A Clubhouse Becomes an Islanders Ice Palace

You could be forgiven if you mistook the Islanders practice rink for a five-star hotel.

Where else — in the middle of suburban East Meadow’s Eisenhower Park — would you find a world-class chef dishing out deluxe dishes?

Remarkably, this has nothing to do with a restaurant-within-a-hostelry but rather a dining room inside Northwell Health Ice Center, alias the Islanders practice facility.

To call this recently-unveiled complex an ice palace is an understatement. A label such as “The Taj Mahal of NHL Training Rinks” is a more suitable moniker.

This much is certain, the multi-million dollar facility — just a mile from the former Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum — has amenities on top of amenities. The amazing roster includes the following:

  • A private chef is there to deliver three meals — breakfast, lunch, pre-game eats — for the players, and take-home snacks as well.
  • A team of masseuses and chiropractors are on call; not to mention a sleep doctor.
  • There are coaches who specialize in strength and conditioning. Facilities include a new gym and turf field, 20-person cold tub and Cryogenic chamber as well as an underwater treadmill.

This galaxy of gym goodies is all part of the Jon LedeckyScott Malkin ownership team’s determination to provide their stickhandlers with an A-1 workout setup.

At a recent Islanders media scrum, I asked Ledecky what the palatial Northwell Center is intended to accomplish. A broad smile immediately crossed his face; not unlike the look of a new father.

“We want our players to have a first-class-world-class facility,” Ledecky explained, “and I mean one that ranks with the league’s best. Based on the terrific feedback I’m getting so far, we’ve accomplished that goal.

“The focus is on helping enhance our players’ performance as well as making their lives as comfortable as possible. The individual things we’ve provided prove the point.”

A state of the art video section looks more like a Hollywood screening room. It enables Coach Doug Weight to employ multiple SMART screens on top of live video to explain assorted game plans.

Ultra-modern, the rink and surrounding facilities are a far cry from what Weight experienced at the old Syosset practice pond when he signed with the club in July 2008.

“This (Northwell) place has everything a player and coach could want,” said Weight.

General Manager Garth Snow seconded the motion suggesting what others have been thinking; that such a fabulous facility will help lure more quality (free agent) players to his hockey club.

“The hockey world is small,” Snow explained, “and word of what we have in East Meadow will get around, that Northwell is such a special environment.”

Of course, the prize target — in terms of retaining him as an Islander — remains John Tavares. The hope is that lures such as the training complex will help induce him to stay with his one and only hockey club.

In the final year of his contract, the captain can become an unrestricted free agent next July. But Tavares is not the only target of ownership.

“We want to go after the league’s best free agents,” added Ledecky. “We’re not your father’s Islanders anymore.”

Immensely proud of such features as the glittering players’ lounge, Ledecky and staff already held a media tour of Northwell and have invited Islanders alumni members to sightsee it as well.

A recent visitor was franchise legend, Clark Gillies. Islanders Website Manager Cory Wright asked Gillies to compare Northwell with practice rinks Clark remembered from yesteryear.

As usual, the Hall of Famer had the perfect squelch:

“Well,” Gillies concluded, “the colors are the same!”