Ashlee Palmieri met her future husband, Kyle, about a decade ago, just as she was about to start college at Syracuse University. Kyle was a star hockey player for the Syracuse Crunch, then an affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks in the American Hockey League.
It wasn’t long after that Kyle, who was born in Smithtown and raised in New Jersey, established himself as an NHL player, beginning an impressive career that has currently landed him back home with the New York Islanders.
As Kyle and Ashlee grew closer over the years, they’d often find themselves spending time on the North Fork. Kyle’s father, Bruce, works in home construction and has focused for several years on the North Fork and would spend his work weeks in Mattituck, where the family has a second home. Ashlee, who grew up just outside Syracuse, said her mom was originally from Farmingdale and summered in Cutchogue.
“About 10 years ago we started coming out here to his family’s home and it’s easily one of our favorite places in the world,” Ashlee said. “And so we knew that we wanted to settle here and spend our summers here.”
In 2018, Kyle proposed to Ashlee at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck. They married in July 2019 at the Vineyards at Aquebogue. Ashlee said there “were no doubts” about getting married anywhere but on the North Fork.
Before they had gotten married, the couple purchased a home in Jamesport where Ashlee currently lives while working remotely for her job as senior vice president of J Strategies.
Throughout their time on the North Fork, Kyle could often fly under the radar, as the couple visited their favorite places like Lucharitos, Il Giardino in Aquebogue or 1943 Pizza Bar in Greenport, without too much fanfare of a professional athlete.
“I think he was maybe recognized one time,” Ashlee said. “But definitely since playoffs it’s been different.”
In April, the Islanders and New Jersey Devils completed a trade sending Palmieri to Long Island to provide a boost for the team’s playoff push. Kyle had spent 5 1/2 seasons with the Devils and was thrilled to be joining the Islanders, his wife said.
The trade has proved to be invaluable for the Islanders as Kyle has scored seven goals, tied for the team lead, and helped the team advance to the NHL semifinals. They are tied in their current series 2-2 against Tampa Bay heading into Game 5 Monday night in Tampa.
“We were beyond excited,” Ashlee said of the trade to Long Island. “With hockey, you never really know where you can end up. We were really lucky to go to a second home. You could end up on the other side of the country at a moment’s notice. We’re definitely really blessed.”
Ashlee said they became good friends with the founders of North Fork Brewing Co. dating back to before Kyle joined the Islanders. This year, proceeds from the brewery’s Hold Me Closer Tommy Lager pilsner are being donated to the Kyle Palmieri Foundation, which raises funds to benefit the military community. Ashlee said it’s been an important cause for both of them. Ashlee joined ROTC at Syracuse University but couldn’t continue down a military path due to medical concerns.
“We focus on raising funds for a range of different military organizations,” Ashlee said. “We started off focusing on issues that were a little bit lesser known.”
She said supporting military families was particularly important because “they sacrifice probably just as much as the servicemembers do.” Supporting women in the military is also a key focus on the foundation.
Kyle’s entrance into hockey started at a young age and he quickly fell in love with the sport.
Tammy Palmieri said her son got started at around 5 years old when he began skating with some older siblings of one of her daughter’s friends. He was hooked after his first afternoon.
“He was getting pushed off the edge and falling down and just fell in love with it,” she said. “He’s a natural athlete and it just came easy to him.”
His parents embraced his passion for the sport. He’d take early morning lessons, getting out on the ice before kindergarten classes. His younger brother Devon also got into hockey and went on to play at Stony Brook University. Bruce, using his construction skills, even built an ice rink on the family’s farm in Montvale, NJ. that the boys used during winters.
She said the family would spend time out on the North Fork when their kids were growing up and all four of their children fell in love with the area.
“It’s just such a beautiful area,” Tammy said in an interview from New Jersey, where she still works on the farm that has been in her family since 1924.
Her husband has been busy on the North Fork these past months on various projects, including working on Kyle’s home.
The Islanders’ playoff run has put a greater spotlight on all of the family. Tammy said her son Devon was recently at a restaurant in New Jersey watching one of the playoff games. The waiter took a second glance at the name on the credit card.
The waiter said to him, “Any chance?”
“Devon was like, yeah, little brother,” Tammy said.
The family commutes into most home games to cheer on Kyle and the Islanders. When they watch a game from home, they put on their Palmieri shirts and jerseys and they have a goal light that goes off for an Islanders goal.
“We never miss a game,” she said. “He’s always got fans watching.”
For as magical a ride the Islanders’ playoff run has been so far, the reality of the business is never far off. Kyle’s contract, a five-year extension he had signed with the Devils in 2016, runs out at the end of the season, so he’ll become a free agent. The salary cap restrictions in the NHL could leave the Islanders little wiggle room to fit Kyle back into next season’s team.
Ashlee said she knows there are lot of things beyond their control. And for now, they’re enjoying every moment of the playoffs.
And no matter where Kyle ends up playing next season, the Palmieris will still call Jamesport home.