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Pepsi Center to face review Incident in Amherst triggers response

Amherst Pepsi Center procedures will be reviewed by town recreation officials in the wake of Friday's incident involving a Lockport father accused of dragging a 10-year-old boy off the ice during an open hockey skills session.

Members of the Amherst Recreation Commission met Tuesday in the Pepsi Center but discussed the matter only briefly, saying they intended to question the center's management about whether any action was warranted in response to the incident.

"We'd like to review it to make sure we're doing things that are safe for everyone using the facility," said Patrick Rimar, chairman of the commission. "We want to make sure there's nothing further we should do."

The incident occurred at about 10 a.m. Friday during an open hockey skills session, when a 10-year-old Grand Island boy was apparently shooting pucks at 38-year-old Charles M. Schmidl of Lockport and his 5-year-old son.

Schmidl says he asked the boy to stop but the boy did not and then swore at him and taunted him. After he said he was unable to find anyone inside the Pepsi Center to assist him, he dragged the 10-year-old off the ice.

Police were called, and Schmidl was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment. Both parties were asked to leave the facility and not return.

Rimar said the town cannot disprove Schmidl's assertion that he was unable to find any Pepsi Center employee to assist him. He did say, however, the incident occurred just yards from the center's guest relations booth and the facility was heavily staffed at the time -- including by at least one supervisor -- because it was hosting practice sessions of the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders.

"We have been running hockey skill sessions for 43 years. This is the first incident in 43 years," Rimar said. "We are going to review our procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again for another 100 years."

The committee agreed to host Eric Guzdek, the town's assistant recreation director and the general manager of the Pepsi Center, at its next scheduled meeting May 8 to learn what, if any, adjustments should be made to procedures at the Pepsi Center. That is the same day Schmidl is scheduled to appear in Amherst Town Court.

Rimar said the facility hosts 1.4 million visitors each year without incident. Friday was only the second time in Rimar's memory that police were called to the center for a criminal incident.

Although town officials won't summarily dismiss suggestions that hockey skills sessions should be staffed by facility personnel, Rimar said he doesn't think it's necessary.

"I don't know of any facility in the United States that staffs hockey skills sessions," he said. "As always, the town is open to any written suggestions for making our procedures better."


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