The New York Islanders have introduced a season-long outdoor ice experience at Belmont Park’s UBS Arena, featuring a brand-new pond hockey rink. Crafted by Dan Craig, renowned for overseeing over 30 outdoor NHL games, the 120-foot-by-60-foot rink aims to engage the younger generation in the community.
Named Northwell Pond, the rink will host 4-on-4 hockey tournaments for both youth and adults. Adjacent, Isles Pond will accommodate programs like “Learn to Skate,” “Learn to Play,” and “Try Hockey for Free” on synthetic ice. The initiative was spearheaded by John Collins, who, after joining the Islanders, drew on his experience with the NHL’s outdoor game phenomenon.
Collins envisions a vibrant community celebration outside UBS, complete with fire pits, heated igloos, carnival games, and food trucks. The unveiling ceremony saw Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, President of Hockey Operations and GM Lou Lamoriello, along with Hall of Famers Denis Potvin and Billy Smith, participating in a ceremonial puck drop on the synthetic ice surface.
Reflecting on the pond hockey environment, Potvin emphasized its significance for many Canadian players, drawing parallels with his own upbringing. Former Islander Pat LaFontaine, reminiscing about his childhood pond hockey experiences, hopes the new outdoor scene brings similar excitement to a new generation of fans.
Acknowledging the practical benefits, Smith highlighted the appeal of outdoor activities, allowing fans to enjoy The Park’s offerings before the game, particularly given New York’s notorious traffic. With Belmont Park undergoing a significant renovation, Collins is even considering the possibility of a future Winter Classic on Long Island.
Islanders co-owner Ledecky sees The Park as a platform for larger-scale events, noting its recognition within the NHL community. He believes that showcasing creativity and uniqueness is crucial for attracting events like the All-Star game or Winter Classic to Long Island.
As the Islanders embrace this outdoor hockey extravaganza, The Park at UBS Arena promises to be a hub of community engagement, blending the nostalgia of pond hockey with the thrill of NHL action.