2ITB Buffalo Rink Rankings

You don’t need to drive far in Western New York to find a hockey rink. Nearly every large municipality has one and those that don’t are neighbored by at least one or two. As a city with such a rich hockey history there are a number of new and old rinks around Greater Buffalo.

In an attempt to provide insight on all of Buffalo’s rinks, we took it upon ourselves to create the Buffalo Rink Rankings. The below list was compiled using a set of categories to help evaluate and score each rink. The scores were compiled using the feedback of a number of hockey players from around WNY, in an attempt to eliminate any bias that may exist. Each category is scored on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest. There are two groups of rankings, one set that focuses on the hockey-specific aspect of each facility (rink quality, locker rooms etc.) and another that focuses on amenities (pro shop, snack bar etc.). These all add up to provide and overall score for each facility, which was a primary factor in the final rankings.

The overall score wasn’t the only factor considered when factoring the final rankings (we’re kind of like the BCS) as some rinks scored higher thanks to certain amenities or outside factors. So in some cases a rink that scored lower still slotted in above higher scoring rinks as we tried to keep the primary focus on the hockey side of things while also giving credit to rinks, like Riverworks, which boast really cool features that don’t directly correlate to the hockey side of things.

So, without further adieu, here are the 2ITB Buffalo Rink Rankings:

1. Harborcenter
Ice/Rink Quality – 9/10
Locker rooms – 9/10
Showers – 7/10
Location – 9/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 7/10
Food Options – 7/10
Nearby Attractions – 10/10

Report Card Score: 58

The premier rink facility in Buffalo has everything you need. It’s pretty much brand, spanking new and boasts covered parking, an attached restaurant and hotel. It’s tailor made for tournaments and beer leagues alike thanks to 716 and the Marriott.

However, there are two small drawbacks at HarborCenter. First, the showers in the locker room are tight and could’ve used a bit more space. Second, the walls on either end of the main rink nearly hang over the surface, which is inconvenient. That second point was obviously an after effect of fitting this massive facility on a relatively small footprint. Really though, there’s nothing to dislike about HarborCenter. Sure, you need to take an elevator from your car to the rink and on event nights parking can be something of an adventure. But you’re only a floor or two from 716 and the in-arena food options are pretty impressive as well. This is easily the gem of all WNY rinks.

2. Northtown Center
Ice/Rink Quality – 8/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 6/10
Location – 8/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 7/10
Food Options – 6/10
Nearby Attractions – 7/10

Report Card Score: 48

The Northtown Center (formerly the Pepsi Center) has long been Buffalo’s premier facility. It’s since been passed by Harborcenter in terms of elite amenities but this is still home to plenty of big events, including state and national championships.

Three of the rinks at Northtown are excellent. Good boards, spacious benches and quality ice. The feature rink remains a headache. Even after upgrades to improve the awkward benches, the surface is still small and the dimensions are awkward. So marks against the facility for the feature rink, but otherwise it’s a terrific place to play hockey. It features perhaps the best adult league in Western New York and the pro shop is well stocked even though the hours aren’t too friendly for beer leaguers.

The added benefit of restaurants right around the corner on Millersport and nearby on Maple or Sheridan provides plenty of options for postgame while the in-arena snack bar supplements the upstairs bar. Location-wise it’s not too far out of the way (looking at you Hockey Outlet) thanks to the proximity to the 290, meaning the Northtown Center isn’t more than 15 minutes away from most locales around WNY.

3. Dwyer Arena
Ice/Rink Quality – 9/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 7/10
Location – 4/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 5/10
Food Options – 5/10
Nearby Attractions – 4/10

Overall Score: 39

Save for being a decent drive from the center of the region, Dwyer Arena more than makes up for its location with quality. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a DI NCAA arena as the main rink is beautiful. High ceiling, well lit, and a phenomenal surface. While the auxiliary rink is something of an afterthought there’s really very little to dislike about Dwyer. The locker rooms are kind of small, but that’s really the only complaint I can muster.

The location certainly drags it down as there aren’t too many options to explore once your ice time wraps up. But from a pure hockey perspective, you can’t go wrong at NU.

4. Buff State
Ice/Rink Quality – 8/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 6/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 6/10
Nearby Attractions – 7/10

Overall Score: 40

I put Buff State’s arena in the same category as Niagara’s when it comes to the quality of the arena. The concrete overhangs occasionally get in the way of a stray puck and if it wasn’t for the shared showers it would be right up behind Dwyer Arena in terms of total quality. But those drawbacks certainly push it down the list a bit.

