For all those hockey fans who would rather be out on the ice than sitting on the couch watching a game on TV, the 4th Annual Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament will be the place to be this winter.
“The Labatt Blue Pond Hockey tournament has become a great annual Buffalo winter tradition, which has grown in popularity, both for players and spectators, since it was first launched on the city’s waterfront at the Erie Basin Marina in 2008,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “I look forward again to this year’s tournament, which showcases great hockey, but more importantly, demonstrates how much fun can be had outside, during the winter in Buffalo.”
This year’s tournament will take place at the Erie Basin Marina and will be a full-blown three-day event, beginning on Friday, February 11 and ending Sunday, February 13. “The Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament has quickly grown over the past four years, with players from all over the country seeking to participate, said Brett Carlsen, LaBatt Blue Associate Brand Manager. “In 2011, our goal is to put on the best possible tournament for all of the teams. This year we weren’t looking to add a hundred teams. Instead, it was more about creating a tournament that provides an authentic, competitive and fun real hockey experience for all players that brings them back to their roots.”
According to Carlsen, over 700 players are expected to play in this year’s tournament, bringing along plenty of fans as well. There will also be live music, food and beer for everyone to enjoy. “There’s just something special about experiencing real outdoor hockey on Lake Erie and enjoying an ice cold Labatt Blue beer,” Carlsen said.
Registration for the 2011 Tournament will begin on Saturday, January 1 at 12 p.m. and will be first come, first serve. This will allow plenty of time for teams to plan accordingly. The earlier teams register, the better their chances of getting in. Teams will be comprised of four to six players, all 21 years of age or older. Registration fees are $250 and players must present proof of age. Registration forms can be completed at www.labattbluepondhockey.com. Team captains can email tournament director Ed Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
The tournament itself will be set up in a round robin format with 16 divisions. The winner of each bracket will have a chance to play for the championship title. Winners from eight smaller regional Labatt Blue-sponsored tournaments will be sending their teams to play in Buffalo’s tournament. Games will be played four-on-four, absent a goalie.
The rinks will be man-made, using water, shovels, small plows and hay barrels. They will measure 150 feet in length and 75 feet in depth. Teams will help maintain the rinks with the use of shovels and buckets of water. The nets will be the same size as those used in the Labatt Blue U.S. Adult Pond Hockey Championships, measuring six inches high and six feet wide.
The event’s planners gave a great deal of consideration to several weather factors when it came time to decide on the dates for the tournament. They looked at predictions for lake temperatures and anticipated when it was likely to freeze judging from historical data. Since the Lake usually starts to freeze up in January, by February they expect to have 10 to 12 inches of ice built up. “The tournament is always going to be at Mother Nature’s mercy, but we hope that by scheduling it in mid-February when temperatures are historically the coldest and the ice is at its thickest, we’ll have better luck this year,” said Carlsen.
In the event of unplayable ice, the weather policy states that the tournament will be cancelled and players will be fully refunded for their registration fees. The tournament will not be rescheduled in the event of unfavorable weather conditions.
For more information on the upcoming tournament or to register your team, visit www.labattbluepondhockey.com or check out the Facebook page. Those who become fans of the tournament will receive updates on rink construction, scheduling and weather conditions.