“I’ve met so many new people and made a ton of new friends based on the game alone. One thing I love about the game is that you can be battling on the ice, even fighting. Then when the game is over, it is over and we all hang around and enjoy a cold beer together, it’s a lifestyle.”- Ernie Lowerre, BodyCandy team captain
The motto of the annual Buffalo Powder Keg Festival is “In Buffalo, we don’t fear winter... we revel in it.” Winter in Buffalo, New York is notorious for being bitter and white. Buffalo residents take pride in their ability to survive and band together to take on the winter months. We bundle up and party on! I have never witnessed such a sense of community and pride in one’s home town like I have in Buffalo. I am proud to call this my hometown. People do not hesitate to help their neighbors in need during the cold months. Whether it entails pushing someone’s car or shoveling a walkway, we know how to make the best of our climate and are stronger people (and neighbors) because of it.
This year, Buffalo has experienced a very unique winter indeed. Warm temperatures and rain have replaced snow, ice and freezing cold conditions . On February 11th and 12th, the third annual Buffalo Powder Keg Festival, part of the Buffalo Winterfest weekend, took place. Body Candy’s sponsored hockey team competed in the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament during the festival. Baby, it’s cold outside, but it was too little too late and the pond was not frozen. So what did we do? We took it to the streets and played street hockey instead! Team Body Candy checked its way into the limelight and onto the front page of the Buffalo News! The 60-team tournament was less than half the size organizers had originally anticipated. Many teams pulled out, but it didn’t hinder the intensity of the participating hockey players. Ice or asphalt? Doesn’t matter! Brett Carlsen, a brand manager for Labatt Blue and organizer of the tournament, said the “love of hockey” and “bond between buddies and pals” is still going strong, regardless of the weather conditions.
The BodyCandy.com team consists of players who are truly passionate about the game of hockey and the camaraderie it entails. They play purely because they love it, not in search of fame or glamour that can be associated with professional sports. The team is relatively newly formed. It was put together from players who went through the Performax Hockey Adult Instructional program. Most of these players had never skated before 2010. The age range of our team is 19 – 50. No one on the team ever played together prior to the Instructional program. The team’s captain is optimistic about the growth of his team of misfits “We have been winning games now since the team is finally clicking. It takes a team about 2 years to really start to play well together and we are on the road to that now. We went from a losing season last summer to a fairly successful one this winter. We are currently in the playoffs.”
Team Body Candy agrees that they all prefer Ice Hockey, but that the Street Hockey tournament was still an absolute blast! They had a great time and met a plethora of new players and teams that will become future opponents. Even though their tournament record was 0-3, team Body Candy battled hard and is still on top of the world! It does not matter if you win or lose, it is the lessons you have learned while playing and the people you meet that matter the most. The team strives for greatness and will not stop learning the game that they love so dearly. They are only getting better and look forward to entering next year’s Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament, among others. They have taken part in several other local hockey tournaments, including the East Aurora Pond Hockey Tournament, and will be playing in Buffalo Senior Invitational Hockey Tournament in May.
Team captain Ernie Lowerre shared his thoughts about hockey, the importance of the game in his life, and how he plans to share the game with his two sons. He started playing hockey at the age of 44 and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon. “My goal is to play and remain captain until both my sons are old enough to play on my team so we can have a forward line of myself on left wing, Zach on right and Max as center!” Ernie was one of the people who years ago said to the hockey parents “You people are crazy, how can you spend so much money and be at a cold ice rink at 6am to watch a bunch of kids skate?” He is one of those crazies now and does not regret a moment of it. “The people you meet (parents of other kids playing) become some of your best friends.”
Sports help children establish friendships and deeper connections. They learn how to become leaders and to value good sportsmanship. Self confidence, physical fitness, and a strong sense of work ethic can be the result of a love for sports. At an early age they are taught how to respect other people, especially their opponents. Team sports teach a child that putting their best effort forward is always much more important than winning. I know this first hand because my father also instilled a passion for sports in me. As a young girl I played softball, soccer, floor hockey, and basketball. It taught me about life, expanded my circle of friends, brought me a sense of pride and accomplishment, a great trophy collection, and most importantly helped form the woman I have become.
Another inspiring player on the Body Candy hockey team is defense(wo)man Heather Bitgood. She is a student at the University of Buffalo and the only female player on the team (you go girl!). I am always intrigued when I see a woman excelling in a male dominated sport. Progressive women like Heather are great role models for young girls who want to break social expectations and smash gender stereotypes.
Women have gained much success in many male dominated spheres: in the business world, in government, and in the military. Yet, there is still a looming shadow over girls who want to compete with men in sports. It is unfortunate to see a system that feeds the flawed belief that females do not have as much endurance or drive as their male counterparts. Gender segregation in sports is still considered normal in our modern society. Everything in life should be based on skill level and dedication, not on any traditional hierarchy or social constraint.
No matter who you are it is important to not let what other people might say get to you. If they say something like, “You are not strong enough” just think: You’re probably stronger than all of them combined! Be yourself and respect your own talents. Team Body Candy should inspire all of us to strive for success. They are a prime example of people from different walks of life working together towards a common goal. These players use hockey as a platform to enrich their lives and to motivate others.
The current BodyCandy team roster is:
Ernie Lowerre – Captain/Left Wing Tony Mrozik – Alt Captain/Defense
Alex Bielman – Right wing Heather Bitgood – Defense
Kevin Burton – Center Tom Doster – Left Wing
Frank Drechsel – Defense Mike Hart – Center
Steve Kling – Defense Zach McNaughton – Left Wing
Dave Pizarro – Defense Tyler Rzemek – Goalie
Nick Scaccia – Center Brian Schofield – Defense
Josh Smith – Right Wing Nick Thomas – Center & Alt Goalie
Tim Thomas – Right Wing/Defense Tim von der Empten – Right Wing
Joe Wisnoski – Defense