Hockey Day in Lockport kicks off NA3EHL Showcase
January 16, 2015
A dozen speakers, each with the own unique perspective on hockey in general — and the new Cornerstone CFCU Arena in particular — offered their insights this afternoon as a kickoff to the 2K15 Junior A Showcase Tournament.
From hockey experts to community leaders, speaker after speaker mentioned the positive economic impact of the new arena and their excitement about having hockey grow in Western New York.
Christa Caldwell of the Grigg-Lewis Foundation noted that the foundation wrote its first check in support of the arena project seven years ago this month. She said the foundation had never given that much money previously but saw the importance of the project.
Mayor Anne McCaffrey said, “this is an achievement that many people had a part in,” noting the various sources of funding to build the $15 million arena, including Grigg-Lewis and Cornerstone CFCU. "We couldn’t ask for a better partner," the mayor said of the credit union.
It has McCaffrey very encouraged. "We hope it will continue to spur further development," she told WKBW-TV. "We think we'll continue to see a lot more people coming to this city for these tournaments. And the restaurants and the hotels, we expect to be packed."
The tournament schedule calls for 15 games over a three-day period. It's considered the biggest hockey tournament to hit the city of Lockport in decades and organizers are hoping to showcase the area.
"In summertime, we have the Flight of Five, the locks, canal tours and raceway tours. In winter, this is a game changer," said arena president John Ottaviano.
State Sen. Rob Ortt, who dreamed of playing in the NHL when he was young, had trouble holding in his enthusiasm for the project. In his first official visit to Lockport as state Senator, he discussed the importance of state money in the project.
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin said she’s been going to Erie, PA for 13 years as a hockey mom and expects that Lockport will see a positive economic impact from the arena. The pair then presented a proclamation offering their support of the arena.
Deputy County Historian — and ENP contributor — Craig Bacon presented a proclamation from the Niagara County Legislature in support of the project, as well.
McCaffrey said the arena is "truly transformational" and noted that her son, who had wanted to play hockey in his youth, ended up choosing basketball. If there was an ice arena at the time, he may have chosen different.
Lockport Express Head Coach beamed while discussing the arena and how excited he is to coach in it. “We can not be more proud to call it exactly that — home. This is the perfect place for our inaugural season and we look forward to playing hockey here for many years to come.”
Vecchio noted that the Express leads the league in fan attendance and hopes to see those numbers go up even more this weekend. “We hope to see you at the rink this weekend and the days and weeks ahead.”
NA3EHL Commissioner Wayne Sheehan called the new arena "a flagship facility for our league."
The final speaker of the conference was HARBORCENTER President John Koelmel, who said the Lockport community is making it clear that the city is place to hold tournaments, "giving Lockport the ability to stand a little bit taller."
He called Lockport "an important piece of the hockey puzzle" in Western New York. “Buffalo and Western New York are once again talking proud and all of you are one more reason for that.”