Empire State Cup Ice Hockey Tournament Review (Rochester, NY)

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Last January we trekked from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia suburbs) to Rochester, NY so that our son’s 10u ice hockey travel team could participate in the Empire State Cup hockey tournament. This tournament spanned 3 days (Saturday through Monday) and was a USA Hockey sanctioned tournament run by My Hockey Tournaments. Read about our experience below and feel free to add your own in the comment section!

Empire State Cup Ice Hockey Tournament Review

Our 10u travel hockey team participated in 3 different tournaments last season. We went to the Congressional Veterans Cup in Washington DC (technically Virginia), the Liberty Cup in Oaks, PA and the aforementioned Empire State Cup.

When our team chose the Rochester location for a January tournament date, I was a little nervous. I have heard the term “lake effect snow” and was pretty sure that Rochester tends to see its fair share of snow every winter. LOL But we signed up and hoped for clear roads all the way to NY.

Rochester is about a 6 hour drive from our home rink. With some quick stops for gas and bathrooms and food, I would say that the trip took about 7-8 hours each way in total.

We were definitely excited to travel for hockey – this tournament was the furthest that many of us on the team had ever gone for a hockey game.

The Empire State Cup took place over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The games started on Saturday and ran through Monday. As I stated above, My Hockey Tournaments ran this event.

  • We received our hotel location and booking link on December 21st for a mid-January event.
  • We received our tournament game schedule about 1.5 weeks before the event.

Rink Details

Tim Hortons Iceplex (2700 Brighton Henrietta Townline Rd Rochester, NY 14623)

  • Huge facility with 4 rinks
  • Plenty of parking
  • Easy to find right off the highway
  • NO COFFEE FOR SALE at 7 AM. Seriously. At TIM HORTONS Iceplex! We had to send a parent out for Dunkin’. I hope they at least consider buying a coffee vending machine.
  • We played our first 3 games here.

    Chick fil a area tim hortons iceplex
    Landon Tim Hortons Iceplex CFA

Lakeshore Hockey Arena (123 Ling Road Rochester, NY 14612)

  • Smaller arena, 2 rinks
  • Close to Lake Ontario
  • We played 2 games here – the final regular tournament game and the championship game.

    Lakeshore Hockey Arena

Tournament Organizer – My Hockey Tournaments

This was the 3rd or 4th hockey tournament run by My Hockey Tournaments that we have participated in. All seem to more or less follow the same tune:

  • It’s stay-to-play which means you HAVE TO book the hotel they tell you to. And you HAVE TO fill a minimum number of rooms. This can work both in your team’s favor or against. Sometimes you get your hotel choice that you request when you sign up. Other times you end up at a creepy budget hotel miles from the rink. There’s no way to predict which experience you’ll get.
  • You can choose tournaments that are in or near various major cities. This is cool because if you know that your team wants to, for example, check out Washington D.C., you can choose a tournament nearby. The website for each tournament lists the rinks that they games could potentially be played at, so it’s pretty easy to get an idea of where you’re headed.
  • The schedules for the tournaments typically aren’t released more than 2 weeks before the first day of play. I personally hate this, as I’m a Type A person who wants to plan, plan, plan. But I understand that often the tournaments have a lot of movement with last minute team signups and such, so they can’t produce the schedule until right before the event.
  • The Prizes: Well, this one’s gonna get a big WOMP WOMP from me, but we ended up coming in 2nd for the Empire State Cup and guess what the kids got? A small, sad towel. A generic, My Hockey Tournaments branded towel, with several spelling errors. Ouch. That rubbed some salt in the wounds. I did reach out to My Hockey Tournaments this year and they assured me that medals will be returning as prizes. We’ll see! (I promise he’s more upset about the championship game loss than the “prize,” but the “prize” didn’t help. LOL

Team Activities and Experiences

Restaurants: Our first game was on Saturday evening at 5:20 pm. Some families drove up on Friday night while the majority arrived on Saturday. Rochester, NY has TONS of great dining options for big groups!

  • Three Heads Brewing: Several of our teammates had lunch here and said it was great.
  • Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: One of our families enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch here.
  • Donut Delite: Great little spot down the road from our hotel for donuts, breakfast sandwiches and other baked goods.
    Donuts Delite Rochester
    Donuts Delite Rochester Interior
  • Genessee Brewing Company: Most of our team met up here for lunch in between games on Sunday. The food was really good and came out quick. The wait staff was super friendly and handled our big group of 20+ people very well. Everyone got separate bills according to their player’s jersey number. Simple and worked great.
    Genesee Brewing Company Large Party

Other Activities

  • Knee hockey in the hotel (IYKYK)… our hotel staff was so super nice and let the kids set up knee hockey in a hallway. They also let parents enjoy their takeout dinners in the lobby.
  • Pictures on a beach at Lake Ontario
Knee Hockey Hotel Hallway

Memorable Moments – Photo Op at Lake Ontario

Sunday after our game, we took a drive to find Lake Ontario. We ended up finding a very convenient public parking lot and access to a small beach. It turns out, this was about 1 mile from the Lakeshore Hockey Arena. (Gee, their name makes sense now.. lakeshore… yup!)

