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Islanders can score by letting Gulls skate

Connie Gonzalez teaches her daughter Julianna how to

Connie Gonzalez teaches her daughter Julianna how to skate at Twin Rinks at Eisenhower Park on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Many professional hockey players started as kids on local rinks. Long Island kids should have that chance.

When New York Islanders majority owner Charles Wang bought the license to Eisenhower Park’s Twin Rinks out of bankruptcy, it seemed like a good deal. But concerns remained, as they do with any private use of public space, especially parkland. Wang planned to use the rink, now called Northwell Health Ice Center, as the Islanders’ practice facility, and for public purposes, like youth hockey.

Now, one of the youth organizations that had used the space, the Gulls Amateur Hockey Association, has been told it will no longer get ice time, despite a five-year deal signed last year.

A Wang attorney says the agreement doesn’t require the rink to provide the Gulls with ice time after March — only to discuss the possibility of future use. The rink, he said, plans to give ice time to other youth hockey groups, including teams sponsored by the Islanders themselves. As a result, Twin Rinks can’t give the Gulls the same deal. The Gulls say Twin Rinks has broken their contract.

The New York Islanders — whose general manager, Garth Snow, is also president of Twin Rinks — should do the right thing. Even if Wang and his attorney are correct about the letter of the agreement, maintaining the deal or finding a compromise with the Gulls would give the kids a place to play. County spokesman Brian Nevin said officials could help the Gulls find another space. But this is a chance for Islanders, who say they want to stay connected to their Long Island roots, to do right for hometown kids.

Keep the public park open to the public, and give the kids, not just the ones the Islanders choose, a chance to skate. — The editorial board