ORCHARD PARK - For someone like me, who has been covering high school hockey for the past 10 years, the next two weeks is the greatest time of year.
The Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation playoffs get underway Wednesday at the Northtowns Center in Amherst, and this year it seems the field is wide open in Large, Small and Catholic.
The playoffs are special time of the year. While the games in the regular season have intensity, nothing compares to playoff hockey.
The games are low scoring, the hitting is intense and the crowds are rowdy. In other words, it’s hockey at its best.
The pre-quarterfinals start on Wednesday, but the action really heats up on Friday when the Large quarterfinals get underway. If you haven’t ever been to a playoff game – you should go. The atmosphere is great and the teams lay it all on the line. Even the reporters who cover the games get fired up. There is just that kind feel.
I have seen a lot in my 10 years covering the league. I have seen eight teams, then 12 and now 23.
I have seen future National Hockey League and American Hockey League stars in Timmy Kennedy (Timon) and David Leggio (St. Joe’s). Numerous kids who have gone onto play Division I college hockey.
I saw a Timmy Kennedy team that went 29-1 and defeated St. Joe’s in the finals in 2001 – the Tigers’ last title.
I have been witness to the Williamsville North and St. Joe’s dynasties, and the St. Francis prep teams before they went to a new league.
Every playoff there is a team that makes a magical run. Who can forget Frontier last year making it into the finals. Or, Williamsville East a few years ago, before the league breaking up into three finals, making a run all the way to the finals before losing to Will-North.
And who can forget the overtime win by Timon against St. Joe’s three years ago.
The playoffs are a different breed and kids become men as they lead their teams to victory.
Who will be this year’s Cinderella? And, who will be the next big name to lead his team to a title?
All those questioned will be answered Sunday Feb. 26 during Super Sunday.
For now, enjoy the games and to all the teams good luck.