To say that Long Island has a rich hockey tradition would be the understatement of the year.
Founded in 1972, the Islanders are set to celebrate their 50th anniversary as a National Hockey League franchise. Their storied history includes an historic run of four Straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983 and an NHL record 19 straight playoff series wins from 1980-1984.
Prior to the Islanders’ arrival, the Long Island Ducks minor-league hockey team played their home games at the Long Island Arena in Commack from 1959 until 1973 when the Eastern League folded. Legendary hockey figure John Brophy was a player/coach for the Ducks and he is believed to have been the inspiration for Paul Newman’s character of Reggie Dunlop in the iconic movie “Slap Shot”.
Long Island is no stranger to being a part of hockey history and it’s about to happen again because for the first time ever, there will be a professional women’s hockey game on Long Island. This Saturday October 23rd at 7pm, the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale will play a Premier Hockey Federation (formerly the National Women’s Hockey League) pre-season game at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
“Nassau is home to many important moments in hockey history, including the Islanders’ legendary four straight Stanley Cup championships in the 1980’s,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “I am proud that the sport continues to grow here as the puck drops this weekend for the first professional women’s hockey game on Long Island – sending a powerful message to all youth athletes.”
Not only is the Northwell Health Ice Center the official practice facility of the Islanders but it is also the home both the Long Island University Men’s and Women’s hockey teams as well as “Islanders Girls Elite Hockey”, a program run by Syosset native Alexis Moed who is also the General Manager of the Connecticut Whale.
“This game marks an important point in the timeline of women’s’ hockey on Long Island,” said Moed. “From starting the Islanders Girls Elite Hockey program in 2016 to now welcoming two pro teams for an exhibition game six years later, our efforts illustrate the growth the game has had, not only on (Long) Island and beyond but specifically at Northwell Health Ice Center.”
There are more than 100 players currently enrolled in the Islanders Girls Elite Hockey program that was launched in 2015 and those young girls who love hockey will have an opportunity to watch some of their heroes play a game on the very ice that they play on.
“It is a great honor to host the game for me on Saturday,” said A.J. Congero, the General Manager of Northwell Health Ice Center. “We always had a vision of growing the girls’ game. I guess you can say we have come full-circle in a short time.”
The Premier Hockey Federation (formerly NWHL) began play in 2015 with four teams–the New York (now Metropolitan) Riveters, Connecticut Whale, Buffalo Beauts and Boston Pride. For the 2021-22 season, the league will have six teams including those original four franchises as well as the Minnesota Whitecaps and the Toronto Six. Women’s hockey has exploded in participation and popularity in recent years and now Long Island hockey fans will be able to get to see it in person.
“With the ongoing support of the New York Islanders, National Grid who sponsors our program and the PHF, we will continue to create opportunities for women’s hockey,” said Moed.
As the Islanders are getting set to enter a new era with a new home, hockey continues to grow on Long Island, particularly in Nassau County.
“We welcome (the PHF) as we approach another monumental moment in hockey history when the Islanders take the ice at UBS Arena, their new permanent home and the first arena built post-pandemic – solidifying our County as a top spot for the sport for men and women,” said Curran.
When the Riveters began play in 2015, they called the Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn their home. In 2016, they moved to the New Jersey Devils practice facility, the St. Barnabas Health Hockey House at Prudential Center in Newark. This season, the Riveters will play their first two home games at the Mennen Ice Arena in Morris Township, New Jersey before playing the remainder of their home schedule at the St. Barnabas Health Hockey House.
Given that there are so many young girls playing hockey on Long Island and how the interest level in women’s hockey continues to grow, perhaps Long Island could have a PHF team of their own somewhere down the road.
“I absolutely think Long Island would be a great market for professional women’s hockey,” said Congero. “We are anticipating a great turnout on Saturday night as most of our girls (from the Islanders Girls Elite Hockey Program) are attending the game and we look forward to hosting future women’s events and growing girls hockey even more on Long Island.”
Professional hockey first arrived on Long Island 62 years ago. This Saturday, Long Island will host its first ever women’s professional hockey game. It will certainly be an historic night and it’s a long time coming for so many young girls who love to play the game and will finally have a chance to see some of the brightest stars in the sport.