The East End officially has a covered full-size ice rink.
Peconic Hockey celebrated the grand opening of its domed rink at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton Saturday with ceremonies and a ribbon-cutting attended by members of the New York Islanders organization, including the team’s first captain, Ed Westfall, for whom the Calverton rink is named.
Peconic Hockey Foundation President Troy Albert, the driving force behind force behind the effort, told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters of the long, long journey that got the group to the opening of its “dream rink.”
“So many people over the years have been such a big part of this, and I can’t thank you enough. This is absolutely amazing,” Albert said.
“I look at this thing and I say to myself, This is not your regular hockey rink. When I look around, I see all the pictures and all the volunteers. You guys put in thousands of hours,” Albert said. “Peconic hockey teams, they came here, all the kids, the parents, they actually put the whole skin together, they stuck sand, they painted locker rooms, they put up flooring — nonstop, you guys built this rink. Don’t forget that. This is your home. This is Wildcat and Islanders country,” Albert said.
Albert saluted a lot of people for their efforts to make the dream a reality.
“We’ve had hundreds of meetings with different towns from Southampton to East Hampton to Greenport, to Brookhaven, Dowling College we were looking at, hopefully to put a rink there. Nothing ever happened,” Albert said, recalling the group’s quest over the past decade.
“Finally, after so many meetings, the Town of Riverhead, we got together and they said you know what, we can do this, we can make this happen. So thank you to the Town of Riverhead.”
“We could not have done this without the support of Councilman Ken Rothwell,” Albert said. “I want to let you know that Ken is not your typical councilman politician. Ken would call me every day at 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning — ‘Did you do this? Did you do that? What did you do about this?’ Not only was he making those phone calls, pushing those emails to get everything done, I can’t tell you how many nights I’d come out here at 10, 11, 12, one o’clock in the morning and Ken’s out here flooding, putting logos down, stitching up the tent, every night making this happen,” Albert said. “So thank you very much.”
Albert presented Rothwell with a Peconic Wildcats jersey.
“On behalf of the Peconic Wildcat families, welcome to the Peconic Wildcat family team,” Albert told him.
Albert then presented Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar with a key to the arena.
“We wanted to present you with the key to Ed Westfall Arena,” Albert told the supervisor. “As we donate this arena to the Town of Riverhead, to date we’ve raised $2.3 million from everyone out here. And we are donating this bubble dome to the town for the community,” he said.
“Troy, you are right. There were many challenges, especially in the beginning,” Aguiar said. “And I was the one that took the front to make sure we got it right. We had to deal with the state. And eventually Ken came to me, says, you know we have the same goal in mind. But you’re just putting it out there and there were challenges and you got through all of them,” Aguiar said.
“And we’re here. You have the support and you’re going to grow and I know you’re going to grow and succeed and look because many people are here from all walks and this is a family venue,” Aguiar said.
“And you have next door, if everybody gets a chance, just go right next door, you’ll see the blue building with the with the blue roof on it. That’s a $50 million facility, also your neighbors,” Aguiar said, referring to Scott’s Pointe, formerly known as Island Water Park. “You’re all going to work together. You got to go see it. It’s a state-of-the-art facility, just opened up,” she said.
Calverton will be ‘a Mecca for sports.’ -Supervisor Yvette Aguiar
“Calverton is it. We’re moving, and this is not the end. This is going to become a destination point, a Mecca for sports,” she said. “And Ken, I congratulate you for your efforts because I know you put a lot of work on it and you made it a little bit easier for me,” Aguiar told Rothwell. “I was doing the legal stuff behind the scenes and making sure everything was transparent and people knew. You got here and I want to congratulate you,” she said.
Rothwell thanked Troy and Caryn Albert. “Your dream is now reality,” he told them.
He drew an analogy to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that scored a huge upset over the four-time defending gold medalist Soviet Union team.
“What a lot of people don’t remember is on that path to gold, they still had one more game and had to play against Finland that time in order to get that gold,” Rothwell said.
