October 19, 2014 - Brewster, New York
Brewster Ice Arena is definitely not the first place that comes to mind if you are looking for a hockey game to attend in the Northeastern U.S. The arena is set in the rolling hills of Putnam County, New York, just a short distance away from Westchester County, and the Connecticut border. You are very likely to pass horse farms, country clubs and gated driveways with garages full of Mercedes sedans or BMW's on your way there. This is hardly blue-collar country, and the wooded surroundings of the arena fit into the up-scale area quite nicely. The New York Apple Core junior hockey program has seen quite a few quality players come through its system over the years, including NHLers Rob Scuderi and Doug Murray. The program started on Long Island, and now shares this simple arena with another Eastern Hockey League team, the Brewster Bulldogs. The arena is surrounded by parking and trees, has an outdoor rink on the property just above the parking lot, and consists of a simple cinder block and metal building which houses 2 ice pads, a restaurant, and a gym, and a mini-rink upstairs. In case there was any doubt that this is a ritzy area the building also features a fencing studio. The exterior is simple, and features gray metal siding and a blue block-letter sign with the arena name. The entrance sits on the end of the building, and consists of 3 simple glass double-doors. Having opened in 1997 the arena is a busy place on a weekend, and this Sunday 10:50 AM Apple Core game against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights was to be the first half of a double which would find us at the AHL game in Bridgeport in the afternoon, but a bout of bronchitis had us calling it quits and heading home after this matinee contest. Further confirmation that we were in an upscale area was the fact that a limousine pulled up near the entrance as we were taking photos, and the chauffeur got out and asked, in a Russian accent, if this was the "skating arena". You won't find that in a place like Johnstown, PA. Brewster Ice Arena is a simple facility that serves the needs of local figure skating and hockey enthusiasts, and also houses a couple of very competitive junior hockey teams.
Once inside the entry doors you find yourself in a large lobby. To the left is an information desk, which had free rosters for this Apple Core game available. A large snack bar features quite a few tables and a fully stocked concession window. The wall and tables are all red in color, and jerseys of past Brewster players also line the walls. The main arena is through a doorway to the left, and that arena is simple, and features a 12 row high aluminum grandstand which runs from faceoff circle to faceoff circle. A single scoreboard sits on the far end wall, and a Brewster Bulldogs logo adorns the end wall as well. Just as you approach the grandstand there is an Apple Core Wall of Fame display. In a rather odd setup the locker rooms for the main tenants flank the grandstands, and seem to be made up of metal shed type rooms. The ceiling slopes down away from the grandstand and both team benches and penalty boxes are on the opposite side of the ice from the seating. Many folks also chose to watch by standing along the glass on the end, or from the second floor lobby, which is heated and has windows overlooking the arena. There was no admission charge for this Sunday morning matchup, and a small crowd of 150 or so was on hand, made up mostly of friends, family, and scouts. The temperature inside the rink is cold, and the place has very much a community rink feel to it. Capacity is listed at 850, and we are sure that it would get loud with a big crowd. The second floor lobby features a game arcade, a mini-rink, Players Restaurant and Bar, as well as the aforementioned fencing studio. The restaurant even has an outdoor deck with additional seating. Seats at the tables overlooking the ice from the upper lobby seem to be in high demand, and filled up quickly for this game. The entire arena is well kept, including the second ice pad on the other side of the main lobby, and it is clear that this place is less than 20 years old.
The gameday atmosphere at an Apple Core game is very low key, and we still are not quite sure why the Junior A leagues in the Northeastern U.S. continue to plod along without actively seeking spectators. The on ice action is quite good, the play is physical and the skill level is certainly on par with Junior A hockey in Canada. The presentation is mostly professional with music during stoppages and announcements of goals and penalties, there just aren't a lot of frills. Nothing happens at intermission except for the resurfacing of the ice, and nearly everyone vacates the arena for the warmer confines of the lobby at that time. We like the entertainment value of the hockey here though, and the game was quite good, with Wilkes-Barre taking a 5-3 win in a physical contest which featured a decent scrap and a near brawl when the Apple Core backup goalie left the bench to fight a Wilkes-Barre player who just finished punching another player, only to have the coach grab the goalie's jersey and reel him back onto the bench before mayhem ensued. There really isn't a lot of fan noise or sense of home ice advantage for the Apple Core here, although that may be different at an evening contest. The arena itself does a nice job paying tribute to former players with the Wall of Fame and jersey displays though. We think fans would pay to watch this level of hockey, but not if teams do not advertise or seek their support. Brewster Ice Arena is not likely to be the final destination of many hockey related trips for those looking to watch a game, but a stop here to see some hardworking players play a physical game is certainly entertaining. The price was certainly right. You even get to drive around and get a glimpse of the types of neighborhoods you see on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on your way to and from the arena.
A box score of the game can be found Here
Other information about the New York Apple Core is available at: Apple Core Home
Other information about Brewster Ice Arena can be found at: Arena Home
More photos of Brewster Ice Arena can be found Here