The real issue that I hear most with Buff State is the walk from the parking lot. If it’s a cold night, that’s a miserable trek to make. Not having a pro shop isn’t ideal but you aren’t far from some hot spots on Elmwood, so postgame libations are going to be quite enjoyable.

5. Cornerstone Arena
Ice/Rink Quality – 7/10
Locker rooms – 7/10
Showers – 7/10
Location – 2/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 4/10
Food Options – 8/10
Nearby Attractions – 4/10

Overall Score: 39

One of the newest arenas in Western New York, Cornerstone has terrific amenities in nearly every facet. However, they use non-marking pucks, a scourge on the hockey world. So knock off a couple points from the facility for that terrible, awful, no good decision.

However, the rest of the facility is terrific. There are some mixed reviews on the pro shop as it doesn’t offer a full range of gear but there’s a strong case to be made to offer the essentials: sticks, laces, tape, sharpenings and other smaller items. It seems the hours of the pro shop are the biggest gripe. But there’s an in-arena restaurant which adds to the fun. Overall this is a terrific rink, even though they should consider moving it closer to the rest of us.

6. Nichols
Ice/Rink Quality – 8/10
Locker rooms – 4/10
Showers – 4/10
Location – 8/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 5/10
Nearby Attractions – 6/10

Overall Score: 35

Nichols is a cool arena as there is a lot of old charm mixed with more modern upgrades. The main arena itself definitely feels like an old barn with great ice but good lighting to go with it. The mini-rink on the other side is a cool feature and definitely adds character to the arena.

While the locker rooms are either cramped, down a set of stairs or both, the facility itself scores well. It’s in a pretty decent location – although the recent changes to the 198 and Parkside make the trip more of a headache – and you aren’t far from Hertel for postgame.

I was never a fan of the dimensions at Nichols because when I played goalie the end boards and corners gave me fits. However, whenever I play forward there I love it. So I can’t take too many points off now that I’ve grown to like the venue much more than I used to. It helps that the ice is it terrific shape and the arena itself is in pristine condition.

7. Hyde Park
Ice/Rink Quality – 7/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 6/10
Location – 4/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 4/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 5/10

Overall Score: 36

Hyde Park used to be a nasty rink that you’d loath going to. But it’s massively improved since some money was poured into the facility. The rink itself is beautiful, making it a really enjoyable place to play. The overall package doesn’t contend with facilities like Northtown, HarborCenter or Cornerstone, but it’s miles better than either Tonawanda rink and the upgrades have move the arena itself past a few others.

The pro shop keeps poor hours, so while the offering is fine, it’s not always open to offer on-site convenience. One issue with Hyde Park is that it isn’t really near anything. There are some spots right off the Thruway, but the immediate area around the rink is somewhat barren. The location is poor, as well, taking points away from the recently renovated facility.

8. Tacoma
Bud Bakewell
Ice/Rink Quality – 7/10
Locker rooms – 7/10
Showers – 4/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 6/10

Overall Score: 35

An infusion of money gave Tacoma a badly needed facelift a few years back. Despite using the same design as Caz and Riverside, Tacoma’s locker rooms were famously tiny and the showers were atrocious. The renovation added much-needed space to the rooms and comfortable new showers in the addition off the back of the building. The showers in the old rooms are still kind of crappy, but the added space means you aren’t tripping on people before and after showering. As for the rink, new boards and new lighting really spruced the place up and while the aesthetics are better than that of Caz and Riverside, I think the ice at all three is just about equal.

Tacoma enjoys a boost thanks to its proximity to Hertel, giving players plenty of enjoyable postgame options.

9. West Seneca
Ice/Rink Quality – 7/10
Locker rooms – 4/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 5/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 5/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 5/10

Overall Score: 35

This is a proper old barn with a high, vaulted ceiling, small locker rooms and fast ice. I grew up playing at West Seneca and I still enjoy getting back out there when ice time opens up even though there are far more youth games here than anything else. The rink looks really nice but it does have limitations. The locker rooms are sized for kids, not high school players and definitely not adults.

Off ice, the snack bar is fine, about what you’d expect from a snack bar, and the pro shop is well stocked. There are a few spots to check out after the game, but it’s not East Aurora’s strip either. Even with the limitations this is probably still the best rink in the Southtowns.

