Bethlehem Press

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Winter Classic scheduled for February 6

Thursday, January 28, 2016 by SCOTT PAGEL spagel@tnonline.com in Sports

No matter the level of the sport, hockey players have always been considered a different breed of athlete.

From beer leagues right up to the NHL level, there may not be more camaraderie than inside a locker room at an ice rink.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone the overwhelming response to this year’s Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey event held at the Bethlehem Municipal Ice Rink which helps support the Lehigh Valley Polar Bears, a local, special hockey team.

Slated for Saturday, Feb. 6, this year’s Winter Classic has grown to six games, and next year’s event could even top that, according to LV Winter Classic Director Adam Bortz.

“One of the coolest things about the sport of hockey is how tight the players are,” Bortz said. “The support locally from the Lehigh Valley community has been really special and it says a lot about the hockey community and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Bortz said he’s, unfortunately, had to turn teams away from the event simply due to a lack of ice time. Bortz and his crew have actually run out of ideas for selling sponsorships to willing businesses, adding that things like power plays, the benches and the zambonis are all sponsored.

“We’re trying to think of other ideas to get sponsored,” said Bortz. “It’s a good problem to have.”

The day kicks off at 12:45 p.m. with a game between the Special Hockey of the Lehigh Valley Polar Bears and the Bucks County Admirals. At 1:30 p.m. it’s the Princeton Hockey Club against the Ratz followed by a 3 p.m. tilt between the LV Whalers C team and the Beer Clams C team. At 4 p.m. it’s the LV Whalers B team vs. the Squirrels before a 6 p.m. contest with Fox Encompass and Beer Clams B.

All those games lead up to the headline game between Lehigh and Kutztown at 8:30 p.m.

“The support of Lehigh has been great,” Bortz said. “Coach Pat Carroll (of Lehigh) has been fantastic. He’s getting into the spirit and asked to reserve a spot next year and possibly bring in a higher profile team.”

Bortz said the first year of the event raised about $3,800 and last year raised around $5,000. This year, the amount is already at $5,000, and the event is over a week away.

“It fills my heart knowing that the same community that supported me growing up is coming together to grow the family by helping to raise money with this tournament so that Lehigh Valley Special Hockey can get up and running,” Bortz said. “These kids deserve to play the same game that’s given so much to me growing up, and that’s really the goal with this tournament, and this special day of hockey. I couldn’t be more proud of my hockey community for what it’s achieving,”

In 2017, Bortz is looking at Jan. 28 to hold the event and is hoping to make it an all-day event with more teams and more games.

The Bethlehem Municipal Ice Rink is located on 345 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem. All of the proceeds from the event will go to Special Hockey of the Lehigh Valley, a program that allows individuals with special needs and developmental difficulties the chance to play hockey in a way that is suited to their individual abilities.

Donations for the event can be made by cash, check or credit card. If you are unable to make the event but would still like to donate, visit the fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/lvwinterclassic. Checks can be made out to American Special Hockey Association, with Lehigh Valley Special Hockey in the memo.

For more information about the event, please call Bortz at 610-597-4629, or email bortz10@gmail.com.

For more information about the Special Hockey of Lehigh Valley Polar Bears team, please call coach Joe Guellnitz at 610-597-1131 or email him at: specialhockeylv@gmail.com.