Annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tourney Underway

850 players competing this year at RiverWorks

Brendan Keany
February 14, 2020 - 3:24 pm

Brendan Keany

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - One of the staple events of Buffalo's winter season is officially here - the 13th annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament at RiverWorks.

"We have 850 players coming in to compete throughout the three days," said Labatt Blue public relations manager Lauren Christopher. "A lot of these guys come back year after year, which is great to see."

Two such players are John Gibbon and Tom Brackenridge, who play on Team Missile in the over-40 division. Coming off a 'big win' in their first game, the pair were all smiles as they reflected on how this tournament keeps them together.

"We have the same bunch of guys - it's really special to get together every year - we don't see each other during the year," said Gibbon, who also is the guitar player for Nerds Gone Wild, which has a performance at RiverWorks on Friday evening.

When the two started, the tournament was held at the Erie Basin Marina. While they both admit that RiverWorks is a much more reliable venue than completely subjecting the tournament to the outdoor elements, Brackenridge says parts of him misses the organic nature of the outdoor atmosphere.

"I kind of have mixed feelings about that because in the beginning, it was really on a pond," said Brackenridge. "Even when it was here with hay bales, it was a really neat experience. Now, I think you have to be a little better with your hands and really play the game. It's a much different game when you play on this ice, but it's a lot of fun too."

"It was fun on the lake, but we never finished the tournament because of the weather or the water conditions," said Gibbon. "It's great - we always finish the tournament here; things run right on time; the ice is pretty good - they've got the zambonis, which we could never get out on the lake too. Gosh, there's three days of games now, and it used to be just two, and they have a nice presentation at the end with the trophies and everything, so I think they're doing a great job."

Listen to Christopher's full comments below:

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