Earlier this month, Islanders Iceworks, the Official Practice Facility of the New York Islanders, made a little bit of history in Syosset, NY. Feb. 12 was a day of firsts for figure skating and hockey in the Long Island suburb and showcased the amazing athletic talents of children from four-years-old up to young teenagers.
The Long Island Grand Prix was first of the firsts. It’s a new way to help promote youth figure skating in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Three rinks have joined together to create ongoing competitions throughout the winter season. In November, the Cantiague Figure Skating Club hosted the Holiday Classic. Then, in early February, Islanders Iceworks hosted the “I Love to Skate” Basic Skills Competition. In April, the Freeport Ice Rink will hold the Spring Challenge.
For figure skaters, this weekend was the fourth annual “I Love to Skate” Basic Skills Competition, which this year became the second leg of the inaugural Long Island Basic Skills Grand Prix. Almost 100 different skaters from Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau & Suffolk counties traveled to Iceworks for this special event. Of these, there were two groups of figure skaters separated by experience level.
“It was great performing at my home rink,” Sarah Grisham, a young Nassau native said. “It was fun being here with all my friends who were also competing. We all cheer each other on, so it’s a lot of fun!”
In the grand prix, each skater received points for their placements at each competition. First place earns the most points and then it gradually decreases down to fifth place. Skaters will also receive additional points if they “move up” a level from one event to the next event. After all three competitions, points are totaled in order to determine the first, second and third place winners who will receive special awards, as well as a savings bond.
Even though each competition could only have three winners, that didn’t seem to bother the other 80-plus girls competing. They still had a great time and each had their favorite parts of the contest.
“My favorite part of the competition was getting onto the ice, performing my routine and smiling for the judges,” Gianna LoRusso said. “It was great to have friends and family supporting me and cheering me on.”
Of course, the winners enjoyed themselves, too.
“My favorite part of the competition was receiving my first-place medal,” Chiara Vlacich said. “Especially because I wasn’t nervous at all and I really had a lot of fun while skating.”
Figure skaters weren’t the only ones hitting the Iceworks ice though. What truly made the day historic was the combination of the inaugural grand prix and the inaugural home and home house league hockey series between Port Washington Skating Academy House League & Iceworks House League.
After a tough game in Port Washington, the players bounced right back into a big finish on Sunday. The game played out as any big series should – in a nail-biter. The back half came down to a shootout where Iceworks wrapped up the home victory in thrilling fashion. As good as the games were, the best on-ice performance came post-game when the teams from Port Washington and Iceworks traded pins in a show of true sportsmanship that can only be found in hockey. That gesture spoke volumes not only about the sport, but also about the young players who participated in the event.
Islanders Iceworks Hockey Director Andrew Morenberg couldn’t have been more pleased with how the series turned out. It was a huge success that will hopefully lead to more of these events in the future.
“Everyone had fun and it was a great learning experience for all the kids,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to setting up more games next season.”
Good thing Iceworks is open 12 months out of the year because Long Island can’t get enough of its winter sports.