Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

USA Hockey bringing two world championships to Buffalo's HarborCenter in 2015

By John Vogl

HarborCenter, designed to be a magnet for hockey tournaments and tourists, is already doing its job despite being months away from completion.

The Buffalo Sabres’ two-rink complex will host a pair of world championships in 2015, USA Hockey announced today. The women’s under-18 world championship will be held Jan. 4-12, and the sled hockey world championship will follow April 24 to May 2. Both tournaments will feature eight teams from around the globe.

“We’re going to christen our first year of operations at HarborCenter with not one but two world championships,” John Koelmel, president of HarborCenter, said during a news conference in First Niagara Center. “We’re creating a unique destination for the game of hockey. To shine the world’s spotlight on Buffalo and Western New York twice in four months in such a high-impact fashion is what we’re all about.”

Koelmel said the organization has not yet conducted economic impact studies, but he expects the influx of money into the area to be “meaningful.”

“You’re looking at three-plus weeks of activity, 16 teams in total – players, coaches, entourage, their fans,” Koelmel said. “We’re excited about the impact it’s going to provide.”

The women’s tournament, conducted by the International Ice Hockey Federation, will be contested for the eighth time. The annual tournament was held this year in Budapest, Hungary. The United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Japan and Switzerland will compete for gold.

“We had nine players on our Olympic roster this time around who have played in the under-18 world championships, so it makes a big impact,” said Reagan Carey, USA Hockey’s director of women’s hockey. “It gives exposure not only to our U.S. athletes, but internationally it grows the game significantly.”

The sled hockey tournament, run by the International Paralympic Committee, will also be held for the eighth time. It’s coming to Buffalo and the United States because the original host country recently withdrew.

“Given what we expected would be a warm reception from the Sabres and the HarborCenter and this city, and the fact that we were coming off the exhilaration of a second consecutive Paralympic Games gold medal, we said, ‘Let’s do it in America,’” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “It’s fun being back in Buffalo with greater and greater frequency, and the reason we do that is because of the faith and trust we have with the people involved with the Buffalo Sabres and the HarborCenter. This is a great, great hockey market.”

Western New York natives Adam Page and Paul Schaus earned gold medals this year at the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The other nations competing at the worlds will be Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, Italy, Germany and Japan. USA Hockey will hold a tryout camp in July in Northtown Center at Amherst.

“We’re overwhelmed with the number of people that want to try this sport now,” said U.S. coach Jeff Sauer. “It’s just blossomed into an amazing selling point for us in terms of the disabled community and getting an opportunity to play.”

The dual announcement strengthened the bond between the Sabres and USA Hockey. The sides came together in 2011 with the world junior championship, and Buffalo will host the All-American Prospects Game during the next two years. USA Hockey will begin accepting bids for the 2018 world juniors early next year.

“We’re champing at the bit to have conversations about that,” Sabres President Ted Black said.

The U.S. entourage took a tour of HarborCenter prior to the news conference. The group was impressed by the construction progress at the facility, including the arched wooden ceiling that is being built over the feature rink. HarborCenter is expected to open in October.

“Buffalo is a world-class city, and we thank USA Hockey for bringing two world championships to HaborCenter and the city of Buffalo,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “When these world championships are in our community, we will certainly roll out that legendary Buffalo and Western New York hospitality to the athletes, their families, their fans and the many who will be in Buffalo from all across the world.”

With preseason home opener Thursday, some traffic tips during HarborCenter construction

View of HarborCenter construction taken last week. (Twitter feed of News Sports Reporter John Vogl -- @Buffnewsvogl)

By Mike Harrington

With the Sabres' exhibition opener set for Thursday night against Carolina in First Niagara Center and another preseason home game slated for Saturday against Toronto, the team has issued a traffic advisory today to remind fans about the impact of construction of the HarborCenter facility at the arena's front door.

(*If you haven't been downtown since the end of last season, you will be astonished at the size of the two cranes doing the construction and at the progress of the building at a relatively early stage of the project).

All normal event parking – in both the arena ramp and the surrounding surface lots – will remain open for all games this season but you're going to need to plan ahead and give yourself more time to get to and from the arena.

The biggest issue is you will no longer be able to head southbound toward the arena on Washington Street to get to Perry Street to access the arena ramp and surface lots. All traffic is now one lane northbound (away from the arena) on Washington and one lane southbound (toward the arena) on Main. The preferred route to head toward the arena is now Michigan Avenue, with a right turn on to Perry to the parking areas.

My advice: Get there early. If you think you're showing up 15 minutes before faceoff, you're not. You're going to be sitting in traffic. 

There are regularly temporary road closures around the construction site but the Sabres say those will not take place during arena events. Buffalo Police will direct traffic at the key intersections near the arena.

Prior to Saturday night's game against the Leafs, Sabres players will walk the Blue & Gold carpet beginning at 4:30 in Alumni Plaza. Brian Duff and Danny Gare will emcee the festivities.

John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |