The Soapbox: Keep Playground 7 for hockey

By Joe McGrath

In light of all the discussion and now, published renderings of a fitness type playground on the drawing board for Stuy Town Playground #7, I felt it was time to make my contribution to the Soapbox “forum” regarding my thoughts, and more importantly memories of this iconic “hockey playground.”

While the makeup and demographics of the complex has changed over the years, and perhaps roller hockey is now not played every day in this playground, it would be a real shame if it went the way of other great memories and facilities in PCV/ST.

You see, growing up in Stuy Town, you were almost always identified or associated with what playground you hung out at or came from. Playground 7 was different, though. When it came to hockey, all roads led to Playground 7. Whether it would be rushing home from school every weekday from late September to mid-April to “lace ‘em up,” or participating in the Recreation Department sanctioned leagues, this was our life blood and formed lasting lifetime friendships!

The “Rec”-run leagues headed by guys like Chris Rainey, Willie Kettering, Dennis McDonald and Reynold Kurth were super competitive and packed with spectators on Saturdays in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and a bit into the 90’s. Even our locally based YMCA team called Playground 7 its home during our formative years, and who can forget the Stuy Town Dynamos and even a year or two when we were nicknamed the Bruins, coached by great guys like Frank Dunn, Harry Rumpf and Mike Ahearn.

Now, I know the great former resident, Brenden Crowe touched upon these unforgettable memories a few years back in your paper (“Growing up in Playground 5,” December 27, 2012), so I will do my best to not be repetitive. But some of the guys that planted the seeds, all a few years older than me, were truly legends. These were legends that nurtured us “young’uns” at the time and accepted and taught us as well. Never, ever forget the Mike Lydens, Frannie Sheehans, Jimmy Wheelers of the complex.

Never, ever forget these four Playground 5 guys, who because of Stuy Town roller hockey, became very close friends, and I was honored to have them in my wedding party, 35 years ago! Top line wingers Mike Cavanaugh and Danny O’Shea, fellow line mate, tough as nails, Ricky McDonnell and hard hitting defenseman Robby “The Captain” McDonald. You see how important these bonds became to us?

Part of the makeup of a PCV/ST kid playing hockey required that you had to politely “request” a roll or two of electrical tape from Con Ed techs working in the streets and making the short trip to Moe’s on Avenue A and 13th Street for a new stick, adhesive tape for sticks and to tape your hockey socks and of course, every imaginable nut, bolt, wrench and skate part that Moe would always dig up from some large pile in his store. Priceless!

Ah, the memories are endless! Who can forget the day smooth skating defenseman Kim Zauderer, smothered in Vicks VapoRub, while battling a cold, chased a freaked out Robby McDonald around the playground? Or smacking the goalie pads of John “Gio” Giordano and the pads’ stuffing rocketing through the air and when it landed, I swear, it resembled an old, hidden bologna sandwich!

Let’s not also forget the Stuy Town “uptown crew” that plied their trade up “north” at Playground 1 on 20th Street… head on over to “7,” fellas. You all know who you are and how you helped shape the fabric of a great childhood and are still in the community today and remain great friends.

Since I was an “ICS” guy, I hold a special place in my heart for my buddy Tommy Ross, who left this earth way too soon. Tommy could play center or defense with equal, superior skill. He was always the first guy I “called for” at his apartment across the loop from me on the way out to Playground 7. And of course, most of us that were born in the 50’s years passed down our genes or skills and tips to those born and bred in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Way too many to mention, but oh, so many talented players and human beings. And yes, brothers and sons too. Many who went on to high school and college ice hockey careers.

You see, it’s in our blood, runs through our veins. When we get together at weddings, communions, christenings, wakes (unfortunately) or simply at annual holiday gatherings… the stories run amok like defenseman Bobby Ressegue chasing around an opposing player from Woodside or Mike Farragher firing home many goals with his wicked wrist shot. Do we embellish a wee bit? Perhaps, but jeez it feels good to be rocketed back to the 60’s and 70’s, like a broken-in pair of Chicago skates.

So the “Soapbox” message I’m trying to get across here is save our Playground 7. It’s simply “hallowed hockey ground” with its black top surface, orange/brown brick low walls that served as boards, benches to fish pucks out from and just about the right length and width of a real life NHL Hockey rink. Get your kids or grandkids out there playing a true NYC sport. A sport that will keep them in just as good a shape as any proposed “fitness playground.” A sport that will lead to life long, fantastic friendships… and maybe even future wedding party members!

Joe McGrath is a lifelong resident of Stuyvesant Town (1956-1995) and Peter Cooper (1995-current) and previously worked in upper management for an MLB/Sports retail business. He has coached hockey and managed with the NYC Cyclones travel team. His own sports days are over except the occasional alumni event though he still watches games at 7.

7 thoughts on “The Soapbox: Keep Playground 7 for hockey

  1. I agree that this is one of the biggest mistakes being made by management, and shows that Blackstone has no interest in preserving some of the little history that is left in this place.

    The easy fix that has been mentioned – exercise park at Playground 1 (centrally located for ST and PCV), and kids baseball practices can move to playground 6. The kids could also potentially use playground 7 when there is no hockey being played.

  2. What a fabulous piece making outstanding points such that I can actually visualize & feel all the memories! Don’t know if you had “girls” on your teams, but we did, and it was the best! Hate to sound old, but don’t know if the kids organize or play their own games of roller hockey any more, sadly.

  3. Thanks Joe! I, too, have been distressed at the prospect of losing Playground 7 to some sort of “exercise” park. Our family has been playing roller hockey there for over 20 years. Both of my sons grew up playing there (and still do), and have made many friends because of their time on the rink, while enjoying great exercise. What bothers me most is that this is the only playground dedicated to roller hockey, a place where young (and even older!) men can come together for fellowship and exercise. There are special playgrounds for children, soccer and basketball. But there are no other options for the guys who love roller hockey. Why take away something that is used as a healthy outlet for guys, has a long standing tradition in our complex and in no way limits anyone from activities that they can participate in elsewhere on the campus? I hope that we can keep this important and much needed roller hockey playground.

    • It’s quite simple, and that is the fact that Rick and management do not care. Us old timers that have played and continue to play hockey in playground 7 do not fit the new narrative for Rick and Blackstone.

      The new narrative is aimed towards an ever changing demographic on this property, and that includes a free fitness park. And you can bet there will not be time for hockey players at playground 1, they will make sure to keep the rent stabilized tenants as unhappy as can be.

  4. Very excited for the new plans. I hope the exercise park can be finished soon! I also would like to see more places for our dogs to run and exercise too… there are precious few options for us pet owners.

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