Hockey Heaven embracing its name this weekend

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo is known as Hockey Heaven and this weekend, it’s embracing its name as there are several events going on, giving everyone a shot to try out the sport.

“Buffalo is a hockey town, whether you’re watching or playing,” said Gina Heines, a brand manager with Labatt Blue, the sponsor for the pond hockey tournament happening at Riverworks this weekends.

There will be a lot of watching and playing hockey this weekend — the Sabres are home at KeyBank both Saturday and Sunday; the Pond Hockey tournament, with 240 games, runs Friday through Sunday; and a sled hockey clinic is happening Sunday.

“Anybody can play,” said Mark Kuntz, the captain for the Queen City Squirrels, a team in the tournament. “You get the full effect of everything – cracks in the ice. It’s not the perfect ice, even here. It gets beat up so even the best players drop down a bit.”

He says his team has been in the tournament since 2011 and they’ve been looking forward to this weekend and playing in it again since last year.

“This is our Stanley Cup,” said Kuntz. “We’ve been chasing it. We’ve come up short so many times.”

His favorite thing about tournament time — seeing hockey players from all over come together.

“Just meeting new people and seeing old friends,” said Kuntz.

“We’re out here, just like any other hockey player,” said Adam Page, a paralympic sled hockey player. “We’re not disabled or anything; we’re just playing hockey.”

Page is being humble – he’s not just any other hockey player — he’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has been on the national team since he was 15 years old.

“We’re hockey players and definitely don’t have our disability out there on the ice because when we’re in the sled, we’re all equal,” said Page who is bringing the adaptive sport to Canalside this weekend. “It’s an opportunity to expose a sport to more people in the area.”

Having the opportunity to connect with other players while watching and playing a sport so many Buffalonians love is what a lot of people are looking forward to this weekend.

“Any kind of hockey out there, Buffalo welcomes it,” said Page.

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