buffalo Shines @ Pond Hockey Tournament


This weekend marked a turning point for the Labatt Pond Hockey tournament. After years of succumbing to erratic weather conditions, the event was a major success thanks to the pure determination of a team of organizers and developers who set out to change the face of hockey in Buffalo. At the same time, they also managed to accomplish an entirely different goal – to prove that people would attend an event in the wintertime at a venue along the Buffalo River. You see, the ongoing battle in the minds of developers has mainly been – “How do we get people to come to a waterfront destination when it’s cold out – especially to a somewhat obscure location that most Buffalonians have only discovered relatively recently during the warmer months?”

In order to ensure the success of the tournament, Riverworks’ crews worked around the clock for weeks leading up to the tournament, building the rinks and the metal decks, installing the garage doors, clearing out industrial machinery, removing widow-makers, building railings and walkways – basically taking a longstanding industrial site and turning it into a playground for hockey players and beer drinkers.


And that is exactly who showed up. The heated warehouse was filled with partiers from sun up to sun down on Saturday (and Friday evening before that). Despite the limited parking, thousands of people showed arrive to watch the hockey… and drink beer. “Over the last two days, more than 800 hockey players competed in nearly 400 hockey games during the 7th Annual Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament,” said Lisa Texido, brand manager, Labatt Blue. “This year, the tournament’s story is all about hockey, just like it’s meant to be. The new venue and refrigerated rinks at Buffalo RiverWorks were a huge hit with players and fans. It was exciting to see thousands of people come out to support the tournament.”


The refrigerated ice conditions appeared to be perfect, and the party conditions were just as impressive. The industrial backdrop of the grain elevators created a spectacular setting for the non-stop action. This was a win-win for players, fans and the city – we showed that after years of facing adversity in the form of uncooperative weather conditions, the only thing left to do was be proactive and create the ideal destination. Seeing that teams were traveling to Buffalo from as far away as Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, it was important for Buffalo to prove that it was capable of being a worthy host.

I believe that this weekend we surpassed the goals that we set out to accomplish. It was great to see so many people having such as great time at a site that has just begun to show what it’s capable of. Once again, these days we are no longer asking ourselves “If we can do it?” Instead we are putting our heads together to determine “How we can do it better…”

Want to see what others think about Buffalo being branded as a new hockey town? Check out this article.

The 2014 Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament champions include:

· Elite Division: Blue Heron
· Advanced Over 21 Division:
· Intermediate Over 21 Division: Old Macks
· Recreational Over 21 Division: Jack FM
· Novice Over 21 Division: Dr. Parks
· Advanced Over 30 Division: Reggans
· Intermediate Over 30 Division: Pale Ales
· Novice Over 30 Division: Try-It Distributing
· Intermediate Over 40 Division: Bison Hockey Sticks
· Novice Over 40 Division: Cricket
· Women’s Division: Performance Solutions


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Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

7896 posts

Great event, great venue.  The rinks were in good shape, the vendors had good deals, the large garage was perfect for people to warm up and get together between games.  Labatt handed out a ton of freebies, everyone working the event (minus the one ref without skates) were nice, and it had the best backdrop of any tournament. 

Other than some minor logistic problems of a first year event (muddy changing tent, packed parking lot), everything was good except for the piece likely out of their control...the Michigan St bridge being closed to incoming traffic by Buffalo P.D.  I don't know who made that call, but at the time, it reeked of General Mills pulling a powerplay to make us drive the extra mile and avoid "their" street.

Character Zero
Character Zero

As a player in the tournament, I can say - without equivocation - that it was a resounding success.  After years of setbacks, the change in location - and guaranteed ice - was spot on.   Given the last few years, Labatt could have easily pulled the plug - however, they put their eggs in Swift's basket and hoped it could get done on time.  Don't get me wrong, Labatt certainly has a financial stake in a successful event, as we will all now proudly wear our free Labatt swag demonstrating the inseparable congruence between beer and hockey.  Swift's team was outstanding in running the parking and clearing the streets, rendering the objections of the industrial tenants as moot.    The ice was as good as you could expect and held up well over the course of non-stop hockey over 2 days.  As always, the tournament was run well and for the most part, on schedule.

The amenities indoors were spacious and effective.

There were no doubt - in addition to the 800 or so players - many others who simply came down for the event.  The site provides an amazing and new view of downtown.  Playing hockey, outdoors, with that industrial backdrop was a real good time. 


The place was packed. Here's a photo I took from the Michigan Ave. Bridge.


Ice was decent, smaller pad had the better surface. I was just amazed that the truck traffic was so disruptive. And by that I mean I saw one truck the entire weekend.

Infrastructure there needs to catch up a bit but otherwise it's going to be a great project when it's complete.


I assume I won't be able to eat my Cheerios for breakfast Monday morning since production and distribution was probably shut down thanks to this event.

Looks pretty cool.  It's just........

It's not pond hockey.  You could call it pond-style hockey. 

Whatev.  It's successful, it's attracting positive attention, people and investment, and it's bringing to life an otherwise dead site.  It's great, just that every time I hear "pond hockey" - when it's on an artificial surface, NOT A POND -  it's like the tag of a t-shirt scratching the back of your neck and driving you nuts.

Character Zero
Character Zero

@LouisTully - It's the style of play - limited-size surface, on ice, 4 on 4, small nets, no slap-shots - that provides the "pond hockey" name.   The fact that there were refrigerated surfaces involved does not remove the event from the "pond hockey" category. 


@Character Zero @LouisTullyThat's sort of what I was getting at with my comment, "It's not pond hockey.  You could call it pond-style hockey."

From Wiki:

Pond hockey is a form of ice hockey very similar in its object and appearance to traditional ice hockey, but far simpler and designed to be played on part of a natural frozen body of water.


@LouisTully  technically speaking, a pond is a reservoir, so even large sandboxes with a tarp filled 3" deep is a pond.   

now this, refrigerated surfaces? not reliable of nature, not a pond. true, it should have been only called, the labbat 'we have given up on nature or at least making a natural water feature our primary goal especially when we have the perfect conditions to finally make it happen' mini hockey tournament.


@Character Zero @LouisTully  per wiki definition: 
"played on part of a natural frozen body of water"  

if refrigeration has always been the solution, why didn't Labbat step up and build their own sponsored ice rinks somewhere in the first ward, along the buffalo river? there are plenty of spots and great places to use... oooh howabout inside the elevators on the silo city spot? there's a perfect building there with it's first floor being vastly open... if it's safe enough to let people into these buildings on ground floors to explore for art events why not some hockey rinks? I'm sure investors would have backed it at silo city...