“And I feel like that’s where we are today, right now. We beat the Russians but we still have one more thing to do. And that’s about 100 yards south of here to build that brick-and-mortar, two-sheet of ice arena inside. So we’re gonna celebrate today but you still got some work ahead of you, Troy,” Rothwell said.
“It was sheer determination that Peconic Hockey constructed this dome,” Rothwell said, “so they may we may teach our children that winning does create champions, losing strengthens humility, but every practice session here will build life’s foundation for success. Regardless of where my future is, as an elected official, I’ll always know that this project was truly the highlight of my career.”
Rothwell thanked his fellow board members and a host of town employees for their efforts to get the rink built and permitted.
County Executive-elect Ed Romaine and State Assembly Member Jodi Giglio were on hand to wish Peconic Hockey well.
Albert singled out a number of the foundation’s financial supporters. He told the crowd about the role of Riverhead Building Supply in physically getting the domed rink from Rhode Island, where Peconic Hockey purchased it used from a town in Rhode Island.
“This started as a simple phone call” from Riverhead Building Supply’s Edgar Goodale. He asked Albert how the group planned to get the dome to Riverhead. Albert said they were planning to “rent a bunch of 18-wheelers” and Goodale told him, “I’ll take care of it.”
“That’s how our relationship started,” Albert said. Riverhead Building Supply moved the domed rink using its own trucks, covered the cost of the ferry, and “got forklifts… and every type of equipment you can imagine here,” Albert said.
“Then I met with the entire family. And I told them what we’re doing,” Albert said. He told the family the organization was short about $500,000 despite constantly trying to raise money. The Goodale family called him the next day to offer to match up to $250,000 towards the rink.
“We did it, Edgar, we raised $1.3 million this year,” Albert said.
“We would not be here today without them,” he said.
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has been a consistent supporter of Peconic Hockey over the years, Albert said.
“You’ve donated so much money over the years and helped us so much. So, thank you. And it is our pleasure to have that New York Islander logo all over this rink,” Albert said.
Ledecky congratulated the Albert family for “a great accomplishment.” He spoke about Ed Westfall, for whom the Calverton arena is named.
“He was the first captain of the New York Islanders. He was the first all-star ever named for the New York Islanders in an all-star game. And in the 1975 series, the Stanley Cup run with the Islanders in their third year, went to the semi-finals. Ed Westfall had five goals and 10 assists. Not bad for number 18,” Ledecky said.
“Ed Westfall played in 1,226 games. He scored 231 goals had 394 assists. He’s in the Islanders Hall of Fame…for 20 years, Ed Westfall was the voice of the New York Islanders with Jiggs McDonald,” Ledecky said. “Right? How many of us remember that great run with Ed announcing us to the Stanley Cup championships four times in a row. And Ed also scored the first goal in Islanders history in the first game on Oct. 7, 1972,” Ledecky said.
NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, who spent his first eight seasons with the Islanders (1983-1991) introduced Westfall, who he credited with bringing the Islanders “leadership and culture” and took the young players out onto the ice and into the community and made them a team. He was a leader who would change Long Island’s destiny forever, LaFontaine said.
“And here we are years later, another arena being built. And another legacy that’s continuing,” LaFontaine said.
Westfall said Long Island, where he has made his home for 51 years, was “a wonderful place to come.”
Islanders fans are family, Westfall said.
“What Troy and Caryn have done here with their leadership, which is what Pat was alluding to, that things like this don’t just happen. It takes it takes a whole town, a whole family, a whole county to make sure that things get done,” Westfall said.
“When you think of the pleasure that these buildings are going to give families… it’s not just kids, boys and girls playing hockey, but figure skating, family skating. It’s a wonderful way for people to say, ‘Hey, let’s go get a pair of skates and go for a skate. You wouldn’t believe what that does, for a family and for a community,” Westfall said.
“So to all the people that have made this get this far and will continue to make it grow, I thank you and I can only say wow, what a what a wonderful tribute to a humble person that that still can’t believe it,” Westfall said. “I thank you all.”
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Emil Breitenbach Jr., who also contributed reporting for this story.
Correction: This article has been amended to correct an error related to Ed Romaine’s title.
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