10. Depew
Ice/Rink Quality – 7/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 6/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 3/10

Overall Score: 30

Ask any older player about Depew and they’ll almost certainly tell you how it used to be a partially open rink. You can see where the changes were made to enclose the rink as garage doors line the one wall. This rink is really a down-the-middle, average venue. It’s not that great, but it’s not terrible either. It’s just fine. The lack of additional amenities brings the score down a bit but really there’s not much to differentiate this in a positive or negative manner.

11. Riverworks
Ice/Rink Quality – 5/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 6/10
Location – 9/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 10/10
Nearby Attractions – 10/10

Overall Score: 46

Unlike Buffalo’s other outdoor arena, the rinks at Riverworks aren’t a standalone facility. That means full locker rooms and showers and the added bonus of a Pearl Street managed bar and restaurant. That gives Riverworks a huge boost as you can’t do much better than walking from the locker room to the bar without setting foot outside.

The rinks themselves are great. The lakeside rink can be tough to handle on windy days and sometimes the sun will soften the corners, but the facility itself is great. Being attached to the main Riverworks building is a saving grace as full locker rooms, showers and a full in-house restaurant help score high on the report card. Of course, being right downtown helps as well.

12. Holiday
Ice/Rink Quality – 5/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 8/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 6/10
Food Options – 5/10
Nearby Attractions – 7/10

Overall Score: 41

Holiday edges out it’s cousin to the south thanks to its central location and slightly larger locker rooms. The rooms at Holiday aren’t too much bigger than Leisure’s but there’s certainly more space here than in Orchard Park. The showers are also a touch better but only just so.

Otherwise, Holiday suffers from many of the issues Leisure does. The ice is average, the boards can be wonky and the facility itself is showing its age. Both Holiday and Leisure are dingy facilities and not in the charming old barn way but the unattractive warehouse way.

Like with Leisure, the pro shop offers plenty of options and the snack bar is better than most. I’m told you can grab a beer from the snack bar, so bonus points there. Being around the corner from the Galleria means there are a ton of pre and post-game options for families from in town or visiting for tournaments.

13. Leisure
Ice/Rink Quality – 5/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 6/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 6/10

Overall Score: 38

Leisure’s an old standard for just about every hockey player in Western New York. It’s a basic twin rink facility with a snack bar, pro shop and crappy showers.

The ice at Leisure is fine but the boards can be wonky as there haven’t been too many upgrades made to either arenas. The ice typically gets pretty ugly in the summer and all told the playing surfaces leave a lot to be desired. All but one of the locker rooms are small and the showers are separate from the rooms. Every few years the rooms get a facelift, of sorts, but it’s really just lipstick on a pig. Recent shower renovations were badly needed and while they didn’t remove the annoying push-button showers, the new tile really cleaned up what was a pretty dirty area.

The in-arena amenities are nice, however. The separate heated viewing area is a great feature and the snack bar offers what you’d want and expect from a rink. The pro shop is very well stocked and there are plenty of nearby food options (including Duffs) that offer plenty of choice for postgame meals.

It’s not in the most convenient of locations despite being pretty close to the 219 and 400. It’s great for me living in South Buffalo, but for most it’s out of the way.

14. Bud Bakewell/Riverside
Ice/Rink Quality – 6/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 4/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 4/10

Overall Score: 31

The city of Buffalo rinks all share a few common threads. The first of which is design, the raised standing room only stands overlook the ice and are positioned directly over the locker rooms. They all have crappy showers but spacious locker rooms (Tacoma being the outlier) and the ice and boards are all quite nice. All three buildings are cookie cutter siblings and if it wasn’t for Tacoma’s recent renovation, they’d all score at the exact same level. Bud Bakewell probably ranks a touch higher than Caz for me because the showers have never run out of hot water after a late game like they do at Caz.

15. Caz
Ice/Rink Quality – 6/10
Locker rooms – 6/10
Showers – 4/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 4/10

Overall Score: 31

See above. Caz and Riverside might as well be identical twins. The ice, boards, lockers and overall arenas are identical and there’s really no differentiation. But sometimes the hot water runs out at Caz.

