Growing up playing hockey on Long Island, Marshall Warren dreamed of one day playing for his beloved New York Islanders.

As he navigated his youth hockey career, Warren was always around the team in some way, skating, playing, and working out at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset or the team’s official practice facility, Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.

At the Northwell Health Ice Center, he would see some of those Islanders players whom he looked up to as he watched them practice and work out over the summer. At Iceworks, the dream of one day being an Islander was set into motion in another way — more of a hands-on approach for a kid.

“I remember I used to sit in the Iceworks Pro Shop for six hours a day and play with the sticks and gloves of Islanders guys,” said Warren.

And now, the Laurel Hollow native has achieved his dream.

Following a stellar college career that spanned four years at Boston College and a fifth year at Michigan, the left-handed defenseman signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Islanders earlier this week that begins with the 2024-25 season.

He has already joined the organization, having signed an amateur tryout (ATO) with the Bridgeport Islanders, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. He logged his first game as a pro on Friday as his team faced off against the Leigh Valley Phantoms.

“It’s pretty surreal,” said Warren, who turns 23 years old on Saturday, the same day his favorite NHL team, as well as his current employer, begins their quest for the Stanley Cup when they play the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round of the playoffs.

“The past few days have been crazy,” said Warren. “I remember being a kid skating on the Junior Islanders and being in Iceworks and Northwell. All those memories are so special.”

Those memories include going to Islanders games at Nassau Coliseum, including his mother and grandfather taking him to his first game when he was three or four years old. His most recent memory of seeing the Islanders at their historic former home came just a few years ago during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I remember Nassau Coliseum,” said Warren. “I went there every year and most recently (in 2021) when they played the Bruins in that playoff run.”

Raised on the ice

Courtesy photo

Before he started playing hockey, Warren was always around an ice rink because his sister Arielle was a figure skater. He told his parents that he wanted to play hockey, but his mother Lisa told him that he just couldn’t grab a stick and go out there and play. Warren had to learn how to skate, and his mother felt that the way to do that was to learn figure skating first. His father Lewis agreed, so it was a team effort convincing Warren to go the figure skating route, and, as it turns out, it was the right decision.

Today, Warren is a smooth-skating defenseman who patterns himself after former Islander Nick Leddy, and he wears number 77 because of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque.

“Skating is one of my biggest attributes,” said Warren, who had to endure some tough moments at the rink when he was figure skating. He would hide under the boards because there were kids who laughed at him for doing figure skating.

“I remember being at Iceworks so embarrassed when all of the hockey players walked by. It kind of paid off. I got the last laugh on that one. Something that I didn’t like when I was little turned out to be one of the biggest blessings of my life, so all props to my mom and dad on that one.”

Hockey career

Once he got the skating thing down pat, Warren started playing hockey, and the rest was, as they say, history.

He would eventually play for the Long Island Gulls junior hockey team before moving on to play for the New Jersey Avalanche. From there, it was on to the United States National Team Development Program and won a bronze medal at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championships. That’s when he started getting looked at by colleges, and he ultimately chose to bring his talents to Boston College.

“BC is one of the best teams in the country,” said Warren. “I kind of knew I wanted to be there being a northeast kid. I have some of my best friends for life there, and I think I really represented that school well, and yes, it’s a special place for me.” Warren capped off his time at BC being named Captain for his senior season, becoming the first Black captain in the history of Boston College hockey.

“It was an honor,” said Warren. “I was lucky enough to wear the “C,” but it really came down to all the guys in the room. I really mean that.” During his four seasons at Boston College, he played in 130 games, scoring 20 goals to go along with 37 assists for 57 points. But while he enjoyed success on the ice throughout his youth and college hockey career, Warren has had the unfortunate task of having to endure racism.

When he was younger, it was tough for him to handle because he was shy and would get embarrassed by it. But as he got older, he became more mature and began to understand that hate is, unfortunately, part of the world that we live in today. So, instead of letting it bother him, Warren just continues to prove people wrong and do what he can to make the sport he loves more accepting of everyone.

“There aren’t always the best people in this world, so you just have to know who is around you and all the good people around you,” said Warren. “I use it as motivation. I think hockey is for everyone, and I really hope that it keeps getting better and better. When I was a kid, I looked at it and I was a little shy and embarrassed about it, but now I use it to help me grow and spread the word.”

Going pro

Marshall Warren in his debut with the Bridgeport Islanders. (Credit: Bridgeport Islanders)

While he was at Boston College, Warren reached another hockey milestone when he was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Draft. He never signed with Minnesota and ultimately decided to play a fifth season of college hockey as a graduate student this past season at Michigan, capping his collegiate hockey career with a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.

“I was pretty close with (Minnesota), but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you,” said Warren, who was an alternate captain and had 4 goals and 14 assists for 18 points with the Wolverines this past season.

“I thought growing my game and going to Michigan was important for me, and I did that, and it paid off in the end. Sometimes, you have to make a decision for yourself. I learned so much this year, and I was able to showcase at the highest level.”

And now he’ll be making the transition from college hockey to professional hockey as Marshall and the Islanders agreed on a deal last week. The Bridgeport Islanders, who will not be going to the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, have one more game remaining this season, which will be home Saturday at Total Mortgage Arena. The B-Isles close out the season Saturday night against the Providence Bruins.

He has received a warm welcome from his new teammates.

“It’s been great,” said Warren. “The guys have been good, and everyone has been really nice to me, so I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Warren is now a step closer to completing a full-circle hockey life.

The Long Island native grew up rooting for the Islanders, and now he has signed with them. The journey from Long Island youth hockey to the U.S. National Team to Boston College and the University of Michigan has now made a stop in Bridgeport, where he will likely call home next season.

Home is where the heart is, and his heart will always be on Long Island where his family is.

“My mom, dad, and sister mean the world to me,” said Warren. “They helped me so much. Without them, I really wouldn’t be anywhere. The constant calls and texts, the hours in the car together traveling, and the amount of money that they put into youth hockey. It takes a village to get somewhere. You can’t do it by yourself.”

Now a Bridgeport Islander, he is just a phone call and a ferry ride away from being a New York Islander.

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