Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 13 August 2010 00:00
For fans of the Islanders dynasty in the 1980s, which won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1984, a little piece of history recently experienced a big transformation as everything from the boards to the scoreboard underwent a revamping at the Cantiague Park Ice Rink in Hicksville.
Perhaps one of the most humble and underrated franchises of all time, the New York Islanders set a record for most consecutive playoff series wins, in any professional sport, with 19. During that time, the team laced their skates and taped their sticks between games at its second home: the practice facility at Cantiague Park.
A six-phase construction period began on July 3, wherein the rink had its ice melted and boards, glass and nets all removed before brand new replacements could be installed. Although not ideal for workers on the project, one of the hottest July months in recent memory significantly expedited the process of melting the ice, a vital step in the renovation that had to be completed before others could begin.
“Target date for completion is Aug. 23 and re-opening on Sept. 1, right now we’re pretty much on target,” said Nassau County Hockey Director Mark LaMarr. “I’ve been there a long time and I’ve really seen the program grow over 22 years.”
The original boards, which had withstood the test of time, hip-checks and off-target slap shots since 1972, were taken down along with the home and away benches and penalty boxes. When unearthed, they revealed hidden treasures from years past, including mouthpieces, hundreds of bottle caps and three buckets worth of hockey pucks.
One of the only components of the original rink that remained intact was the refrigerated concrete slab on top of which the ice is formed. The rink’s Zamboni acted as a vacuum for the slab to remove the remnants of paint and tape, which once marked the face-off circles, icing/off-sides lines and goalie creases before the ice was melted. Cleaning the base slab of concrete was the final step prior to delivery of the new boards and seamless glass, according to the Nassau County Hockey League website.
“The crew meticulously placed markings on the refrigerated concrete slab, noting where the coolant pipes run rink wide, as the next step of the boards’ installation involves carefully drilling into the concrete to anchor the boards,” said Eric Peck, a staff member and Nassau County hockey coach who documented each step of the process with pictures and thorough descriptions for the website.
Peck noted that the crew, a Minnesota-based company called Becker Arena Products, had to be extremely careful not to drill into the coolant pipes underneath the concrete or the entire project could be jeopardized.
“One misplaced bolt or drill hole could mean disaster, the project management team from Becker Arena Products comes to the Cantiague renovation with a wealth of experience,” Peck said.
Jim Becker, owner and president of Becker Arena Projects, boasts a crew that has built hundreds of facilities worldwide and most recently assisted in the football field to ice hockey rink transformation at Camp Randall Stadium, home of the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
In addition to the new benches and penalty boxes, a two-foot deep trench was dug to build a drainage system for rink overflow, a modern amenity which newer rinks can utilize. Using lasers as guides, another contemporary luxury, the horizontal strips for the red and blue lines could be, according to the website, aligned “to perfection.”
The new seamless glass, although more complicated to replace, will provide “visually obstruction-free” sightlines for fans in the bleachers. Should a single piece of the new seamless glass break, four to five adjacent pieces of glass need to be removed in order to fit the new piece in, according to the website.
“The season, for the travel kids, starts within two or three weeks, and it’s at a stage where 80 percent of the rink is done. Wednesday [Aug. 5] is the day for putting up the rest of the boards and drying some of the cement, and after that it’s a process of cleaning everything up,” said Peck.
LaMarr has seen his fair share of pucks dropped during his tenure with Nassau County Hockey and said the program has been working for several years to get the renovations started.
“It’s been a long haul, but we’re excited … I’ve been there since 1988 and seen some pretty good hockey played in that building … Eric Nystrom [son of former Islander Bobby Nystrom and current NHL player for the Minnesota Wild] played in our program and we won a state championship with him,” said LaMarr.
And while the rink at Cantiague Park barely resembled one at all during construction, the finished product will not only retain much of the historical value from the 1980s dynasty, but will also provide a clean sheet of ice for Nassau County Hockey to continue making a history all its own.