story and photography by Kirk Lee Aeder
Entering the building, a sudden rush of arctic air bites into my cheeks, carrying with it the thin hiss of blades cutting ice and the hard slap of stick on puck. Vintage rock blares from the sound system and, just like that, a fight breaks out. At this very moment this same scene could be playing out virtually anywhere, from the Calgary Saddledome to Philadelphia’s Spectrum Arena to any number of local rinks throughout the world. Anywhere there’s ice, a hockey puck and at least a handful of players mad about the world’s fastest sport.
But this is ‘Aiea, not Philly: Spring hasn’t yet sprung, but it’s shorts and slippers weather, just like pretty much every other day in leeward O‘ahu. Bring up sports this time of year and talk will generally turn to the North Shore surf forecast or the NCAA championship prospects for the University of Hawai‘i volleyball team. In the Islands we are, let’s face it, a thin-blooded people—we like our fair-weather sports.
But in a place where the average daily high is roughly 85 degrees year-round, ice-skating starts to sound pretty cool. At least this was Doug Taylor’s thinking back in 1975, when he first came up with the idea of opening Hawai‘i’s only ice skating rink… which, it’s a fairly safe guess, might also be the only such rink in all of Polynesia.
It wasn’t until 1982 that the Ice Palace finally opened, on a 25,000-square-foot lot formerly occupied by a lettuce farm, just up the road from the Aloha Stadium. Today, there are classes in everything from the most basic of basics (starting and stopping) to power stroking and synchronized team skating. It is the official base of the Hawai‘i Figure Skating Club, site of the annual Skate Aloha Figure Skating Competition and, last August, host of the 2005 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships.
And then there is hockey. I’d walked in on the annual Hawaiian Classic Old-Timer Ice Hockey Tournament, which was being hosted by the Hawaiian Adult Ice Hockey League—a strictly for-fun, no-body-checking-allowed league that runs from September through May. Several tournaments are held over the course of each season, including an Army-Navy game in December (which coincides with the annual Army-Navy football game on the Mainland), the three-day Hawaiian Classic in April, and an irregularly scheduled charity game pitting NHL players and celebrities against a team of Hawaiian Airlines pilots known as The Jets. There is also the Hawai‘i Youth Hockey Program for the under-twenty set.