Share this article

print logo

It's about more than hockey ; Fans in town for World Juniors venture out to discover what else Buffalo Niagara offers

After the excitement of Sunday's tripleheader start to the World Junior Hockey Championship downtown, fans and visitors had most of Monday to recharge and find something else to do here.

For a lot of them, this meant shopping, finding somewhere to eat and stopping by Hockey Towne USA FanFest to shoot pucks and get autographs from former Buffalo Sabres stars.

This international tournament is giving the region a chance to shine, and hospitality officials hope that all of the out-of-town guests leave with a good impression of Buffalo Niagara.

"We want them to go back and say what a great town Buffalo is, and you ought to go," said Jay Dellavecchia, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

Many visitors are just coming over the border from Canada for one game and won't stay much longer than it takes to grab a quick beer or bite to eat at a tavern near HSBC Arena.

But the teams, their families and the die-hard fans who bought tickets for the full tourney may venture farther afield because they have more time to fill between games.

"We're going to try to find Pano's. [A local] recommended that," Ken Schroeder, who lives outside Cleveland, said as he waited for his grandson to get a chair massage at FanFest. "And -- not the Anchor Inn -- the Anchor Bar. He said it can be crowded, but it's worth going for the wings."

Tourism officials view the World Junior Hockey Championship as a great chance to show off Western New York and Southern Ontario. They are encouraging these hockey fans to visit the city's museum district, Elmwood Avenue boutiques and off-the-beaten path restaurants such as Founding Fathers.

"This has been a great event that can act as a catalyst for year-round tourism," said Arlene White, the Binational Economic & Tourism Alliance's executive director and a member of the host organizing committee.

Sunday's opening-day schedule featured four games played over the course of the day -- three at HSBC Arena and one at Dwyer Arena on the Niagara University campus in Lewiston. But Monday's schedule was open until a pair of games with 7 p.m. starts at the two arenas.

"I think everybody's sleeping in a little bit late today," said Jim Burke, general manager of Adam's Mark Hotel, which is hosting four tournament teams.

Shannon Spike and her father, Robert, were looking over the menu at the Hyatt Regency's restaurant Monday afternoon. A large Spike family contingent from Ontario arrived in Buffalo on Monday to watch some hockey while Shannon's brother, Scott, works as a tourney volunteer.

What did they do first?

"Shopping at the Galleria mall," Shannon Spike said.

"I bought new boots. My wife bought new boots. My wife bought a coat. My daughter-in-law bought a coat," Robert Spike said.

He hopes to visit a few venues during his stay that didn't win popular approval Monday.

"I wanted to go to the Science Museum, but no one wanted to go with me," Robert Spike said.

The organizers of World Towne USA FanFest, held for four days in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, wanted to offer attendees something special for their visit.

The attraction features a wide range of vendors, opportunities to test your slap shot and putting skills and a small skating rink with a synthetic ice surface.

"We said, 'The world is coming to Buffalo, and we're throwing a party,' " said Frank Calieri, FanFest's executive producer.

On a Monday afternoon visit to FanFest, most visitors appeared to be from this area, judging by their Sabres jerseys and other clothing.

A bubble hockey tournament was in full bloom, and the Sabres' fabled French Connection line from the 1970s -- Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert -- was signing autographs.

Deanna Schneider, a nurse who lives in Queens but grew up in Amherst, was taking pictures of her brother-in-law's bubble hockey team before they bowed out in the first round.

Schneider, who has tickets to all of the games in the tournament, said she was glad about FanFest.

"I think it's nice people can see a varity of different things that Buffalo has to offer," Schneider said. FanFest continues from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The Adam's Mark and the Hyatt Regency Buffalo are filled with team members, support staff and hockey fans. The Adam's Mark has an 85 percent occupancy rate -- "remarkable for this time of year," Burke said -- and 70 percent of those rooms are booked because of the tournament.

The hotel's guests have been asking what to do Saturday, when no games are scheduled, a day when some teams may visit Niagara Falls. "Our concierge has been real busy finding places to eat and things to do for them," Burke said.

The Hyatt Regency is hosting the Swiss, Finnish and American teams, along with a lot of hockey fans. The teams have a regimented schedule, but the fans are here on their holiday breaks and are enjoying their time off, said Dellavecchia, the general manager. "They're asking a lot of questions -- what to do in the city, restaurants," he said.

White, of the Binational Economic & Tourism Alliance, helped out Sunday at a tourism information table in HSBC Arena.

"They wanted to know how close or how far away things were," White said. "They were asking about New Year's Eve, because there are some people who will be here for the full 11 days of the tournament."

Peter Burakowski, a spokesman for the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, was outside HSBC Arena on Sunday talking with visiting fans.

The CVB's website has a Google map of 25 regional attractions, including the Darwin D. Martin House and the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor.

Burakowski said, "We're hoping people will circulate to those."


There are no comments - be the first to comment