With construction progressing on the HarborCenter project, the Buffalo Sabres have turned the focus on some of the amateur hockey programming aspects of the downtown Buffalo complex.
HarborCenter officials announced Tuesday that former National hokey League player and ex-Sabres’ assistant coach Kevyn Adams has been named vice president and director of the HarborCenter’s Academy of Hockey. The academy that focuses on both on-ice and off-ice training is, along with Canisius College men’s hockey and the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, one of the anchor tenants of the $172.2 million project.
At the same time, officials confirmed a previously announced deal to bring the Buffalo Regals Tier I team into the HarborCenter fold has fallen apart and in its place, the Jr. Sabres will be adding six youth hockey teams that will play in the New York State Amateur Hockey Association.
“We’re in the hockey business now,” said John Koelmel, HarborCenter president. “Our commitment is to make this a destination for hockey, not just in Western New York but across the country.”
Central to the HarborCenter is a twin-rink complex featuring an 1,800-seat main rink that will be the home base for Canisius’ mens hockey team and the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. That rink along with the second one are designed to host a wide range of youth, amateur and adult hockey leagues, tournaments and training sessions. The rinks will be open on a year round basis, Koelmel said.
In addition, HarborCenter will include a 3,500-square-foot off-ice training center and other space that can be used for everything from video sessions and additional training venues. The training center is twice the size of the revamped off-ice facility team owner Terry Pegula had built for the Sabres two summers ago as part of a locker room renovation plan.
The training center is comparable to one Penn State designed for its hockey teams in the Pegula-financed Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Pa.
Nik Fattey, HarborCenter vice president and hockey director, said with 28,000 enrolled USA Hockey players in Western New York alone there is a strong base of support for the building and its facilities.
“This isn’t by accident that this is happening here,” Fattey said.
The HarborCenter and its facilities may help with the ice time crunch impacting many organizations. It is one of two local new rinks due to open within the next year. A twin-rink facility in Lockport is also slated to open in fall 2014.
Fattey said the plan is for the HarborCenter to host at least 20 major tournaments during the peak hockey season. The HarborCenter is pegged to welcome at least 500,000 people annually, many staying in its 205-room Marriott hotel that’s scheduled to open in May 2015.
Fattey added there are more than 60 possible youth, amateur and hockey tournaments that will be pitched either by the HarborCenter organization or in conjunction with Visit Buffalo Niagara.
Also in the works are hiring a half-dozen full-time coaches to work with Adams on teaching youth skaters.
“These coaches will be very visible,” Adams said.
Koelmel said he expects HarborCenter to be a major youth and amateur hockey mecca, similar to ones developed in Toronto and other Canadian cities. Regular visitors are expected to include coaches representing NCAA programs and top development leagues in Canada and the U.S.
Larry Playfair, Jr. Sabres president, said five current members from this year’s squad have been recruited for NCAA Division I teams.
“This new building will be envy of the league and I’m not going to apologize for that,” Playfair said.