Every year the final cuts for the Islanders Ice Girls are difficult to make, but this year was the toughest. Over 20 girls made their way to Islanders Iceworks in Syosset, NY in hopes of becoming a member of the 2007-08 Islanders Ice Girls squad.
After four hours of skating, interviewing and deliberating, the final choices were made. The newest Ice Girls team consists of eight returning members and four girls, who will grace the Coliseum ice for the 2007-08 season for the first time.
"We had stronger skaters this year than ever before," said Linda Beach, Ice Girls Coach/Performance Director. "For the initial cut, we only cut three skaters, which is incredible. The turnout and quality of the skaters shows how far this program has come in the seven years of its existence. Skaters are taking it very seriously and want to be here."
The auditions began just after 9:30 am with a nice mix of first year hopefuls and veteran performers. Twin sisters Kristy and Kelly were among the returning members from the 2006-07 season ready to tryout again. As a policy, even the past Ice Girls have to go through the process to ensure the best possible skaters make the team each season.
"I had myself a latte this morning so I was ready to go," laughed Kristy. "I felt confident going into the tryout, and it worked out.
The first round of skating tested the basic skating ability of the girls, who dressed to impress for the morning tryout. After a few early cuts, the remaining girls showed they were some of the finest figure skaters on Long Island. For the second round of skating, the girls were asked to perform more moves, which even challenged some of the veterans.
"I thought it was going to be the same but it changed from last year," said Kelly. "The skating was a lot more intense than last year. They kept us on our toes. Also, the skaters were really strong this year."
Following the skating drills, each girl was interviewed by Linda Beach, Tim Beach – VP of Game Operations – and Mike Sciortino, the Manager of Game Operations.
"The girls go out on a number of community relations and sponsorship opportunities, and they're also in the crowd," said Tim Beach. "You're looking for that outgoing, lively, smiling personality that exudes their excitement."
While the key players made the final decisions, the girls sat nervously in the locker room waiting for their fate.
"The first year I tried out I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect," said Brittany, who returns for her third season with the Ice Girls. "This year was really competitive. Each year you don't know what to expect from the girls. A lot of the younger girls are coming up and trying to take your spot."
One of those young skaters, who did grab a spot on the 2007-08 team was Valerie from Floral Park, who used to skate for the Rangers ice girl squad, when it was in existence a few years ago.
"I'm excited to skate in front of thousands of people – millions if you include TV," said Valerie. "I'm a Long Islander at heart, so I'm much happier to be skating for the team I grew up watching."
Adding to the nervousness and the excitement was the increased media attention. Not only was Islanders TV extensively filming the auditions, but Newsday brought a camera, photographer and reporter to cover the event.
"It was an honor to have all the extra attention with Newsday and the video cameras," said second year Ice Girl, Sasha, "but it also made me a little nervous."
When the final decisions were made, there were sounds and signs of cheering and heartbreak. For those who didn't make the cut, there were words of encouragement from Tim and Linda Beach. Many Ice Girls have not made the cut their first, second or third year, but have been rewarded for their resilience and made the team in the future. Best friends Samantha from Queens and Sage from Seaford are a perfect example.
"It feels great to have made it," said Samantha. It was a hard competition, but it came out well. I tried out two years ago and was hoping for the best today. It came together for me better this year."
"I was here last year, but didn't make it until this year, said Sage. "I really wanted to be on the team this year and I tried a little harder than last year. Samantha and I really wanted to be on the team together, so that was extra motivation. We've been friends since we were seven."
The final task for the newly selected girls was to try on two new outfits that are set to debut for the 2007-08 season. Ice Girls Monica and Chanel were kind enough to model the new attire for newyorkislanders.com.