This time last year, 10-year-old goalie C.J. Sheridan had a hard time defending the net at Cantiague Park because the rink was much darker, and the puck didn’t flow as well across the ice.
Problem solved. The rink underwent a $600,000 renovation this past summer, its second since opening in 1966. Cantiague Park Director Mark LaMarr said the renovations included a new heating system, new boards and glass around the rink, running water on the benches in case players get thirsty, and brighter, more energy efficient lighting that is expected to save the rink 25 percent on its electric bill.
Cantiague served as the practice home for the Islanders from 1979 until they moved to Syosset’s Iceworks in 1992. The lighting, stands, ice, boards and glass had all become dilapidated since the team called the rink home.
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“It just got old, it just got tired,” LaMarr said.
“It was kind of getting tough on us, the coaches, getting kind of difficult to use at times,” said Scott Gerstner, head coach of the Nassau County Hockey program’s “Squirts” team. Gerstner has been with the program at Cantiague since 1986 and has seen the rink at its worst and now at its best.
“It’s the best facility on Long Island at this point,” he said. “I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t think that.”
Cantiague’s appeal also attracts Sheridan and his father, Dennis, from Glen Head.
“This was sort of a diamond in the rough. We just knew this one was special,” said Dennis Sheridan. “Clearly the improvements, not only for the kids, but for the fans, are so much better.”
Cantiague has featured appearances by celebrities like the NHL’s Eric Nystrom and Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. One of the many programs at the rink is a speed skating club whose average age is 80.
“Sixty-six is young for them,” LaMarr said.
Besides the hockey leagues, public skating sessions are held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and skating lessons are scattered throughout the week.
LaMarr looked on as sticks slapped one another and skates sped down the ice. The white-jerseyed Lions, Cantiague’s home team, seized control of the puck. This kind of action keeps the rink open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., but LaMarr isn’t complaining.
“It’s all fun.”