Hockey tournament will bring thousands of players to Canalside, raise money for local kids

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A major outdoor hockey tournament will take over Canalside this weekend. The 12th annual Backyard Classic will bring thousands of players downtown and raise money for local kids.

“It brings hockey back to it’s roots,” Chris Taggart said, the tournament director. “Hockey started outdoors and nothing beats backyard hockey outdoors in Buffalo’s backyard, here at Canalside. It doesn’t get any better.”

The Backyard Classic started just as it sounds: on a rink built in an Amherst backyard. It originally raised money for Hasek’s Heroes.

For the past four years, it’s been held at Canalside. And this year, proceeds from the event, which includes team registration fees, will go to Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“The children in need in WNY are very important to everybody,” Taggart said. “And having kids myself, I thought it was a great partnership and very worthy cause.”

“We want to provide the absolute best care that the kids in this area need,” Cassie Church said, the chief nursing officer at the hospital.

Church said 7 out of 10 kids who go to Oishei can’t afford the care they need. Taggart hopes to raise $25,000 for the hospital. Over the past 12 years, the event has raised nearly $200,000 for local charities.

There are 90 teams that will take over the ice this weekend. The ice will be divided into nine different hockey rinks. Kids 6 and under will be there, along with adults in the over-30 age group.

“It’s a cool atmosphere, because you get all these guys, some of them new, some of them experienced, and they’re just coming out to have fun and hopefully win,” Gavin Ryan said, a participant.

“Hockey is a very powerful thing in Buffalo, and people are willing to come together to play the game for a great cause.”

The Backyard Classic starts Friday night with a skills competition from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The games get going at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The hockey will continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

It’s free to go down and watch.

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