March 24, 2018 - Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls is a world renowned tourist destination. When one thinks of hockey in the Niagara region though, fans think of what takes place on the Canadian side, with The OHL's Niagara IceDogs, and previously the Niagara Falls Thunder playing big time hockey in the region in addition to a half dozen junior b teams within a half hour of the falls. There is a vibrant hockey scene on the U.S. side of the falls however, as Niagara University fields a NCAA Division 1 team nearby, and junior hockey recently returned to Niagara Falls proper in the form of the NA3HL's PowerHawks. Hyde Park is a green space located 3 miles from the falls, and is listed as the largest city park in New York State outside of Manhattan. Hyde Park Ice Pavilion is a modest facility that opened in 1970 and saw a second ice pad added a few years later. Recent renovations which were finished in 2016 saw upgrades to the exterior of the building, new grandstands, locker rooms and new ice pads in the rinks themselves. This arena now is a good fit for Tier 3 junior hockey, and the PowerHawks are making a go of it after moving from their previous home in Lockport at the start of the 2017-2018 season. Hyde Park Ice Pavilion's exterior is a simple one, with tan metal siding and a slightly pitched metal roof covering the ice surfaces themselves. If you step back and look you can see the layout is essentially 2 metal barns side by side. A couple of modern looking entrances add a bit of color with maroon walls and signage bearing the facility name as well as the PowerHawks name and logo. An adjacent stone building connects to the arena complex and houses a bar and meeting room which is also open on game day. With a decent sized population in the area the PowerHawks have a large fan base of folks who are knowledgeable of hockey to draw from. The PowerHawks also provide an option for visiting folks to get away from the falls, and touristy area near the casinos, and enjoy an inexpensive night at a hockey game. Niagara Falls has seen junior hockey in the past, but over the last decade or so there has been no junior hockey in town. Hyde Park Ice Pavilion may not be the most luxurious or modern arena, but recent upgrades have made this small community area a decent and comfortable place to take in a game.
Fans entering Hyde Park Ice Pavilion on game night will find a PowerHawks ticket table set up in the lobby. Tickets for this divisional final playoff series against the Binghamton Jr. Senators were a reasonable $5. The lobby features the arena food concession stand, table seating overlooking the arena, and a PowerHawks merchandise table. The games are played in arena 2, which is the arena with the larger seating capacity. The lobby offers a view of the ice and many fans chose to watch from that vantage point. The bar area of the arena is down a hallway from the lobby, and is in an old stone building connected via a hallway. The lobby also has some interesting photos on the walls including a photo of the arena dedication ceremony back in 1970 when the venue opened. There is PowerHawks signage in the lobby, and the high ceiling of the lobby has a modern look and was part of the 2016 renovations. The rink itself offers a simple layout with seating down one side of the ice. Aluminum bleachers 7 rows high run the length of the ice, and have blue molded individual seats attached. Lockport's arena had the same style blue molded seats, and we wonder if these are the same ones that made their way over to Niagara Falls when the team moved from Lockport. The rink boards and glass are nearly new and there is no protective netting in front of the seating. A small pressbox sits at the back of the grandstand at center ice, and there is a single scoreclock attached to the end wall opposite the lobby area. The lighting inside the rink is bright and provides a good view of the action, and the low vaulted ceiling is close to the ice surface making the place loud. In addition to the bleacher seating there are table seats along the glass on the lobby end for those looking for a different seating option. It gets cold in Western New York during the winter, and push bottom heaters are installed above the grandstand for those looking for warm up for a bit. All seating here is close to the ice, and the tight confines with fans on top of the action, make for an intimidating environment which visiting teams have to deal with. We would guess the seating capacity to be around 400, and a good crowd was on hand for this playoff game. Junior hockey is admittedly pretty far down the list of entertainment attractions in Niagara Falls with so much to do, but the team provides locals with some quality hockey to enjoy at a very reasonable price.
The game day presentation at Hyde Park Ice Pavilion for a Niagara PowerHawks game is laid back, but professional. There is intermission entertainment with chuck-a-puck contests and a peewee hockey shootout. With this being a playoff game the intensity level on the ice and in the stands was noticeable, and the crowd filled 75% of the grandstand. A good PA system keeps the fan informed, and, although the surroundings are essentially a small community arena, watching a game here is enjoyable. Although the look of the interior of the arena is rather plain, with plain colored walls, and white beams and blue metal supports holding up the ceiling, there is a bit of a sense of history here. Banners on the wall above the lobby entrance honor the Niagara Falls Junior C teams from the 1970's, paying homage to the teams that occupied this arena when it opened over 40 years ago. With a good bit of signage and logos present for the PowerHawks it feels like their home, despite being a first year team at this arena. It seems as though a number of fans have followed the team from Lockport, which is about 20 minutes away. With the grandstand not rising up very high sight lines are not the best, however the clear glass and bright lighting does make it a bit easier to follow the action on the ice. The building does have a couple quirks which are interesting, including the fact that the team locker rooms behind the bench areas are on the wrong side form each other, as the teams have to cross each other's directions to get to and from the dressing rooms. One team ends up going down a hallway behind the benches which is separated from the ice surface so the team's do not come in contact with each other. Hyde Park Ice Pavilion has an old time feel to it, but the recent upgrades have added a bit of modern styling to the interior, and the facility is more than adequate to house a Tier 3 team. Most out-of-towners will head to Niagara Falls for the scenery, attractions, and night life, but this is a good location for a junior hockey team, and with the tourism industry often slow in the dead of winter PowerHawks hockey gives local families some inexpensive entertainment to enjoy. Niagara Falls fell to Binghamton to see their season end, but local fans seemed happy to have a team they could call their own as they looked forward to the next season.