Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Despite a rainy weekend forecast, the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament is expected to go on as planned this weekend.
How can organizers be so sure that will happen?
"I've asked our rink team that question several times," said Labatt Brand Manager Lisa Texido. "They've reassured me that the rain won't pose a challenge. If it's a lighter rain, it will actually freeze on contact. If it's a heavier rain or a thunderstorm we may need to pull guys off for just a few minutes to let the rinks harden up a little bit, but it certainly won't stop gameplay all together."
Labatt chose to move their Buffalo tournament to the new Buffalo Riverworks on Ganson Street for this year because of the weather. The tournament formerly took place at the Erie Basin Marina, where weather proved to be an annual challenge.
"Weather is absolutely why we moved," said Texido. "We loved the Marina, we thought that was a great location, but unfortunately the weather just through us curveball after curveball every year. This past off-season we sat back and asked 'how do we just eliminate that problem?' These refrigerated rinks are really the answer." Riverworks features two large rinks that are controlled by a refrigeration system.
Preparation for the tournament has been underway for several months. The Riverworks project was announced on November 1st, meaning developers has just three and a half moths to get the site ready to host the tournament.
"I never imagined myself building two hockey rinks in the middle of winter in three months," said Riverworks Developer Doug Swift. "It's been an amazing operation and a huge effort by lots of different people. We're here, we're ready to go, the ice won't be an issue, and we're excited."
Swift says that they've been able to keep their timeline in tact through a harsh winter, so he doesn't expect a little rain to push back the tournament. "Mother nature has thrown every bit of weather they could possibly throw at us all year, so we're ready for it."
At the tournament, hundreds of hockey fans from both Western New York and Southern Ontario will be able to watch Friday's Olympic semi-final matchup between the US and Canada. Pearl Street Grill and Brewery is providing TVs for fans to catch all the action.
We asked Pearl Street's Bill Casale if he expected any animosity between the two legions of fans.
"It should be fun, there should be some fun rivalries out here, and some joking around I'm sure," Casale said. "A lot of people from Ontario are coming over and obviously we'll welcome them and have fun with it.
Casale said he learned from the Vancouver Olympics four years ago when the Pond Hockey Tournament happened simultaneously with Olympic hockey games that those who are competing on the ice still don't want to miss a minute of their national team in action.