Labatt Blue Wingman Tournament brings a new twist

Unfortunately the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament has encountered a few bumps in the road the last few years. Warm weather wiped the tournament in 2012 and the 2013 version was severely limited due to a host of twists thanks to Mother Nature.

Organizers have been putting their heads together and have cooked up what appears to be a “plan B” or “plan C” for the winter staple. Synthetic ice.

Eight teams will participate in a two-on-two tournament on a small, synthetic surface in the middle of the annual Wing Festival at Coca-Cola Field. The heat on August 31 isn’t going to be an issue as the synthetic surface appears to be immune to everything from sun to snow. I can only assume that synthetic surfaces will be kept on hand come winter time in the event that the weather doesn’t cooperate yet again.

I, for one, have never skated on a synthetic surface but I have to imagine there are some specific differences between that and traditional ice. What will be interesting to see is how the participants react to the playing surface as there seems to be a pretty good chance that the Basin Marina or man-made rinks are replaced by this in February.

Credit is due to those who realized the possibilities of this type of product. Given that the idea behind the tournament is to use the frozen Marina – despite weather constraints – a viable plan B will be needed on a yearly basis. Since ice will be tough to maintain on a man-made rink in the same weather that keeps the Marina from freezing, a non-ice based surface is what would be needed. It would appear that this is the best option until the canals are completed down at Canalside (although it would seem a new Peace Bridge may come sooner).

As someone who has signed up for pond hockey the last three years, it has been disappointing to see weather alter the event so badly. It is a great deal of fun and makes for an awesome setting when the stars align. If synthetic ice is the way to keep this moving forward until the refrigerated canals are ready, then so be it.

Hopefully the surface gets strong reviews on the 31 and the yearly tournament goes off without a hitch no matter how mild of a winter Buffalo has in 2013-14.