There will be plenty of action on the ice and all around it this weekend when the Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament returns to Buffalo RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St.
The centerpiece of the tournament – now in its 10th year – is huge.
Nearly 1,000 novice, intermediate, advanced and elite level players will face off in 144 teams on six refrigerated rinks beginning at 1 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, for those who come to watch and cheer, there will be an array of other attractions that’s bigger than ever.
The weekend “has grown to become more than just a hockey tournament. It’s Buffalo’s premier winter party,” said Gina Heine, Labatt Blue associate brand manager.
"This year, fans can sign up for Ice Bubble Hockey, enjoy a Sunday Funday brunch complete with beermosas, and have a chance to win custom, hand-painted, Buffalo-themed hockey art," she added.
Other features include the Labatt Blue Zone, with games, entertainment and prizes; a GIF photo booth; a sled hockey exhibition game; an exhibition game pitting Buffalo police against Buffalo firefighters; deejays and live bands; and a 10th anniversary fireworks display at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Admission is free.
Tournament players will compete in 12 divisions, including one for women.
They will play in a four-on-four format, without a goalie, from 1 to 10:40 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10:40 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Teams will play at least three round-robin games on two out the three days.
The first round of finals will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday and will determine winners in seven of the divisions. The final round of finals for the other five divisions begins at 6 p.m. Sunday.
A full game schedule and other information is available at LabattBluePondHockey.com.
Labatt Blue will provide a shuttle service to take fans from Buffalo RiverWorks to the KeyBank Center and back for the Sabres games against the St. Louis Blues at 1 p.m. Saturday and against the Chicago Blackhawks at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Designated Drivers of Buffalo will offer safe rides home at no cost.