BRICK, NJ When George Haviland was growing up, some of his fondest memories are playing hockey on the ice rink at Ocean Ice Palace in Brick.
Now he ensures that the historic rink continues to create memories for new generations of hockey players and skaters, after the Ice Palace was sold this week to its partners, Work Play Group.
The property, which had been owned by the Dwulet family for more than 60 years, officially changed hands on Tuesday.
The 13.34-acre estate was purchased by Work Play and Harmony Hockey Group, where Haviland is the CEO, president and managing partner, is leasing the property back.
“It’s such a historic rink, not just in New Jersey but across the country,” said Haviland, who moved to Middletown from New York as a child. “When I was a kid, I played in the Garden State Games at Ocean Ice Palace.” The rink also hosted a national tournament, he said, which his father, George Sr., was involved in bringing together.
“Hockey is a big part of our family’s life,” Haviland said. His father worked for Proctor & Gamble but loved hockey and passed it on to George and his brother, Mike.
“We grew up playing at the Shrewsbury rink,” he said. While George has spent the past 20 years in the rink business, Mike has coached, including a four-year stint from 2008-2012 with the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup.
In addition, George and his wife, Lisa, have four daughters, all of whom have played hockey with the two oldest, Jess and Brianna, who played in college. Jess is the captain of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and has played on the US national hockey team. Brianna plays at Elmira College in New York, and her team won their college’s national championship, Haviland said. The couple’s younger daughters played hockey but stopped to pursue other pursuits.
Haviland worked for Wakefern, the parent company of ShopRite, for several years as a shelf analyst, but coached hockey part-time. It was not enough and he decided to continue the ice rink business.
“The ice was calling and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
Harmony Hockey Group owns the New Jersey Titans, who play in the North American Hockey League. Haviland is proud to note that the Titans have helped more than 750 hockey players earn college-level spots. The Titans’ home is the Middletown Sports Complex, which Harmony Hockey Group rents from Work Play.
Haviland’s group also recently purchased the Jersey Shore Whalers, whose home has been the Ocean Ice Palace.
“I had my eye on it (the Ocean Ice Palace) for a few years,” Haviland said. “When I bought the Whalers, I started thinking about it. I wanted them to have a home.”
Haviland said the plan is to modernize the changing rooms and create banquet halls in the old office area.
“The place is in really good shape,” he said.
Then he hopes to get Brick’s hockey teams back into the building, both the high school team and the Brick Hockey Club. The high school teams have been at the Howell rink since 2021, and Brick Hockey Club moved its operations to the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall last year.
“We want them there,” Haviland said. “I think time will tell.”
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