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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
A community with a love of sports and a family with ice in their veins combined to create an upcoming pond hockey tournament.

William Ernst was watching softball at The Dugout/Toni Pepperoni on Transit Road, impressed with what he saw from Jeffrey Lowery and Ryan Maefs - the young entrepreneurs who run The Dugout.

"I asked them the question, since there was considerable property there and the theme of their place is a sports bar and restaurant, if I could hold a pond hockey tournament there," Ernst said.

"I brought up the idea to my friend Jim Quinnones back in early October 2013," Ernst said. "He also had thought about doing something of this nature. I also contacted other friends, Mike Licata and Nick Southard to help out in any way they could to make this tournament happen."

For Ernst, it was more than just wanting something to do in the winter. Hockey is in his blood and the inspiration came, in part, from his father, Quentin Ernst.

"(He) was one of the original people to install the boards in the Kenan Center which are still up today," he said. "He also was the original Lockport High School hockey coach. I was thinking of him while coming up with this idea."

With a team of eager organizers in place and a willing host agreeable to the cause, the pond hockey tournament was set in motion.

The "First Annual" Pond Hockey Tournament will be held at The Dugout (formerly Jimmy B's), 6856 South Transit Road on Feb. 8 and 9. It is expected that 24 three-person teams will participate in the event. Registration is still ongoing.

The tournament was originally set for Saturday and Sunday, but they moved the date back to Feb. 8 and 9 so as not to compete with the Tim Horton Backyard Classic, a 75-team charity tournament taking place this weekend.

Depending on the number of teams that register, one to three rinks will be constructed. One of which is already built in the rear of the complex but will moved to the baseball diamond.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Salvation Army, Niagara Hospice, the SPCA of Niagara and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Those who attend are also asked to bring a jar of peanut butter or jelly for the PB&J Drive.

"The charities were decided while being with my friends Mike and Nancy Licata," Ernst said. "I felt the Salvation Army gives back one of the highest amount of their donations to the needy. Nancy being a dog lover suggested the SPCA of Niagara. We felt Make-A-Wish of Western New York and Niagara Hospice would also be good candidates, trying to keep the donations in the area."

Organizers are still soliciting baskets for the basket raffle on Feb. 7. They have received a few already with the promise of others.

For more details, email or visit the tournament's Facebook page.

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