Happy Hockey Day in America!
blog by Ben Kirst • February 17, 2013 @ 12:07pm
Today is Hockey Day in America, the grand finale to the National Hockey League and USA Hockey’s Hockey Weekend Across America—a celebration of the sport throughout our sprawling nation and an opportunity to educate the uninitiated on the greatness of the game. The theme for today is Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes, so let’s take a look at some of the major ways in which Western New York is making an impact on hockey in the United States.
- The Buffalo Sabres are our city’s foremost hockey ambassadors, of course, and the team will kick off the nine hours of televised puck slated for Hockey Day in America with a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 12:30 p.m. from the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo that will be shown on NBC. The Sabres are led by red-hot winger Thomas Vanek, whose 11 goals and 23 points are tops in the NHL. Buffalo’s gameday lineup will include eight Americans, including former Olympian and Michigan native Ryan Miller.
- The Sabres have two Western New Yorkers in their lineup today—winger Patrick Kaleta hails from nearby Angola and forward Marcus Foligno was born in the Queen City (although he grew up in Sudbury, Ontario). Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was raised in Amherst and attended the Nichols School in North Buffalo. And, while we’re at it, Buffalo defenseman Jordan Leopold was born in Pittsburgh.
- Vanek and Penguins defenseman Paul Martin were teammates on the 2002-03 NCAA ice hockey championship-winning Minnesota squad. They iced that title at the First Niagara Center (then called HSBC Arena), as Buffalo played host to the Frozen Four that season.
- South Buffalo native Patrick Kane—whose Chicago Blackhawks will play the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the 3:30 p.m. game today on NBC—is currently third in the NHL in points with 21. Another one-time Western New Yorker, four-year Canisius College product Cory Conacher, has 13 points for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season and is considered a top candidate for the league’s Calder Trophy, given annually to the top rookie.
- The Niagara men’s hockey team have an 19-6-5 record, sealed up the Atlantic Hockey Association title this weekend and are currently ranked 15th nationally in the latest USCHO.com poll. Forwards Michael Benedict (Eden) and Sam Alfieri (Buffalo), defenseman Kevin Ryan (Eden) and goaltender Chris Paulin (Lockport) are all Western New Yorkers.
Happy Hockey Day in America, everyone!
Photo from mediabistro.com.