Since ice on Lake Erie in February no longer is a sure thing, organizers of the Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament’s sixth annual event have planned accordingly, with several contingencies.
For starters, all games will be scheduled for one day – Feb. 9 – if there’s enough ice at Erie Basin Marina. The tournament will begin at 8:30 a.m., and play will continue under the lights until 9 p.m. Prior tournaments had scheduled games throughout weekends.
If ice or weather conditions aren’t safe that day, Feb. 10 will be the makeup day.
“It’s no secret that we have had a lot of issues with weather over the years,” Lisa Texido, associate brand manager for Labatt Blue, announced Thursday in a news conference. “Shifting to one day will allow us to have the best chance to amend plans or make up games on the additional day.”
Plans also call for a street hockey tournament, if pond hockey is canceled because of the weather or lack of ice, as happened last February.
Another new feature isn’t weather-related: Teams can register during a two-week period that begins at noon today, with participants in the respective divisions being chosen through a lottery. The event typically sells out in minutes, and the lottery system will give teams ample time to register for a chance to compete in 2013, Texido said.
“It’s something that players have been recommending,” Texido said.
Ninety-six teams with seven-player rosters will be accepted to compete across 12 divisions. Registration, at $250 per team, runs from today through Nov. 30 at www.labattbluepondhockey.com. Players can find out Dec. 7 if their teams have been selected to compete.
Preparations by Buffalo’s Parks and Recreation Department also are complete.
“The planning has already ended,” said Deputy Commissioner Andy Rabb. “The biggest factor, of course, is the ice.”
Once ice forms, crews will monitor its depth as the day of the tournament draws near, he said.
In order for the tournament to be played in the marina, the ice must reach a depth of 10 to 12 inches at least one week before the event, according to Texido.
The action won’t be limited to the ice. There will be a large, heated tent; live music; a disc jockey; and plenty of beer produced by the sponsor.
“It’s become a real celebration of winter in the City of Buffalo,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “We are certainly looking forward to our hockey fix in Buffalo.”