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New rink suffers winter blues

It’s Buffalo.

That seemed to be the overwhelmingly popular explanation for why one of the nation’s snowiest cities had to close its newest winter attraction because of – of all things – warm weather.

The five-day closing, which came less than a week after the venue’s grand opening, made the Ice at Canalside the latest punch line in a cruel sort of joke about a city typically mocked for its blustery – and often unpredictable – weather.

“It’s Buffalo. What do you expect?” said Don Puchalski of North Buffalo.

The warm weather that prompted the closing was a far cry from just last month, when area residents had to dig out from two epic storms that buried the region in snow.

The contrast set off a frenzy on social media, which buzzed with barbs and a few seemingly smug jabs from other skating venues that opened this winter with significantly less fanfare.

“Another wonderful day at RiverWorks,” read one post on the Buffalo RiverWorks Facebook page on Saturday, one of a flurry of posts reminding skaters they were open. “Two full sheets of perfect ice loaded with lots of happy curlers and skaters. All are having fun on the Buffalo River.”

But even that complex has its own history of weather woes, with warm temperatures several years in a row keeping the ice from freezing enough to play hockey.

Those behind the Ice at Canalside commended the public for its patience as the rink navigates a few growing pains.

“People have been patient and understanding of the fact it’s new,” said Sam Hoyt, who leads the Erie Canal Harbor board. “We’ve had a few bumps in the road, which we believe we can iron out.”

And the brief closing didn’t dampen enthusiasm among Buffalonians, dozens of whom flocked to the rink Sunday well before operators announced the ice would reopen.

The Acker family figured they had all day to see what the weather might bring, but at noon, 5-year-old Cullen remained a skeptic.

“The ice isn’t really ice,” said Cullen, a soundtrack of seasonal tunes playing from the speakers around him.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

“We’re riding in a wonderland of snow.”

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight.”

Hmm. Not so much.

But as the adage about Buffalo weather goes, if you don’t like it, just wait a minute.

There was already a line of people waiting to get in before the rink reopened at 2:30. Within a half hour, the crowd matched that of the venue’s opening weekend, with the ice already showing wear and tear from skaters.

Go figure.

“We came yesterday and it was a swamp,” said Jamestown native Peter Pawlak, whose family stayed determined to get on the ice this weekend.

“It’s amazing,” he added after he and his family had a chance to go for a spin. “There’s so much going on down here now.”