As quickly as the bricks and mortar go up at the downtown HarborCenter, so, too, do the partnerships between the Buffalo Sabres and other area organizations.
The perennially competitive Erie Community College Kats ice hockey program – the 2011 National Champion of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association – will join Division I Canisius College in calling HarborCenter its home rink when the facility opens this fall, the team announced Tuesday.
“Quality partnerships are built on strong relationships,” said John R. Koelmel, HarborCenter president, in welcoming ECC President Jack F. Quinn Jr. along with ECC officials and members of the Kats hockey team. “Welcoming the ECC Kats hockey program further affirms our commitment to hockey development.”
Quinn said the partnership between the college and the Sabres is likely just the first of many opportunities he expects to emerge for the community college’s 103 degree certificate programs as the team expands its presence at the foot of Main Street. Other possibilities include culinary programs and law enforcement or security training.
“It starts with you today; it starts with the men’s hockey team,” Quinn said, pointing out that the arrangement should also enhance ECC’s networking with other colleges in the area. “We sure do have a lot of connections already with our four-year partners here in Western New York on academic levels, but are really happy to be here with Canisius College here in this facility, as well.”
ECC hockey coach Gary Rost, flanked by sweater-clad Kats players Dalton Kruger, Cody Dynarski, David Nowak and Bradley Jones, joked with his players that while it won’t change the time of their practices – 7 a.m. – opportunities for increased exposure for the program and their abilities will be enhanced dramatically.
“I’ve already heard the buzz that’s happening in the hockey community around Western New York,” said ECC athletic director Peter Jerebko.
“People are excited about it, and I know our kids are excited about it.”
Tuesday’s event was the latest in a series of off-ice developments that HarborCenter and the Sabres have announced in association with the development of the new hockey-themed facility adjoining First Niagara Center.
“It is our goal to improve hockey at all levels,” Koelmel said.
“With the help of our state-of-the-art facilities, ECC will be able to offer its student-athletes a high-level opportunity that far exceeds a typical junior collegiate hockey program.”
Last week, HarborCenter officials and Tim Hortons announced a partnership to develop a “one-of-a-kind” cafe and bake shop themed around its namesake, the late Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton, who played for the Sabres in the team’s early years.
The center, which is scheduled to open in the fall, also will include a pair of National Hockey League-size ice surfaces, the Academy of Hockey, IMPACT Sports Performance training facility, (716) Food and Sport restaurant and a 750-space parking ramp.
A 205-room, Marriott Hotel also will be developed in the complex with an expected opening date next spring.