BRICK – Yankee Stadium. Boston Garden. Lambeau Field. Madison Square Garden. Fenway Park.
They are among several iconic venues – cathedrals if you will – in the world of sports.
Brick Township for many years has had the cathedral of ice hockey – the Ocean Ice Palace.
The venerable facility, owned by the Dwulet family since 1962, is under new management, which said it plans to operate the venue as a skating rink. The Dwulet family could not be reached for comment.
Dr. Leon J. Dwulet, a former Rutgers University catcher who played minor-league baseball, built the facility in 1962. Hopeful of his daughter becoming a figure skater, the medical doctor’s vision was to provide skating and ice hockey development opportunities for the youths of Ocean and Monmouth counties.
The Ocean Ice Palace was a lot of things to lots of people. It was primarily a hockey rink best known for the powerhouse teams of Brick Township High School and the home of the Brick Hockey Club, which produced many players who starred for Bob Auriemma, the Green Dragons’ legendary coach. He retired as the state’s career wins leader in 2017 after 54 seasons.
The facility hosted numerous non-ice hockey events, including Date Night on Wednesdays in 1962, Disco Skates, deejay Danny (The Catman Stiles), the first lacrosse league at the Jersey Shore in 1988, the Charlie Daniels Band in 1978, the Stanley Cup Trophy, ice bumper cars, a pivotal scene in Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy” and a singing group modeled after the Fab Four.
Billy Terrell wrote on Facebook of the great times he had while performing at the venue.
“I am so sorry the Ocean Ice Palace is closing for good,” he said prior to the sale of the facility to the new management group. “Great memories performing there on Tuesday evenings. The wildest times as me and Larry Oxley called ourselves ‘The Jersey Beatles’ and the kids bought it. It was ridiculous. Everything being Beatles at that time caused the kids to scream so loud the music didn’t matter. We got away with murder!”
Claudia Davis recalled on Facebook the fun times she had skating with two clubs.
“Many great memories skating there with the Laurelton Skating Club and the Garden State Skating Club!” she said.
Auriemma coached the Green Dragons to 729 wins. He coached the Green Dragons in more than 1,000 games. He led Brick to six overall New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association titles, five NJSIAA public school state crowns, four Shore Conference titles and eight Gordon Cup Tournament championships.
The venue will likely undergo a name change and one avid Auriemma fan has what he feels is the perfect name.
“This place has been around for a long time and should have landmark status or perhaps a name change after longtime Brick hockey coach Bob Auriemma (Auriemma Arena),” Robert Oberkehr said on Facebook. “That would be such an honor.”
“I am embarrassed by that, but in a good way,” Auriemma said with a laugh. “It’s nice that someone thought of that, but I think it’s a far reach.”
“Coach Auriemma is a legend in Brick, probably bigger than Jim Dowd (who starred under Auriemma),” said George Haviland, a member of the new management group.
The Green Dragons enjoyed many a success at the Ocean Ice Palace.
“We had a number of close games and nail biters,” Auriemma said. “Opposing teams had to face a tough situation. Our fans cheered for our teams and made critical comments about our opponents. The Ocean Ice Palace was a big advantage for us. Fans saw good hockey.”
One reason the fans saw good hockey was the play of Dowd. The 1987 Brick graduate played four varsity seasons and starred on the Green Dragons’ overall state championship team in 1986. He was one of the top scorers in New Jersey history. Dowd won the Hobey Baker Award – college ice hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy – while starring for Lake Superior State University. He helped the Lakers win the 1988 NCAA Division I title.
Dowd played for 17 seasons in the National Hockey League. His clutch goal in 1995 helped the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup. Dowd also played for the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Islanders, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Minnesota Wild, the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Colorado Avalanche and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dowd played in 728 regular-season games, scoring 72 goals and handing out 168 assists for 239 points. He competed in 99 playoff games, putting home nine goals and adding 17 assists for 26 points.
Dowd, who also played in the American Hockey League, hung up his skates in 2009. He recalled how family members took him to the Ocean Ice Palace.
“It’s where I began skating,” he said. “My mom (Audrey) and sister (Kim) took me there in 1972 at the age of three,” he said. “Our high school games were awesome, packed wall to wall with people. I can’t thank my high school coaches – coach Auriemma and (assistant coaches) Warren Charles Wolf, Chuck McCabe and Jay Andrews enough.”
Dowd took great pride in hosting a charity all-star ice hockey game at the Ocean Ice Palace. It was known as the Jim Dowd Shoot for the Stars Foundation Game. It consisted of recent high school graduates from Ocean and Monmouth counties. He hosted the event for 20 years.
The Ocean Ice Palace also was a breeding ground for ex-Christian Brothers Academy stars James van Rimesdyk, now with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Trevor van Rimesdyk, now a member of the Washington Capitals. The brothers played youth ice hockey at the facility. Trevor van Rimesdyk was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 2015, his rookie season.
The Ocean Ice Palace played a large role in the life of Wolf, whose father, Warren, founded the Brick Township High School ice hockey team and retired as the state’s career wins leader among high school football coaches at Brick. Auriemma took over for Wolf, launching the Green Dragons’ program at the varsity level.
Warren Charles Wolf, a 1976 Brick graduate, played on the Green Dragons’ team that won the first-ever on-ice NJSIAA overall state title in 1976.
“I started playing there near the age of three,” he said. “When my dad had the ice hockey program at the club level for the first couple of years, the players wore football jerseys. It was fun. When I was between five and 10 years old, I’d get up out of bed at five and six in the morning to play on four teams in the Brick Township Recreation Department’s program. I played on Walt’s Sunoco, LaPierre Cleaners, Cascione Shoes and the Blackhawks. At that level and at the high school level we played under so many great coaches. They taught us about ice hockey and sportsmanship.”