The sun was shining brightly in downtown Buffalo as a record number of teams competed in the fourth annual Dick's Sporting Goods Street HockeyFest.
More than 100 teams battled in the full day tournament in the shadows in front of HSBC Arena with a crowd of approximately 3,000 people in attendance. Opening games of the tournament began at 9:00 am while each division's championship occurred around dusk.
"We were very pleased with this year's turnout," stated Buffalo Sabres Youth Hockey Coordinator, Patrick Fisher. "In total 105 teams competed, a growth of about 30 teams from last year."
Fisher has been involved with the event since its inception in 2001. That year, only 32 teams competed.
"Every team has five participants, so it's about 500 people playing street hockey all in one day," continued Fisher. "It's a great atmosphere. Next year, we hope to get even more teams involved."
The competition, which was open to boys and girls from five years old to adults, featured five divisions broken down by age groups.
Below is a listing of each division and the champions:
-- Mites (5-7 yrs): Shark Attack - Tyler Bienias, Alex Paul, Vincent Goodrich, Zach Wagner and Tyler Nosbisch.
-- Squirts (8-10 yrs): M&M’s - Matt Schifferle, Mitchell Grahnert, Steve Michel, Michael Harris and Matt Czechowski.
-- Pee Wees (11-14 yrs): Cazenovia Chiefs (two-time champion) - Josh Schnerder, Kevin Crowley, Frank Buttino, Alex Olszewski and JP Gillmeister.
-- Midgets (15-17 yrs.) Original Buds - Danny Baco, Corey Lloyd, Josh Meka and Nathan Foley
-- Electric Company (18+ yrs.) (two-time champion) - Dave Provorse, Brian Provorse, Tony Difilippo, Shawn Reed and Jaime Annunziata.
No player walked away empty handed, as each received a HockeyFest
t-shirt and hat for simply competing in the event.
As an added bonus, Dick's Sporting Goods graciously donated $5 gift certificates all participating players.
For the second consecutive year in the featured game of the day, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni team - consisting of Larry Playfair, Rob Ray, Derek Smith, Mike Boland and Morris Titanic - demolished the WGR 550-AM All-Stars, 17-10.
Playfair, Ray and Boland were the only returning members of last year's squad.
"Frankly, (WGR) exceeded my expectations," stated Sabres Director of Amateur Athletics, Kevin Sylvester, a former employee of the radio station. "To be honest, I expected very little, particularly from that Bulldog character. The guy scored six goals? I think we need to test him for performance enhancing drugs."
The Alumni jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and never looked back. In the last two years, the Sabres have outscored WGR a combined 11-0 in the opening two minutes of play.
The Bulldog notched the radio station's first goal a rarely seen street hockey power-play after a Rob Ray roughing penalty. Some things never change.
Smith led all scorers with seven goals and walked away with First-Star honors.