The Annual Danglers Winter Classic

At this very moment, the ice of the outdoor rink is glimmering in the sunlight in anticipation of its annual Winter Classic that will take place this evening. Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League may have canceled the NHL Winter Classic that was to be played between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, but that's not stopping a talented group of hockey players from getting together for the annual Danglers Winter Classic.

The Danglers are a men's league hockey team that I started years ago in order to keep my friends and I together on the ice. High school was over, and many of us were going away to college or starting to work full-time. Every summer, the Danglers were put together through the Midnight Hockey League on Long Island and have continued to go strong for five years.

The team has seen two championships in that span and will be looking to win a third in its sixth season during the summer of 2013.

But even though the majority of those playing are full-time employees now and out of school, the Danglers Winter Classic continues its tradition of outdoor ice hockey around the holidays. Steven Friedman, a graduate of the University of Albany and present law student, has organized this event each year. Friends and family gather to watch the game, and old friends are allowed to continue playing with the people they have grown up with over the years.

TCL Isles blogger, Pete Paguaga is making his return to the ice tonight after missing time due to a torn ACL. He is also one of the founding members of the Danglers.

"The Danglers Winter Classic is by far the most fun, hockey wise, I have had since high school hockey ended years ago," said Pete.

"It's an experience like no other. You get to play an outdoors hockey game with guys you grew up with. Guys who you went through your ups and downs as a hockey player with, whether it's going to the State Championship (Wantagh-Seaford Baymen 07-08) or winning a men's league championship with the Danglers."

This game comes in the middle of a locked out NHL season. Losing the ability to root for your favorite team, attend games, and ultimately be a hockey fan only adds to the value of a game like this one.

"The experience is a once a in lifetime type feeling," added Pete.

"Before you get out there you are assuming it's going to be freezing, which it is, but once you start skating it's like playing at any other rink. Being able to play with guys I've played with most of my life makes this experience that much better because there is history behind it. We always have a great time and it's nice to get together at this time of the year."

Of course this game is meant only for fun, but that doesn't mean that there won't be some friendly battles on the ice. In addition to a game, there will also be a skills competition this year, as well as a flow competition.

"I cannot express how grateful I am to be playing in this year's game," said Pete. "I just had reconstructive ACL and meniscus surgery in June and this is the first time I will be skating since February. Safe to say I am freaking out. But once I got the invite from Steven Friedman I knew I had to attend this year and I made sure that I would be strong enough to participate. Now let's hope I don't end up back in the ER."

(Note to self: don't try to hit Pete tonight)

"But being invited back every year to participate in the Danglers Winter Classic or the Danglers men's league team means a lot. Yes, we all care about winning games but we would rather win together as friends and have a great time doing it."

If you're looking to watch a fun hockey game tonight, Marjorie Post in Massapequa at 9:30 PM is the place to be. Old friends, a wide range of talented hockey players from current high school students to college graduates, and an outdoor rink - you can't ask for much more than that.

-Rob McGowan

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