Buzz In The Burbs


Walking through the front doors of the Northtown Center in Amherst, N.Y., it's hard to believe the facility is 20 years old. From the lobby adorned with glass trophy cases to the cozy Skybox Grille overlooking the main rink to the well-groomed grounds surrounding the four-sheet facility, it's a testament to a community's passion for all things hockey. 

If these walls could talk they would recall some of the epic battles waged during many years of hosting district and state playoffs and USA Hockey National Championship events. They would also brag about the many talented players who have used their time in the Buffalo suburbs as a launching pad to future stardom at the collegiate and NHL levels.

For more than a decade, USA Hockey has been proud to call western New York its summer home. And for the past five years this facility located a stone's throw from the University of Buffalo campus has played host to USA Hockey's Player Development Camps, in addition to the annual Sled Hockey camp. 

Girls' player development camps are held at the National Hockey Center on the campus of St. Cloud University in Minnesota and the Harold Alfond Forum in Biddeford, Maine.

The Buffalo suburbs have many things going for it, from its central location to great facilities to dedicated volunteers who have long been involved in youth hockey at the local, state and national level.

"There's also some good hockey people running the rink and excellent facilities close by," said Kevin McLaughlin, senior director of hockey development for USA Hockey.

"And perhaps most important, eight of our 13 Districts are within a five-hour drive of Amherst."

The close proximity to so many major hockey markets not only helps the parents and players, but it's a convenient location for the majority of collegiate, junior and prep school coaches who either volunteer to work one of the three weeklong camps or come to scout some of the players.

"If they want to stop in to scout some of the best young talent in the country it's a pretty easy drive for them to do so," McLaughlin said.

These annual Player Developmental Camps play an important role in the overall player development system by providing many of the United States best young hockey players with concentrated on- and off-ice training and coaching, as well as the opportunity to compete against their peers.

For Eric Guzdek and his staff at the Northtown Center, the familiarity that comes with annually hosting these camps and other USA Hockey events has created lifelong friendships that help to serve the local hockey community.

"We've had a very good run and we've met a lot of great people along the way," said the facility's general manager who also sits on the Events & Marketing Committee for the U.S. Ice Rink Association.

"Over the years, we've hosted so many events and worked so closely with the people from USA Hockey that we feel like we're an extension of the national office in Colorado." 




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