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Canisius-Sabres partnership to bring Griffs’ games to HarborCenter

The worst-kept secret in Buffalo sports officially went public this morning.

Canisius College and the Buffalo Sabres announced a partnership that will have the Golden Griffins hockey team playing in downtown HarborCenter for the 2014-15 season.

Canisius becomes the first tenant of the multipurpose hockey and entertainment complex currently under construction across the street from First Niagara Center. Neither side gave details of the agreement other than to say it was a multi-year deal.

The Griffs, who won their first Atlantic Hockey championship and made their first NCAA appearance, will continue to play their home games at the Buffalo State Ice Arena this season.

But when next season rolls around the Griffs will have something they’ve lacked for decades - a rink to truly call home.

“We’re the only college team to the best of my knowledge that is partnering with an NHL club,” Canisius coach Dave Smiths said. “So while an on-campus rink is what some people have, I don’t know that this might not be better - to utilize the resources of the Buffalo Sabres, the City of Buffalo, Canalside. Recruits drive by here to go to every campus east of us if they’re coming from Ontario. So they’re going to see our rink. There’s just so many side affects from the obvious that we’re going to continue to push and realize those every day.

“We’re strategizing just as a hockey program how can we benefit from all of the resources that are going to be down here. It’s limitless right now.”

HarborCenter, which is scheduled to open in September 2014, will have two NHL-size rinks including a 1,800-seat arena that will serve as the Griffs home ice. Canisius will also a dedicated locker room, and access to the building’s Center of Excellence, a high-performance training facility.

The ice rink will feature the Canisius College logo and team and Atlantic Hockey conference banners will be hung in the building.

“We knew that HarborCenter would quickly become a magnet for major hockey programs in this area,” said John Koelmel, president of HarborCenter. “It is our intention to make HarborCenter a hockey destination and an anchor of hockey development in this region. We are excited to partner with Canisius College and, with the resources HarborCenter will make available, to further enable the development of their hockey program and to strengthen collegiate hockey in this region.”