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WNY children can try hockey for free; Sabres going 'Bald for Bucks'

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- USA Hockey is holding its ninth annual "Hockey Weekend Across America," with children ages 4 to 9 able to try hockey for free Saturday in Northtown Center (9:30-10:20 a.m.), North Buffalo Ice Rink (4:30-5:30 p.m.) and Cornerstone CFCU Arena in Lockport (9-10 a.m.). See TryHockeyForFree.com for more details.

As part of the weekend celebrating hockey the United States, two 17-year-old officials from Western New York will meet and shadow NHL referees and linesmen prior to the Sabres hosting Pittsburgh on Sunday. The game, which will start at 12:30 p.m., is part of NBC's tripleheader featuring six U.S.-based teams.

The Sabres' Dan Bylsma, who has coached for USA Hockey, is amazed by the growth of the organization since he began playing in Michigan.

"My son is playing amateur hockey now," Bylsma said, "and to not only see where we're playing and who we're playing but the quality of the players that we're playing from all over the United States, it's pretty amazing how far the game has grown."

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Robin Lehner, Mark Pysyk, Mike Weber and Martin Biron are in for a hair-dropping experience Saturday. The quartet of Sabres players and alumni will get their heads shaved as part of the "Bald for Bucks" program.

Jack Eichel, Zach Bogosian, Brian Gionta and Chad Johnson will do the trimming after a noon practice in First Niagara Center as children from Roswell Park Cancer Institute look on.

The players have raised more than $5,000, with donations accepted at Buffalo.BaldForBucks.org.

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