Islanders’ new pregame hangout spot at state-of-the-art UBS Arena brings Hall of Famer ‘back to my childhood’


The New York Islanders play at the newest venue for professional sports teams in North America, yet they’re already improving their 2-year-old arena.

UBS Arena opened for business in 2021 adjacent to legendary Belmont Park as the home of the Islanders after they spent most of their previous 48 seasons at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

In their final year at their old home, it was the second-oldest NHL arena, behind only Madison Square Garden

The Isles had years of failed attempts to rebuild or replace the arena. Even after moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which it thought was for good, the team split time between Nassau and Barclays for a couple of seasons.

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Fans wait to enter the new UBS Arena for the first New York Islanders game against the Calgary Flames Nov. 20, 2021, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

So, when UBS Arena opened, the organization knew everything had to be perfect.

Widely regarded as one of the nicest venues in all sports, the organization did one better by opening The Park this month.

The Park consists of two pond hockey rinks, carnival games, food trucks, fire pits, heated igloos and other backyard games behind the arena. Fans can bring their own six-pack of beer.

For Isles legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, The Park is a full-circle experience.

“It brings me back to my childhood. It’s a winter wonderland,” LaFontaine told Fox News Digital Wednesday, the day of The Park’s debut. “I skated out on a lake in Michigan as a kid, then I created my own backyard rink of dreams for my kids.

Pat LaFontaine

Pat Lafontaine of the New York Islanders skates at the Montreal Forum in Montreal in 1980. (Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

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“When I see outdoor ice and the lights, the atmosphere, the Islanders fans, the beer gardens, everything else here, the carnival, what better destination for Islander fans and the community to have. I tip my hat to the Islanders’ ownership group, the organization, for really thinking out the box because this is one of a kind. I don’t know of another place that has this kind of a destination experience before (games).”

John Collins, operating partner of the organization, called the last decade “a remarkable transformation.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us to show our commitment to the community, to show what the Islanders brand and the UBS Arena brand can really mean in terms of not just being good neighbors but create a big wake in the community,” Collins said.

That night’s game ended in a 7-0 defeat to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

But does it really matter when fans can enjoy one of the coolest pregame hangout spots out there?

Islanders fans

New York Islanders fans celebrate an Islanders goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period of Game 3 of a first-round playoff series April 21, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

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“When you talk to the dynasty guys and what it was like on Long Island as they were laying this legacy that was kind of unmatched in all of sports, it comes back to being a family,” Collins said. “Hockey, at its best, it is all about family … and that hopefully is what we’re going to be seeing here throughout the nights of The Park.”

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