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Now Three Days: The 13th Annual Backyard Classic

February 4-6, 2022 @ Canalside

Buffalo has some pretty amazing hockey tournaments that are in place to raise funds for worthy non-profit organizations. One of those is the annual Backyard Classic, which is held from February 4-6 at The Ice @ Canalside.

I spoke to tournament co-founder and director, Chris Taggart, who gave me some insight into the formations of the event. Taggart told me that he was watching Channel 2 reporter Heather Ly as she covered the story of five high school students who had raised some money for Hasek’s Heroes, through backyard ice skating. Taggart had always had his own backyard skating rink for as long as he could recall, so he decided to reach out to one of the students that he saw on TV, to see how he could help. An initial conversation with one of the students – Nicholas Penberthy – resulted in a dialogue per how they could team up. The following year Taggart and Penberthy were both hosting backyard ice skating fundraisers in their backyards, and discussing future possibilities and potential. 

From a backyard in East Amherst to Canalside.

Today, what started off five years ago in a couple of WNY backyards, has grown into what might be the biggest outdoor winter event in Buffalo, according to Taggart.

Over the 13 years, 500 teams (1500 players) have helped to raise $170K for charity.

“It all started in the backyards, but we eventually realized that we needed to grow the event,” Taggart told me. “We also got rained out one year, which is when we decided to move it to RiverWorks. Then, Canalside called and asked if we would consider hosting the tournament there – I almost fell over when I heard that. Now we’ve been at Canalside for 5 years, and Doug Allen sings our national anthem.”

Referees, full size nets, and goalies.

Taggart and I both agreed that this type of fundraising ice hockey tournament is very Buffalo. The grassroots, underground event has blossomed into a full-fledge undertaking, sponsored by Geico and benefitting the Oishei Children’s Hospital critical care unit.

“It’s all about rallying around hockey for a good cause,” said Taggart. “It’s a Buffalo thing. During our three-day tournament we’re going to recognize the efforts of the 11 Day Power Play, another hockey tournament that raises money for Roswell. In the future, we’re not just looking to be a hockey tournament – we are looking to be a leader in fundraising efforts for WNY charity. We want to keep this ball rolling for years to come.”

This is the first year that the Backyard Classic is being held for three-days, which is a testament to the growing popularity of the event. 

Tournament play includes:

  • Boys and Girls Youth Teams 6U – 14U
  • Adult Recreational and Competitive Divisions 16U and Up
  • Girls and Women’s Youth and Adult Divisions
  • Youth Skills Competition is Friday February 4, from 6pm-9pm
  • All day Adult and Youth Play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 8am-4pm (February 4-6)


Spectators are encouraged to come out and watch all the action for free during the weekend long tourney. 

“We love our city, Buffalo loves its hockey, but most importantly, we all love our kids… let’s support Oishei’s critical care unit…caring for our kids when they need it the most.”

Registration is still open for all age levels.

Get connected:

Lead image: 9 rinks playing at the same time

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, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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