16. Nike Base
Ice/Rink Quality – 5/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 4/10
Location – 2/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Additional Amenities – 5/10

Overall Score: 25

Points north aren’t the only arenas too far away from civilization as the Hamburg Nike Base feels like Pennsylvania by the time you get out there. Add in the very average facility (in every aspect) and it really isn’t worth the drive. The ice can be fast in the dead of winter as the entire place can get super cold, but really there’s nothing special about the Nike Base, aside from being far away from everything.

There are some cool spots in the village of Hamburg, which isn’t too far from the rink, but it’s not exactly a convenient spot to be for most hockey players in WNY.

17. Cheektowaga
Ice/Rink Quality – 4/10
Locker rooms – 3/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 7/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Additional Amenities – 6/10

Overall Score: 29

Non-marking pucks strike again. The Cheektowaga Town Rink also happens to be lit about as well as Nassau Veteran Coliseum was, adding to the wonderfully underwhelming “charm” of the facility.

The lobby area of the rink is beautiful, however but it doesn’t make up for the small locker rooms and the terrible, awful, no good Teflon pucks they make you use. Being close to the mall provides some postgame options but between the small locker rooms and the stupid pucks you shouldn’t want to play here.

18. East Aurora
Ice/Rink Quality – 6/10
Locker rooms – 4/10
Showers – 0/10
Location – 3/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 4/10
Nearby Attractions – 8/10

Overall Score: 25

The Healthy Zone rink in East Aurora is something of a work in progress. They’ve gone from a full outdoor rink with poor lighting to a covered rink with a beautiful pavilion as the project seems set on building the arena around the rink. They’re still without a pro shop or shower facilities, which makes for some smelly rides home. The lockers have heat, which is nice, but they’re just big sheds. So there’s still some work to do out in East Aurora.

It’s cool playing outside which makes it fun to play at from time to time, but when temperatures plunge it’s not nearly as pleasant. Once things move forward a bit more this will be much higher in the ratings as the lack of showers and a pro shop hurt the overall score despite having East Aurora’s plentiful postgame dining options (Bar Bill) on the resume. However, I’d still play here any day over Tonawanda

19. Hockey Outlet
Ice/Rink Quality – 4/10
Locker rooms – 5/10
Showers – 5/10
Location – 3/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 6/10
Food Options – 5/10
Nearby Attractions – 4/10

Overall Score: 32

Apparently there was a hockey rink kit you could mail away for at one point as Hockey Outlet (formerly Sabreland) and Leisure have nearly identical floor plans. The difference between the two is Hockey Outlet’s brutal boards and glass and the rink’s location. I’m sure it’s convenient for people in Wheatfield but it isn’t for the rest of us. Plus it’s well off the 290 so you can’t just hop off the Thurway and be at the rink either.

Some money has been put into Hockey Outlet recently which has improved the boards and benches – although they’re still like 9 feet high for some reason – but the glass is still super short and the rest of the rink is quite average. The poor location isn’t close to many restaurants, meaning postgame options are fairly limited. The pro shop and snack bar are on par with most others but I still cringe whenever I need to play at this place.

20. Brighton
Ice/Rink Quality – 4/10
Locker rooms – 3/10
Showers – 0/10
Location – 5/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 3/10
Nearby Attractions – 5/10

Overall Score: 20

No showers and closets for locker rooms makes Brighton (and Lincoln) a rough rink to go to without the drawbacks offered by the rest of the facility. You might as well be playing outside when the temperature is below 30 and the insist on using non-marking pucks, which makes the entire experience absolutely atrocious. The dimensions on the rinks seem a touch smaller than a full NHL sheet and the bouncy ball pucks make it that much worse.

I love rinks that use non-marking pucks because not only do they perform differently but nine times out of ten the rink looks like crap, so the clean boards really don’t make a difference. One better for the pair of Tonawanda rinks is that the boards look like crap too, so their terrible pucks are a complete waste. The one saving grace for Brighton is that it’s next door to the golf dome and their bar and there are a few other restaurants on the main drag. Otherwise this place is terrible.

21. Lincoln
Ice/Rink Quality – 4/10
Locker rooms – 3/10
Showers – 0/10
Location – 5/10

Amenities
Pro Shop – 0/10
Food Options – 3/10
Nearby Attractions – 3/10

Overall Score: 18

What’s been said of Brighton can be said of Lincoln. Neither rink is preferable to the other as each uses terrible non-marking pucks, neither have showers or large locker rom and they’re both frigid in the winter – without the magic of actually playing outdoors. These are easily the two worst rinks in the area.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s