We sent the location to our team chat and asked everyone to plan to meet at this location after our first game on Monday.

Everyone made it and the kids wore their jerseys. We didn’t stay long because it was FREEZING COLD, but we got some great pictures!

  • The address for this parking lot is: Slater Creek Fishing Access Site 915 Beach Avenue Rochester, NY 14612. You can park in the public lot and use the pedestrian crossing to cross Beach Ave to the beach/lake.
Weavers at Lake Ontario
Team at Lake Ontario
Frozen Lake Ontario

Accommodation – Hotel We Stayed At: Rochester Airport Marriott

  • Address: 1890 Ridge Road West, Rochester, New York, USA, 14615
  • Free parking and plenty of it
  • Super accommodating and friendly front desk staff
  • Pool (indoor) was fairly small but adequate. Pool towels were provided, which was nice.
  • No complimentary breakfast but the hotel did have a restaurant on property, so you could buy meals if you wanted. We did try to eat dinner there one night but after waiting 15 minutes and no one appeared from the back, we headed to a nearby Chipotle. Turns out the restaurant only had 1 employee on staff – everyone else had called out (Saturday night). Not the hotel’s fault.
  • Big lobby with lots of seating and tables. Staff allowed us to meet up and eat our takeout there both nights.
  • Hotel was about 15 minutes (10 miles) from Tim Hortons Iceplex and about 10 minutes (7 miles) from Lakeshore Hockey Arena.

Our room was a good size. We had plenty of space for the 3 of us to stretch out, though I wish I had realized ahead of time that our reservation was for 2 double beds. We have a king at home and spending two nights felt like I was suffocating. Next time I will take a closer look at the reservation and request a room type change if necessary. We had plenty of room in the corner to set up our DIY PVC drying rack to air Landon’s gear out in between games.

Rochester Airport Marriott Lobby
Pool Rochester Airport Marriott

Pros and Cons of the Tournament

Pros of the Tournament

  • Competition was fairly evenly stacked. This is definitely an event-by-event basis, but for our event, it felt pretty even. No huge blowout wins or losses.
  • Rinks were easy to find.
  • Rochester was a really nice location to use as our home base. There were plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, and other shopping options.
  • We were able to use our Pure Hockey coupon from the tournament to save $50 on a new chest protector at the Pure Hockey in Rochester. (Coupon was for $50 off $100 purchase.)
  • Hotel was nice and reasonably priced (about $150/night plus tax).
  • Easy drive from Philly suburbs.
    Hockey Game Tim Hortons Iceplex

Cons of the Tournament

  • Tim Hortons Iceplex not having coffee at 7 am. (LOL Sorry, I know I sound like a broken record, but this was a giant negative. We still talk about it!)
  • Would love to see a little variety in the tournament merch besides the one random man with his heat press selling boardwalk-style shirts and hoodies with astronomically priced a la carte graphics. (I sell shirts. I know how overpriced the tourney apparel is!)
  • The prizes. Oh, the prizes. Haha. Epic fail there. 1st place got a hat. 2nd place, the saddest towel. It probably would have been okay if the prizes were at least branded for the specific tournament.. ie hats that said “Empire State Cup CHAMPS ’24.” Instead it felt like we got leftover swag from the My Hockey Tournaments holiday party.
  • Playoff schedule was fairly late – but I do not blame the tournament for this… I’m sure it all comes down to the rink schedules. But a 1:15 pm start time on a Monday ahead of a 7-8 hour drive was rough.


Overall, the Empire State Cup tournament in Rochester, NY was very enjoyable! We were lucky to have a great team that year and the parents all really had fun hanging out together. The game schedule was flexible enough that we had some breaks in between hockey where we could go have some fun and explore the area a bit.

Unfortunately since it was January, we did have to deal with snow squalls all weekend. They truly do pop up out of nowhere and visibility goes from great to zero in about 5 seconds! We had hoped to drive over to Niagara Falls at some point over the weekend (about 1 hour away) but the snow was so bad over in the Niagara/Buffalo area that they highway was actually closed.

Rochester Snow Squall

I love trying out new and different tournaments, though I would not be opposed to heading to Rochester again.

But next time, I’m bringing my coffee pot.

Has your hockey player ever participated in the Empire State Cup in Rochester? Where did you stay? What activities did your team do in your downtime? Leave us a comment and tell us about your experience!


2 thoughts on “Empire State Cup Ice Hockey Tournament Review (Rochester, NY)”

  1. Not a hockey mom but I’m from the Buffalo area and as far as lake effect snow- Rochester tends to get less than Buffalo. But Rochester does tend to get more ice storms. And sorry you couldn’t make the hour down the thruway to ‘the falls’ . Maybe when you’re up this way for an equestrian event

    • Ohhhhh!! That’s good to know!! It was pretty wild – but also cool! I loved the snow – minus the driving in it. :) It felt like we were in a snow globe and was so pretty!! I’m sure we’ll get to the falls one way or another… Lily has been there when she was realllly little, but Landon has never been there. Definitely on our bucket list. Thanks for reading!!


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