The Coolest Stop In Town

Hawaii’s Lone Rink Provides An Icy Oasis In The Heart Of Paradise

 

Sun tan lotion, check. Bathing suits, check. Flowered shirts, check. Flip flops, check and check.

When it comes to planning a trip to Hawaii, there are certain essentials to having fun in the sun. Packing your ice skates and hockey sticks is typically the last thing on a traveler’s packing list. 

Tucked in the back of a strip mall a short drive from the Pearl Harbor Memorial sits the Ice Palace, Hawaii’s one and only ice rink. And as we celebrate Hockey Week Across America’s Salute to Local Rinks, there might not be a rink more essential to the local community.

Opened in September 1982, the Ice Palace may seem like a strange fixture in a place where the average temperature rarely dips below 70 degrees, but it’s actually an icy oasis for the local community.

Just ask Carrie White, the youth hockey director, who describes the draw as a “hockey ohana” (which means hockey family for those not well-versed in Hawaiian). White and her husband, Austin, arrived on the island of Oahu in June 2015 and took over running the hockey program two years later.

“Nobody really moves to Hawaii and says ‘I’m going to work in an ice rink,’” White says. “The Ice Palace is a huge part of this community, which we did not know until we moved here. And this is the most exciting piece of hockey we’ve gotten to be a part of.”

White is part of a small staff dedicated to making sure Hawaii’s only ice rink doesn’t have a meltdown. Employees get in early, starting around 5 in the morning to perform ice maintenance prior to the first round of ice skaters. Figure skaters are first on the ice, followed by physical education programs with the local schools. By the time 3 o’clock rolls around, staff is back doing ice cuts, monitoring solar power levels and the ever-so-tricky task of keeping the 90 degree temperatures and stifling humidity on the other side of the doors.

While it’s exciting for White to be a part of hockey culture in Hawaii, it certainly comes with its challenges as well. The number of players – and coaches and officials – fluctuates with the military population on the island. Tours of duty in this island paradise range in length from six weeks to three years. 

On top of that, there are the difficulties of finding trained Zamboni drivers and creating a hockey program that caters to islanders.

“We try to make the best of it,” White says. “We don’t get to play in tournaments and things like that; it would cost families a fortune and it’s unattainable. So, we have to create that competitiveness and that feel inside the rink.

“Every kid, every session gets a brand-new jersey, brand-new logo and brand-new numbers. It helps keep that excitement. For us, it’s all about the love of the game before the competition.”

Despite some challenges, the Whites are excited to witness the growth of hockey in Hawaii. The Ice Palace hockey program has grown from just eight players to 85 in the years since they came onboard. Players and coaches are a good mix of local families, those that moved for work or military service and even international travelers – including families from Korea and Sweden.

“It’s really international, and each one of those groups bring something to us and we share something with them. It’s a fantastic collaboration of hockey,” White says, emphasizing their focus on giving kids the best island experience.

“We are hard-driven with the love of the game and individual development, and we just use hockey to do it. Our goal isn’t necessarily to create these superstar players, it’s to create these superstar people that have that love of the game forever.”

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