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Backyard Classic continues tradition, raises funds for Haseks Heroes

The pucks are ready to be dropped for the 2013 Backyard Classic.

BY: Kaitlin Fritz, Community Papers of WNY | December 27, 2012

Clarence Source

The rinks are set and the pucks are ready to drop for the fifth annual Tim Hortons Backyard Classic, a tournament that has become somewhat of a Western New York tradition and continues to grow each year. What began four years ago as an outdoor tournament with one rink and players from the Williamsville North varsity hockey team has turned into an entertaining fund-raising event attracting players of all ages.

“One December night, I was looking outside and thought it would be kind of cool to put together a tournament, get some guys together and maybe raise some money,” said Nick Penberthy, founder of the event. “We’ve turned it into more of a celebration of hockey. It takes players back to their roots of where they started.”

Penberthy decided to turn is backyard into an outdoor ice rink and invite some of his friends and teammates to play when he was just 15 years old. He decided to turn the tournament into a fund-raiser when he learned about the mission of Hasek’s Heroes.

“I liked the cause that it was going for,” he said.

Former Buffalo Sabre Dominik Hasek founded Hasek’s Heroes. This organization provides the opportunity for children from low to middle-income families to learn how to play hockey, a sport than can be quite costly to become involved in.

As the tournament began to grow each year, Chris Taggart, co-chair of the tournament, opened his backyard to the teams, turning it into a second location for the backyard classic.

This year, the tournament is moving to a new location, The Rose Garden, 2753 Wehrle Dr., Williamsville. Four outdoor rinks were recently constructed to accommodate up to 96 teams with 384 total players. This is a large increase from last year’s number of 24 registered teams.

“I think our move to The Rose Garden is key to involving the community more,” said Penberthy. He added that it not only adds space for more participants but also more spectators.

“It also allows for more teams and in turn, brings in more money for Hasek’s Heroes,” he added.

Last year, more than $13,000 was raised for Hasek’s Heroes. Penberthy and Taggart are hoping to raise more than $20,000 this year to donate to the organization. The proceeds from this year will be used towards building an educational resource center for Hasek’s Heroes.

The funds are raised through corporate donors, the Tim Hortons sponsorship, which began last year, other local sponsors and the registration fees from each team.

This year’s registration fee for teams with three players plus a goalie is $125. Registration will run through Dec. 30. To register, visit www.timhortonsbackyardclassic.com.

The tournament will be held throughout and weekend of Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, depending on the weather. If the temperature is not low enough for the rinks to freeze, the tournament will be postponed to a weekend in February.

In the event that the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing, the tournament will be played as a street hockey tournament, rather than on ice. Due to the mild winter weather of last year, this was how the tournament was played last winter.

Penberthy added that with the continuation of the NHL lockout, this is a great way for the community to enjoy some hockey. The public is welcome to come and watch the teams play throughout the weekend.

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