The National Hockey League began its season two weeks ago, which was better late than never for its fan base after a long work stoppage. Hockey may be returning to Valley Stream as well, as the village is in negotiations to bring an adult roller hockey league to its currently dormant rink.
Village Clerk Bob Barra said the board will discuss the proposal at an upcoming work session, but could not divulge any information about the discussions which are still ongoing. “We are looking at giving it one last shot with a hockey league,” he said.
Barra added that if an agreement is reached, it is possible for the league to begin over the summer, but the rink surface would have to be inspected first. He said there cannot be any jagged edges around the boards or uneven areas on the surface which could cause injuries or bad bounces. Barra, who has a hockey background, plans on lacing up his skates to check the surface in the near future.
However, Barra noted, village officials don’t want to invest money in a rink that no one uses. “We have to see how far the board wants to go with it,” he said. “You’re not going to want to spend a lot of money if you’ve got a fledgling league that’s not going to make it or just last one year and that’s it.”
Mayor Ed Fare compared the hockey rink to other village entities like the dog park, basketball courts and bocce courts: they may not appeal to everyone, but there are groups of people who enjoy them which make it worthwhile.
Residents have asked questions, Fare said, about the village running a hockey league at the rink, but he said the rink needs a community member or group to take the lead for it to be successful, much like the Friends of Valley Stream Dogs oversees the dog park.
Fare added that the village does not run any baseball, football, basketball or other sports organizations, yet those leagues have flourished in Valley Stream.
“I’d love to see a hockey league because that’s what’s it’s there for,” he said of the rink. “I would love to reinvest money in the hockey rink for hockey, but if that’s not to be, then it’s not to be.”
The rink, which is located between Sunrise Highway and the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road station, was where the village opened its skate park in 2011. Last fall, village officials decided to move the skate park, which features portable equipment, to the concrete area in between the miniature golf course and the pool at Hendrickson Park.
The village is also in discussions with the Valley Stream Baseball League to use the rink for tee ball games. Richard Graves, the league’s treasurer, said he is waiting for approval from the village, but if an agreement is reached, games could be played there this spring.
Graves said the rink would be an ideal spot for the league’s tee ball division, which is made up of mostly 5 year olds, because it’s a contained environment. “When you play tee ball at some of the school fields, the next thing you know you’re looking for your players and they’re in the playground playing,” he said. “Also, they’re picking up rocks, dirt and grass. Here, they could be more focused.”
Graves added that since the adult hockey league wouldn’t start until the summer and the tee ball league is played in the spring, the scheduling would work out nicely. Also, since the bases are approximately 45 feet apart, space wouldn’t be an issue. Graves noted that kids do not slide at that age and there is no risk of balls flying anywhere. “Even if someone clocks a ball good, where’s it going?” he said. “The fences are 18-feet high and these are 4 and 5 year olds.”
There have been rumblings that the rink could be demolished if a league doesn’t move in, in favor of additional parking spaces, but both Barra and Fare said that is not ideal. According to Fare, there are enough commuter spaces by the Long Island Rail Road station already, though some people have to walk a short distance to catch the train depending on where they park.
“If all else fails, you could just add more parking and sell off some of the material,” Barra said, “but we don’t want to do that yet. It was built for roller hockey.”