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Labatt Blue finds alternative ice for pond hockey tournament

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Buffalo: Labatt Blue finds alternative ice for pond hockey tournament
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The unseasonably warm temperatures this week melted ice on the Erie Basin Marina and along with it, the hopes of having the 6th annual Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament on Lake Erie. But as YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti reports, Labatt officials have found an alternative that doesn't involve playing on pavement.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — "We wanted to be on ice, more than anyone probably, and coming into this week, you know, the conditions were favorable. And then it was 60 degrees and it's like, you're kidding me," said Lisa Texido, associate brand manager for Labatt Blue.

And although the 96 teams playing in this year's Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament won't be hitting the ice of Lake Erie, they'll still be lacing up their skates thanks to nine man-made rinks that started going up Friday morning.

"Thankfully, with the favorable forecast coming up, it's going to be cold, it's just not going to be cold enough for ice depth that we need on Lake Erie, so this is an awesome alternative," said Texido.

While organizers say last year's street hockey tournament was well-received by players, it's just not the same as being on ice.

"Our feedback from the players has been they want to come down, they want to enjoy the event but most of all, they want to be on a frozen, ice surface. Play hockey the way it was meant to be played, so they're very excited about it," said Ed Ellis, tournament manager.

Labatt Blue is teaming up with Pace Landscaping and Ice Rinks, who will be out throughout the next week, making sure the 40 by 80 foot rinks are ready.

"Once the shells are built, we put down a six-mil polyethylene liner that holds the water in, then once that's established, we fill it up with water and let mother nature take its course," said Michael Pace, president of the company.

Pace says the rinks will range from four to 12 inches deep and it's all about a solid base.

He says that shouldn't be a problem with the upcoming forecast, even if things get a little warmer next weekend.

"The top might be a little wet but other than that, as long as the window is fairly narrow, we're going to be fine," said Pace.

As far as the cost of the rinks, Texido said finding an alternative to playing on Lake Erie is priceless.

The tournament begins at 8:30 a.m. on February 9 in the parking lot of the Erie Basin Marina and continues until about 8:30 p.m.

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