Area youth hockey enthusiasts have known for 15 years the holiday season means it's time for the Buffalo Hornets Festival of Hockey Tournament.
"This is the oldest running area Christmas hockey tournament," says Hornets organizer Peter Preteroti. "This is basically the grandfather of tournaments, running 16 years. Back in the beginning, only two groups were hosting tournaments of this type -- us (the Hornets) and the (now-defunct) Buffalo Swords. We ran a Christmas tournament and they held their showcase event at Easter.
"The first few years, the Hornets and Swords had quite a rivalry over which could outdraw the other. We had 16 teams that initial year and the Swords 20.
"Our tournament just keeps growing. About nine years ago, out-of-town teams started entering and they have been a large part of this gathering ever since.
"This year, 56 teams are entered and this will have a large economic impact on the area during its time."
Business First recently listed the area's 22 largest conventions for 1990, the top draw being last summer's Drum Corps International World Championships, which drew 35,000 and added $21,875 to the area. Second was the Hornets Coca-Cola Hockey Tournament, which drew 18,700 fans and pumped $7,700 into the Western New York economy.
The Hornets Festival of Hockey will be run in two divisions. Single A features Squirt (11 and under), Pee Wee (13-under), Bantam and Bantam Minor (both 15-under)). They will play Dec. 26-28.
Double A includes Mite (9-under), Squirt, Pee Wee Minor (13-under) and House League play including Squirt, Pee Wee and Mini-Mite (7-under). Competition will be Dec. 29-Jan.1.
Area teams entered include six Hornets and four Saints Hockey Club teams plus Bud Bakewell, West Seneca, Wheatfield, Grand Niagara, Buffalo Bisons, Amherst, South Buffalo and Hamburg.
There also will be four from Michigan, one from Philadelphia and a number from Canada.
Play is from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. daily, except for opening day when it begins at 10 a.m.
The Bisons held their third annual girls tournament last weekend and, for the third straight year, Stoney Creek (Ont.) won it, this time by defeating Syracuse, 4-1, in Sunday's championship game.
The Bisons won the consolation game Saturday, defeating Ithaca, 4-1, on goals by Kelvey Richards, Paige Kromke, Jamie Gabamonte and Megan Sittler.
After losing their first game to Syracuse Friday, the Bisons buried Port Dover (Ont.), 6-1, Saturday. Sittler scored twice, while Kromke, Jamie Fox, Amy Hayes and Sarah Gelman netted one goal each. Lisa Sturm and Robin Closs split the Bison goaltending.
The Wheatfield Junior B Blades dropped a 6-5 decision Friday to the undefeated Rochester Monarchs despite two goals by Norm Greene. Rob McNamara added a goal and one assist, while Rob Hale and Gary Giambrone had one goal each and Eric Diramio two assists.
Greene exploded for four goals and three assists Sunday as the Blades trounced the Rochester Junior Americans, 9-3. Kyle Wagner (two goals, one assist), Kevin Gaglione (one goal, four assists), DiRamio and Dave Kramp (one goal, three assists each) completed the scoring.
The Wheatfield Bantam Blades ended the Buffalo Bantam Regals' 32-game unbeaten streak Friday, 3-2, as J.J. Russell scored two goals and Cory Ogiba one.