While the construction of HARBORCENTER continues at a rapid pace, the hockey programming plans for what will happen inside the state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility are finally taking shape.
HARBORCENTER President John Koelmel today made several announcements regarding hockey programming at HARBORCENTER, including the hiring of Kevyn Adams as Vice President and Director of the HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey, a premier hockey training and development program at the complex. Adams will partner with Nik Fattey, HARBORCENTER Vice President and Director of Hockey, in leading all activities and programming at the new facility.
Our goal is to make HARBORCENTER an ideal venue for hockey at all levels to converge and allow for the game to grow in a way we haven’t seen before. - John Koelmel
Also announced were plans for youth partnership and coaching development programs and the expansion of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres Youth Organization from one team to seven teams, encompassing several youth hockey age groups, to be overseen by Larry Playfair and Michael Peca.
“Hockey is obviously at the core of everything we’re doing at HARBORCENTER,” Koelmel said. “On its surface, HARBORCENTER will be a world-class hockey and entertainment destination with amenities that aren’t found in a hockey complex anywhere in the country. However, the lifeblood of the complex will be an environment built to attract, foster and showcase hockey talent at all levels. Our goal is to make HARBORCENTER an ideal venue for hockey at all levels to converge and allow for the game to grow in a way we haven’t seen before.”
The HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey will be a premier hockey training and development program that will combine both on- and off-ice programming for hockey players and coaches at all levels. The Academy, which will be overseen by Adams, will boast a full-time staff of coaches that will lead and support skill-building programs for players and coaches to provide a slate of rigorous on-ice training programs. Off-ice programming will include skill-specific lectures and public classes that will teach the fundamentals of hockey and cultivate mental skills to promote a well-balanced and exceptional hockey education.
“Developing as a hockey player never stops, no matter what level you’re playing at,” Adams said. “The HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey will be a tremendous experience for players and coaches — from the youth level all the way up to the professional ranks — to come together and continue to grow as a hockey player, both physically and mentally. I’m excited to bring the things I’ve learned as a player and coach in the NHL to HARBORCENTER as well as implementing new and innovative concepts to enhance participant development.”
Adams, a Clarence, N.Y. native, comes to HARBORCENTER from the Buffalo Sabres coaching staff, where he spent the last two years as an assistant coach with the team. Prior to that, Adams worked for two years as the Sabres’ player development coach, working with players on their individual skills through on-ice drills and off-ice video sessions. His coaching experience stems from a 10-year playing career in the NHL, during which he played for six clubs including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks. Originally drafted 25th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Adams helped lead the Hurricanes to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2005-06.
An inventive aspect of HARBORCENTER’s hockey programming will be the youth partnership and coaching development programs, which will make HARBORCENTER’s extensive hockey education tools available to hockey teams throughout the region.
“These partnership and development programs will be an invaluable resource for hockey teams, players and coaches that want to significantly improve the quality of their organizations,” Fattey said. “Programs like these aren’t available anywhere in the country right now. Making these resources available to youth organizations in this area will be a major step in pushing hockey programs in Buffalo to that next level, where they’ll be competing with the best of the best across the U.S. and Canada.”
The coaching development program, within the HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey, will expand the opportunities for locally connected coaches to learn the tools that are needed in the industry on and off the ice, including familiarity with hockey technology, skill development, off-ice training, scouting and program management. While supporting all of the programs offered throughout the year at HARBORCENTER, the on-staff coaches will also be furthering their own professional development and opportunities.
The Buffalo Junior Sabres Youth Organization, which will call HARBORCENTER home, will also be undergoing changes as part of the announced hockey programming. The Junior “A” team, which currently plays in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, will practice and play at HARBORCENTER, have a dedicated locker facility and otherwise benefit from full access to the facility.
In addition, the Youth Organization will be expanding to include a total of seven teams across multiple age groups. In addition to the Junior A level team, the Junior Sabres umbrella will include two teams (minor/major) at the Pee Wee level, two teams (minor/major) at the Bantam level and teams at the 16U and 18U levels. The organization will be overseen by Playfair, president of the Buffalo Junior Sabres, and Peca, the general manager and head coach of the Junior A team.
“Expanding to seven teams under the Buffalo Junior Sabres moniker is a sign that youth hockey continues to prosper in Western New York,” Playfair said. “It speaks to the ever-growing crop of very talented young hockey players in this area and the commitment this region shows to the sport.”
Since 1975, the Buffalo Junior Sabres franchise has offered Western New York’s elite hockey players a setting to hone their skills while providing a pathway to further their hockey careers at the collegiate and professional levels. By educating and guiding young hockey players, the Buffalo Junior Sabres have launched the careers of several NHL players including Adams, Brian Gionta and Ryan Callahan. Proudly owned by the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association, the Buffalo Junior Sabres remain committed to its foundation of educating and developing young hockey talent in Western New York and Southern Ontario.
“The mission going forward is to make the Buffalo Junior Sabres the best developmental organization in the United States,” Peca said. “Our new home at HARBORCENTER will only accelerate this growth even more and hockey continues to have a bright future here.”