FINALLY FOUND A HOME
The Canisius Golden Griffins will move to HARBORcenter in 2014
After 14 years of shuttling across town to play their “home” games at the Buffalo State Ice Arena, the Canisius College Golden Griffins will finally be able to create their own home-ice advantage.
Starting in September 2014 with a pair of games against Western Michigan and Ohio State, the D-I Griffins will be able to call the 1,800-seat feature rink at HARBORcenter home. In addition to playing games at the $172 million hockey and entertainment complex currently being built adjacent to First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo, the Griffins will have their own dedicated locker room and full access to the high-performance training center that is part of the project.
Adding to the atmosphere, the Griffs logo will be permanently painted at center ice, and the rink will be adorned with banners celebrating the program’s hockey history that dates back to 1998-99 at the Division I level.
“It’s going to really move our program forward in a very positive direction,” said Canisius College Director of Athletics Bill Maher. “I have an opportunity to meet with many of the recruits who come on campus. Throughout these discussions, that’s been a question for many of the families. And it’s been a question we’ve been able to answer positively to talk about how we can provide them a wonderful opportunity in this facility. But more importantly, what’s going to be inside the facility. This is going to be a world-class hockey development facility, and our program will be able to take advantage of all those facets. From the strength and conditioning to the development of a hockey program, it’s going to be an extension of what our staff currently does right now in making it as good as it can be. The better athletes we recruit, the better our teams will be. That’s what it comes down to.”
Canisius is coming off the best season in school history, advancing to the NCAA tournament after capturing the Atlantic Hockey Association conference championship. They finished the year ranked 19th in the final USCHO.com national poll with a record of 19-19-5.
Head coach Dave Smith says he can already see the immediate rewards of the partnership with HARBORcenter, even though his team is still a year away from moving in.
“We’re the only college team to the best of my knowledge that is partnering with an NHL club. So while the on-campus rink is what some people have, I don’t know that this might not be better,” explained Smith following Tuesday’s press conference at First Niagara Center. “Recruits drive by here to go to every campus east of us as they’re coming from Ontario, so they’re going to see our rink. There are so many side effects from the obvious that we’re going to continue to push and realize those every day. We’re strategizing just as a hockey program as to how we can benefit from all the resources that are going to be down here. It’s limitless right now.”
Giving the players a place they can actually call home is very important to Smith and his coaching staff. But it’s also a crucial part of the recruiting process, and the HARBORcenter gives Smith a chip that he hasn’t been able to play before when extolling the virtues of the Canisius experience.
“Recruiting is an interesting animal. We’ve seen a change in the players we’ve been able to recruit, the profile guys. I guess you look at the competition you’ve been recruiting against and that has changed,” said Smith. “Now, being able to publically announce and have this in the news, rather than just telling them this is going to happen – I know it’s going to change recruiting again. Players want facilities, players want experience. They have everything now at Canisius, to go along with a great education. The city is growing, it’s a hockey community. I’m going to keep looking at the players we get and know that the talent pool has been altered significantly.”