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Opinion Bill de Blasio wanted to stick it to Trump. Instead, he lost a hockey fight.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at Citi Field in Queens on Feb. 10. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
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Bill de Blasio just learned the hard way: Don’t pick fights with hockey players.

The New York mayor got his jersey pulled over his head and a few of his proverbial teeth knocked out this weekend after the city’s hockey community came pouring over the boards to stop him from shutting down two ice rinks in Central Park in a pathetic attempt to punish Donald Trump.

The Trump Organization has run the park’s open-air rinks since the 1980s, and its contract with the city is up in April. But de Blasio was not willing to simply let the contract expire; he wanted to take credit for ejecting Trump from the rinks. So, he decided to terminate the Trump Organization’s contract early. “Trump has been impeached from operating the ice rink,” a de Blasio spokesman boasted. The New York Times cheered the mayor on, writing that de Blasio’s decision was “another blow to Mr. Trump’s prestige in New York, and hammered home the depths to which the president — once viewed as a mischievous real estate celebrity — has become a political and social pariah in his hometown.”

But there was one small problem. Central Park’s Lasker Rink is the home of Ice Hockey in Harlem, a charitable organization that teaches more than 300 underserved kids in Harlem each year how to play hockey. The group — co-founded by my childhood friend Todd Levy, who now serves as chairman of the board — holds practices at Lasker each week between October and March, as well as classroom sessions and mentoring activities for the kids. On Friday, the organization was informed that the rink would close by Sunday, to give the Trump Organization time to leave before the lease’s termination on Feb. 26. The kids’ season had already been cut short on the front end by the pandemic. Now de Blasio was kicking them off the ice more than a month early to get back at Trump. “They hate Trump so much, they don’t care who they hurt,” Levy told me.

Of course, the mayor’s vindictiveness wasn’t going to hurt Trump at all. The city would have to pay the Trump Organization over $30 million, according to a company spokeswoman. The early termination was nothing more than a PR stunt by de Blasio so he could be seen on the news as sticking it to the former president.

It didn’t work out the way he expected. Craig Stanton, an Ice Hockey in Harlem board member and PR executive, soon had local TV news screens filled with images of poor, minority kids talking about how de Blasio had ended their hockey season. WCBS in New York showed pictures of kids skating for the last time, as a correspondent declared it “a picture-perfect winter wonderland in Central Park, if not for the heartbroken skaters, the season abruptly cut short” by the mayor. Ice Hockey in Harlem director Malik Garvin (who started with the organization as a 3-year-old skater) told the network, “Everyone was absolutely devastated, every kid, their parents, their coaches.” One young player said, “It’s going to be a nightmare since I’m literally stuck at home, having nothing to do.” A parent complained, “It’s purely politically motivated. It’s not going to harm Trump at all. Who it’s going to harm are these young kids.”

Soon, national outlets took notice. Garvin appeared on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” where he explained, “I had to tell 300 kids and their parents, ‘That’s it, we’re done,’” adding that he was told the rinks were being closed “in retaliation for the storming of the Capitol, which our kids, our families had nothing to do with.”

Things got even worse for de Blasio when it turned out his sad swipe at Trump wasn’t only ending the hockey season early for poor, minority children, but for special needs skaters as well. Lasker is also home to the Central Park North Stars, a hockey program for children and adults with developmental disabilities. “We are the only special needs hockey program in the NYC metro area,” program director Bill Tobias told Yahoo Sports. “This was the only outdoor activity and badly needed social interaction that our players have had for months.”

By Sunday night, de Blasio cried uncle. “But make no mistake, we will not be doing business with the Trump Organization going forward,” the mayor’s press secretary said defiantly. Little wonder a January Sienna College poll found de Blasio with a meager 28 percent approval rating among New Yorkers — two points lower than Trump. He was so blinded by his hatred for Trump that he took it out on a bunch of poor and disabled hockey players. He picked the wrong adversary. As Levy says, “Hockey players know how to fight.”

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