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Hockey Tournament Goes Ahead Despite Lack of Ice
February 12, 2012

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How to play ice hockey without the ice? That's the question being answered in normally frozen Buffalo, N.Y., where the absence of ice on Lake Erie has forced a group of hundreds of amateur hockey players to take their tournament games onto the pavement.

In its fifth year, the annual Labatt Blue Pond tournament normally boasts up to 1,000 players on 124 teams from both Canada and the United States. Because of the lack of ice, the numbers were considerably smaller this year, with participants topping out at 450 players on 60 teams. The equipment was a bit different as well, as the players wore shoes without skates and wielded sticks designed to strike a ball, not a puck.

Organizers have set up eight "rinks" in three large parking lots in downtown Buffalo. To keep the faithful happy and not missing the ice too much, organizers trucked in a big-screen TV and showed professional (ice) hockey games.

This time of year, the ice is normally a foot thick on the Erie Basin Marina. But this winter, Buffalo has been hit with just 2 feet of snow, only a third of the usual amount for this time in the year, and temperatures averaging 8 degrees above normal. During the weekend, temperatures in the Erie Basin hovered at 36 degrees, 4 degrees above freezing.

The unseasonably mild weather also played havoc with a winter sports festival, during which organizers had to bring in snowmaking machines to provide for enough material for a snowboarding competition.


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