At the first mention of the Ellicottville Lacrosse Festival, your ears perk up. Ellicottville … and lacrosse? The two aren’t exactly synonymous. With few programs in the immediate area and no team at Ellicottville Central, you might wonder why a tournament coordinator and former professional player would want to bring 40+ teams here for a tournament.
But then you dig a little deeper, realizing that Ellicottville would be a perfect location. A town boasting two ski resorts that’s easily accessible from Canada, Ohio and upstate New York. A destination setting pre-loaded with lodging, food, and the logistical capability to host the teams and their families. Two passionate men who have made lacrosse their life could have picked anywhere else in the area, but they chose Ellicottville. The 1st Annual Ellicottville Lacrosse Festival comes to town September 22-24.
Ryan Powell, a 4-time All-American at Syracuse, spent 12 years playing professional lacrosse from Buffalo to Boston to Portland. After his pro career ended, he linked with Rochester’s Mike Riorden - a former college lacrosse player himself who runs indoor facilities, coaches and continues to play. The two operate on the same wavelength when it comes to lacrosse. Growing the sport has become their life mission and business, doing things like tournaments, training sessions and camps.
“We had just finished a box lacrosse session for kids, and afterwards over beers and burgers, Mike and I talked about developing a new tournament,” Powell said. “This is something we had both wanted to do. When we discussed location, Mike mentioned this place called Ellicottville - he and his wife had ridden their motorcycle down here quite a bit - and after we came to visit, we knew this was the spot.”
Riorden, inducted into the Rochester Sports Hall of Fame last year for lacrosse, said the idea for the Ellicottville tournament came in 2004 when he was in Vail.
“There’s a tournament in Vail we go out to every year,” Riorden added. “It’s an amazing place to host a lacrosse tournament, and it’s that atmosphere we were looking for. The mountains, the ski resort, the feel of the town … it all works. I’ve been waiting to do this with someone, and after Ryan and I started working together, I approached him about it. We’ve been working with the Chamber of Commerce for just over a year getting this ready to go.”
There are over 40 teams signed up, and for the first year of a tournament, that’s an excellent number. Both junior and adult teams will travel from Toronto, Ohio, New Jersey, Rochester, Syracuse and other towns around the country.
“It’s important that the first year is a success,” Riorden said. “When a tournament goes off well, word spreads fast amongst the lacrosse community. And while it’s great when a team wins, the real camaraderie is built off the field. Having all of the bars and restaurants in the village really added to what makes this such a great tournament spot.”
The passion these two share for the sport is apparent, and they’ve got the credentials to back it up. Riorden’s son, Blaze, recently resigned with the Buffalo Bandits - he’s a goaltender - and while at the University of Albany, scored a goal against Cornell that was nominated for an ESPN ESPY award. He lost … to New York Giants receiver, Odell Beckham. Riorden’s other son plays college lax, and he played in school as well before going semi-pro. To this day, he continues to travel (and play) in tournaments across the country. Powell shared his 4-time All-American accolades with his two brothers.
“We’ve made lacrosse our life,” Riorden said. “And we’re excited to bring this tournament to Ellicottville. The Chamber and town have been incredibly accommodating. It’s a perfect place, the perfect time, and we’re hoping Year 1 is a resounding success.”
The 1st Annual Ellicottville Lacrosse Festival goes down September 22-24, and games will be played at the Village Park and Ellicottville Central School. For more information, head to www.ellicottvillelacrosse.com.