Hundreds of families turned out to the grand opening of the New York Islanders and the Town of Huntington's Pro Shop at Dix Hills Ice Rink on Sunday afternoon.
At about 5 p.m., Frank Petrone, Supervisor for the Town of Huntington, blew a whistle to garner everyone’s attention and made a brief speech, signifying the opening of the shop.
“This is really a milestone for us,” Petrone said. “I’ve been working to get a new rink here and to redo this old rink for 15 years. It’s been my dream to professionalize this rink and to make it available to leagues and teams at various levels, figure skaters as well. Having the Islanders here is a stamp of approval.”
|Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and forward Matt Martin pose with fans during the grand opening of the Islanders Pro Shop at Dix Hills Ice Rink on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. |
The action-packed day began with visits from the Islanders mascot Sparky and an Islanders Ice Girl, before Islanders forward Matt Martin
and defenseman Travis Hamonic
took part in an on-ice session, playing pick-up hockey before the venturing off the ice for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by an autograph session.
“Having Matt and Travis here is a special treat for our players, especially for these kids that come here all the time to play,” Petrone said. “This is something that is a sport of love for them. Certainly today is a highlight in their little careers as future hockey players.”
Richard Sanders, a Northport resident, has been an Islanders fan since 1972 and boasted that he was even Billy Smith’s neighbor when he was young. Sanders ventured to Dix Hills Ice Rink with his wife and three young sons, ages 14, 11 and eight, of which the youngest plays for the Black Rose.
“It’s great for his hockey needs,” Sanders said. “Being able to get his skates sharpened without having to go somewhere else or to buy whatever equipment you might need, it’s pretty cool.”
The team’s reach into the community is a vital part of the Islanders mission, something that Islanders Senior Vice President and Alternate Governor Michael Picker refers to as “sewing ourselves into the fabric of our communities” here on Long Island.
“Everywhere we can grow, whether it’s into Pro Shops or getting involved in different community events, it’s important because we are the only professional hockey team on the island,” Picker said. “It’s important for us to get out and meet the young kids so that they can be the next generation of Islanders fans down the road.”
Part of the arrangement with the Town of Huntington is that Islanders players will periodically stop by the rink throughout the season to skate with the kids in their various house leagues and development groups at all different levels, where they players will not only skate and participate in clinics, they’ll sign autographs and answer the skaters’ questions.
|A small fan shops around the Islanders Pro Shop, helping to celebrate the store's grand opening at Dix Hills Ice Rink on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. |
The Pro Shop caters to all your hockey and figure skating needs. Available for purchase are top-of-the-line hockey and figure skates, sticks, gloves, hockey pants, helmets, mouth guards, under armour, figure skating dresses, tights, track suits and more. There is also a select set of Islanders apparel and hockey jerseys available for purchase, but most importantly, you’ll never need to leave the rink if you need your skates sharpened.
“They came to our shop at Iceworks, the Islanders practice facility, looked at how we ran the shop, how we merchandized it and the products that we carried and sold,” said Islanders Pro Shop Manager Tim Murray. “They knew of our reputation for our service and our sharpening and they wanted us to be able to mirror what we do at the practice facility, here at their facility.”
When the ribbon was finally cut, after all the work Murray put in over the last year, he was real happy with the way things turned out.
“I think we’ve come up with a great match,” Murray said. “I love the facility. I love the size of the shop. I love the idea of taking our logo and our Pro Shop and bringing it into western Suffolk County where there are a tremendous amount of Islanders fans and a incredible amount of kids playing youth hockey. It’s a perfect match.”
Nate Coulter, an eight-year-old from Huntington and member of the Blue Dragons, seems to agree.
“I’m very excited,” Coultier said. “Because now I can come in, I can get sticks and get stuff in case I break mine. If I need anything, I can get it here.”
It doesn’t hurt that he’s a die-hard Islanders fan.