SI.com: The New York Islanders will cart plenty of tradition along with them as they make their move from the Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season. But one longstanding tradition will be very noticeable by its absence: the Islanders Ice Girls. In their place will be a co-ed ice crew charged with “helping create the best ice possible as mandated by the NHL.” Back in 2001, the Isles were the first NHL club to create a cheerleader-style Ice Girls squad that, along with performing various promotional duties, was charged with shoveling loose snow off the ice at stoppages.
By David Satriano
New York Post
October 31, 2013
When John Tavares skates in on a breakaway and roofs a goal top shelf at Nassau Coliseum, he has the Ice Girls to thank.
The 12 women who make up the Islanders Ice Girls team ensure the ice is clean of snow and debris every game, so Tavares and his teammates have a clear surface on which to play.
“As a team, we’re required to clean the ice three times a period in 90 seconds or less,” said Ashleen, who has been an Ice Girl for three seasons. “Ninety seconds may seem like a very long time, however when you’re clearing the ice, having to go around players and refs, making sure you do not miss anything, it can get a little hectic.”
The work the Ice Girls do can’t be seen on TV, but from the stands on Long Island, it becomes clear see how good they are at their craft, even sweeping the ice in synchronization. So how does one become an Ice Girl?
“Most of our audition is on ice,” said Christi, a five-year Ice Girl veteran. “Our coach, Linda, will ask us to do crossovers, T-stops, lunges, spirals, and those types of things, then there’s an interview before you go back on the ice and skate with the [Islanders] flags and some of the shovels.
“About six years ago in December, I came to an Islanders game with my friends and I saw all the ice girls on the ice. They were playing games with the fans and they wore Christmas outfits, and I thought it looked like so much fun that I decided then I wanted to do it.”
In addition to cleaning the ice, the Ice Girls take part in activities during the game around the Coliseum and make approximately 200 appearances throughout the community each year.
“You might see us running around selling raffle tickets, making appearances, doing fan interactions, making announcements on the jumbotron,” Ashleen said. “My favorite part is dancing and getting the crowd into the game.”
There were a fair share of quiet nights at the Coliseum prior to last season. But the Islanders’ resurgence and playoff appearance last spring made it a happening place to be with sellout crowds of more than 16,000.
“My favorite memory was last year when we were about to get into the playoffs, just feeling the stadium shaking from everyone cheering for the Islanders and feeling all of the fans energy,” Christi said. “It was such an exciting feeling and to get to be a part of that was something amazing.”
The troupe started 13 years ago, when the NHL mandated ice-removal personnel know how to skate. Since then, the Ice Girls have become almost as popular as the Islanders themselves. Fans take pictures with them and sometimes ask for autographs.
“Back in 2001, we started with four girls. That year, we struggled just to get four girls who could skate and make the time commitment and be a part of the team — and now as we’re in our 13th year, we have 12 girls on the squad,” said Tim Beach, vice president of Game Operations and Events. “And now when we have our auditions during the summer, we’re happy to say that we actually have to turn away really good skaters and really the program has evolved.
“To this day, we get calls from other teams asking us: ‘Who makes the uniforms for you guys?’ and ‘How do you do this with the girls? How do you get them to participate in this?’ ” Beach said. “Our program has become a model throughout the NHL.”
And the Ice Girls are much more than pretty faces. Christi is finishing her final year of law school and does voiceover work for a radio station. Ashleen is getting her Master’s in special education, a certification in American sign language, and works for a physical therapist and in a school district.
Both are also avid hockey fans — they root for the Islanders, of course — which makes this a dream job.
“My favorite memory was my first game,” Ashleen said. ”As a New York Islanders fan my whole life, being able to apply my skating and work with the team I had supported since I was young…stepping onto the ice for the first time was a surreal feeling and it really showed the joy I knew I was going to have from this job.”
Who: Figure skaters, minimum of 18 years old as of September 15, 2013
What: 2013-14 New York Islanders Ice Girl Auditions
When: August 17, 2013, 1 p.m. (Arrive by 12:30 p.m. for Check-In)
Where: Islanders Iceworks, 175 Underhill Blvd., Syosset, NY 11791
What to bring: Headshot, résumé and figure skates
What to wear: Crop-top half shirt and form fitting athletic clothing. Please arrive with hair & makeup done
Questions: Erin Willey, Game Operations Manager (Erin.Willey@NewYorkIslanders.com)
If you’re thinking about auditioning, but not sure what’s involved, come out to Islanders Iceworks on Saturday, June 22 at 1 p.m. You’ll find out more information about the skating requirements, as well as interview process that is involved with the auditions on August 17. For more information contact Erin Willey.
Individual photos of the 2012-13 Islanders Ice Girls in their new think-outside-the-box pink costumes have been posted online. Click here to see who is on the team!