For Jack Capuano, Wednesday morning’s practice was a tease.
Capuano was leading the Islanders practice at Northwell Health Ice Center, the state-of-the-art facility that will become the Islanders’ dedicated practice facility next season. The coach, who has seen his fair share of rinks from Tallahassee to Maine said the Long Island facility was one of the nicest he’s skated on.
“We’ve been around to a lot of practice facilities in the NHL,” Capuano said. “We’ve got one of the best practice facilities now. They still have to do some construction to it, so we can move in here next year in a top-end facility.”
The rink – located in Eisenhower Park – has two NHL-sized rinks, an outdoor recreational ice rink and an Islanders Pro Shop. Currently, construction is planned for state-of-the-art lockerrooms, workout facilities and coaches’ offices, giving the Islanders every comfort and amenity they could need or want.
“A few of our coaches have been in different organizations and they say this will be the best practice facility in the league,” General Manager Garth Snow said. “It’s well-deserved by our players and a good feather in the cap of the organization.”
The rink has the player’s approval as well, who commented on having the freedom to bounce between two sheets of ice. When the players and coaches feel one sheet has been too chewed up from a rigorous practice, they simply go across the hall and start fresh.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Kyle Okposo said. “Two rinks is something we’re looking forward to. It’s just convenient and the fact that you can walk across and get a fresh sheet for power plays is really nice.”
Capuano added that the second rink will also be used by the goalies, who have their own practice before the full team skate.
GALLERY: ISLES PRACTICE AT NORTHWELL HEALTH ICE CENTER
While upgrading the team’s practice facilities was a priority for Islanders’ Owner Charles Wang, so was keeping the facility on Long Island, close to the team’s roots. Wang accomplished that literal sense placing the team across the Meadowbrook Parkway, just over a mile from Nassau Coliseum. The 165,000 square-foot facility feels homey, the Islanders’ Stanley Cup banners draped over the wall on the “Islanders Rink” while the retired number banners watch over the “Sound Tigers Rink.” The goal, keep the community ties with Long Island strong.
“I give Charles a lot of credit. We talked about keeping the team here locally and [he] kept it on Long Island,” Capuano said. “I knew all along that he was going to do his best to keep it local, keep it here and fortunately for everybody he did.”
That sense of community was realized last week, as Northwell was the site of the eighth annual Lighthouse International Tournament. The tournament, which was previously held at the Coliseum, looks to be an annual highlight at the new rink. The Islanders also hosted the mini-camp at Northwell last summer, including a second Blue and White Scrimmage. Johnny Boychuk signed autographs on Thursday Jan. 21.
The added bonus for the players: convenience. The Islanders still live on Long Island and many live in close proximity to Northwell. Calvin de Haan – who approved of the building’s cleanliness – said he figures he lives close enough to walk if the urge strikes. Snow said he’s a 15-minute drive, with a stop for coffee.
The facility won’t be move-in ready until next season, so Capuano and company will have to contain themselves a little longer, but Wednesday was a preview of what’s to come.
They were teased Wednesday, but good things come to those who wait.