These Ladies Heat Up The
By Catherine Toorfirstname.lastname@example.org
While a 90-second commercial
break may seem like a lifetime for an NHL fan, for the girls whose
job it is to clear the ice of the snow that builds up during the
game, that time goes by in the blink of an eye.
The minute and a half during a timeout is exactly how long the New
York Islanders Ice Girls have to clear the ice at the Nassau Coliseum,
including the goalie crease, perimeter of the rink and each zone
all with big smiles on their faces.
In overtime, they get just 60 seconds to do the job something
that could happen more frequently with the Isles currently competing
in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
When I first started and I heard 90 seconds, I was shocked.
Its the fastest 90 seconds ever, said rookie Ice Girl
Rebecca Farrell, 19, of Huntington. You go as fast as you
can and make sure you dont miss anything.
The time constraint is precisely why only quality skaters make the
cut during Islanders Ice Girls auditions each August. But the pressure
comes with the territory, and if you ask the 11 figure skaters on
the 2012-2013 squad, they will tell you they have the best job in
I get to represent an organization that Ive watched
since I was born, said Ashleen Betts, 24, of East Northport,
who went to her first Islanders game when she was just 6 weeks old.
Being a part of this dynamic team and corporation is something
I will always treasure.
Now in her second year as an Ice Girl, the 2007 Commack High School
graduate has been skating for 17 years. She remembers her audition
well a test of skating backwards and in various positions,
including power crossovers.
The skating talent pool is so impressive that veteran Ice Girls
must try out each season to retain their jobs.
Of the 25 who auditioned in August 2012, Sara Davies, 19, a 2012
graduate of St. Anthonys High School in South Huntington,
was ecstatic to have made the cut. She entered a world of blue and
orange (and sometimes, hot pink) costumes and attention beyond anything
she had experienced.
My first game, I thought it was weird that people wanted to
high-five me, Davies, of Islip, said.
The Ice Girls concept was the creation of Centerports Tim
Beach, vice president of game operations and events for the New
York Islanders. Beach, who has been with the organization for 20
years, started the squad in 2001 when new NHL mandates required
teams to perform ice maintenance around the nets during games.
There was no requirement that the clean-up crews be all-female,
wear sparkly costumes and entertain the crowds, but Beach figured,
I thought it would be a great opportunity to give females
who know how to skate an opportunity to show their stuff,
The Islanders inaugural Ice Girls team had four members and
was the first of its kind in the NHL. Today, 20 franchises use all-female
clean-up squads, Beach said.
Clearing the ice of snow has changed the game substantially, said
NHL Hall of Famer and Islanders royalty Mike Bossy, who played for
the team in the 1980s.
Ice Girls or boys would have been extremely useful in my day,
he said. Back in my day, goalies would use the snow in the
crease to help them; theyd make mounds of snow near the goal.
A lot of snow accumulated by the benches.
Snow removal is only part of the Ice Girls job. They are also
responsible for entertaining and pumping up the crowd.
Ice Girls coach Linda Beach, Tims wife and a skating instructor
at the Dix Hills Ice Rink, runs a well-organized ship. Arriving
two hours before game time, the girls roll the T-shirts they will
eventually fire into the crowd. They also pose for photos, ride
the Zamboni, present the flags and show off their pom pom routine.
Though Betts, Davies and Farrell all products of the Dix
Hills Ice Rink admit that shooting the T-shirt gun is fun,
each said it is not the best part of what they do.
Its really the fans that make it the best job ever,
said Farrell, a graduate of St. Patricks School in Huntington
and St. Anthonys High School. I love seeing the reaction
of fans, especially the children, when they see us and we give them
T-shirts. Through skating I can make a childs day.
Unruly fans can test the girls patience.
They always seem to have something to say never anything
nice but you have to grow tough skin, Betts said. Being
able to come into the locker room and laugh it off is a skill everyone
It teaches you a lot about how to handle yourself in public
situations, Davies added.
Islanders Ice Girls are expected to also participate in community
events each month, like food drives, fundraisers and promotional
events. Last season, Betts made 34 appearances outside of the hockey
Everyone wanted to know who these girls were, so they now
serve as ambassadors. Theyre out there all the time for us,
Tim Beach said.
Its a lot more time consuming than people would ever
think, Farrell said. I dont think people realize
the work we put in.
Even with the time commitment, being an Ice Gi
rl is still just a part-time gig for these girls. Betts teaches
American Sign Language, is the manager at the Dix Hills Park pool,
coaches swimming, diving and dance, and is pursuing a masters
degree in special education at Hofstra University. Davies is studying
at St. Josephs College with plans to transfer to the Fashion
Institute of Technology. Farrell is a student at Molloy College
studying speech pathology and audiology, and works at the Dix Hills
Ice Rink as an assistant manager.
We mange to balance school and family and friends and being
an Ice Girl. Its a lot, but everythings worth it in
the end, Farrell said.
The minimum age to be an Ice Girl is 18, although the program has
even drawn women in their 30s with a love of skating and performing.
But as all good things eventually come to an end, life goes on after
they hang up their skates. Already, current Ice Girls see skills
they have developed which they can add to their resumes.
Working as an Ice Girl has opened doors and shown me I can
do a lot more with the knowledge and degrees Ive obtained,
Now I have no problem speaking in class, Davies added.
But none of these girls is ready to leave the ice just yet. For
them, the Ice Girls team has become a second family.
As long as I can Im going to keep this going,
With the No. 8 Islanders in the playoffs for the first time since
2007, the ladies are experiencing an energy theyve never felt
within the coliseums walls. Skating during the teams
first home playoff game on Sunday against the No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins
is something they will never forget.
It was probably the best experience Ive ever had as
a skater, Farrell said. Seeing the crowd and the love
for the Islanders, the orange and blue everywhere, and the rally
towels, it was amazing.
This is the most excited this coliseum has been in a long
time. I cant even remember the last time it was like this,
I can! Linda Beach told her. Its nice to
see it back. The coliseum roars.