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Again, The Big Ice Debate

from Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star,

Sometimes it seems like an unstoppable NHL cycle. As players get bigger and faster, time and space shrinks.

As skill levels edge higher, scoring stagnates. The game’s craftiest players often can’t find enough room to showcase their talents. Meanwhile, the punishing grind keeps injury rates high, even though training and treatment get ever better.

The solution is simple to name and far harder to implement: Expand the ice surface. But given that an arena building boom came and went in the 1990s and 2000s with the league sticking to its standard 200-by-85-foot footprint, it’s been said the moment for that discussion passed many years ago.

Or maybe it hasn’t. There’ve been whispers of late that there’s an appetite in some NHL circles for a move to larger ice surfaces. With at least a couple of franchises planning the construction of new rinks, bigger ice is again being brainstormed.

“There are a couple of teams that are building new arenas that want to do it,” Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA executive, was saying this week. “I know the Red Wings are really in favour of it. They would love it. I imagine there are a few other (teams that are interested).”

continued

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Comments

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Could’ve sworn that during the Olympics someone from the IIHF made some speech on a study they did that showed the bigger ice actually results in less scoring….

Posted by VitoLambruski on 03/14/14 at 09:43 AM ET

Avatar

I don’t think a bigger ice surface would lead to more offense.  I do think it would lead to a more fluid, more telegenic game.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/14/14 at 09:59 AM ET

wolverine's avatar

Not only less scoring, but the added benefit of boring hockey.  Did these people not watch the Olympics?

Posted by wolverine on 03/14/14 at 10:01 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

The answer is actually not either.  It is to add just a slight addition to the size of the ice.  Players are bigger, but not 15 feet bigger like Olympic ice.  In reality, an extra foot or two on either side would be perfect.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 03/14/14 at 10:06 AM ET

Avatar

I don’t think a bigger ice surface would lead to more offense.  I do think it would lead to a more fluid, more telegenic game.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/14/14 at 09:59 AM ET

I agree with that.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 03/14/14 at 10:10 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Improve the quality of the officiating, and all of the problems and questions about the game will disappear.  All other changes are just conpensation until officiating is dealt with.

Not to mention, big ice leads to snorefests.

Posted by Hootinani on 03/14/14 at 10:15 AM ET

Paul's avatar

Vito, here is the story you were referring to.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 03/14/14 at 10:17 AM ET

Alzy's avatar

I still maintain that if they want to return to 80s level scoring, the bigger ice won’t do that. They have to do something drastic, like either make full strength 4-on-4 or change the nets to something like 9’ x 6’. What Tue NHL never seems to account for, is the goaltenders no longer suck. Back in the 70s and 80s, a player like Guy Lafleur or Wayne Gretzky could just take a low hard snap shot from the face off circles, between the knee and ankle, and score a good % of the time. Now though with the advent of the butterfly technique, a shot like that is a routine save. Plus goaltenders today are just plain bigger and more athletic, so they aren’t beat nearly as easily as before. You want someone to break Gretzky’s records? Then you have to make the goaltenders average again like in Gretzky’s heyday.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 03/14/14 at 10:20 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

If offense and not boring are defined as not a lot of scoring, then, correct, the bigger surface would not yield desirable results. I say, if you want more scoring, go watch basketball. But if offense and not boring are defined by fluid play and scoring chances, then the bigger ice surface is desirable. Much of the hockey on display at the Olympics was great hockey and entertaining to watch.
As a compromise (and already suggested above), I think just making the rinks 5 feet wider may yield a better brand of North American hockey.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 03/14/14 at 11:00 AM ET

Avatar

Paul, thanks for posting that story!

Posted by VitoLambruski on 03/14/14 at 12:29 PM ET

awould's avatar

an extra foot or two on either side would be perfect.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 03/14/14 at 10:06 AM ET

This is exactly right. The argument has been framed wrong for too long. It isn’t NHL or Olympic sized ice, as though those are the only two possibilities. Just make the ice bigger to the scale of today’s players, and make the nets bigger for the same reason.

I don’t want bigger ice for more scoring, I’m ok w/ the scoring level. I want bigger ice to have some more flow to the game.

Posted by awould on 03/14/14 at 01:09 PM ET

awould's avatar

Most newer arenas can be retrofitted to a larger ice, I’m guessing. Yeah, it’s a total guess, but seeing as how they can be configured for two sports and multiple concert scenarios, seems like the hockey rink would be spread out a bit. Of course, they’d lose a lot of seats but would gain a few more rink-side and every other seat would be closer to the ice.

I’m guessing whatever happens now, that any new rinks being built will have that in mind so they can mitigate it somewhat down the road when it does change. And it will eventually.

Posted by awould on 03/14/14 at 01:13 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

A far more sensible and practical solution is 4 on 4 on current surface.  That would Accomplish the same thing without loss of seats.  Oh, and a net that is bigger than the XXL goalies rather than the other way around.

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 03/14/14 at 02:02 PM ET

Paul's avatar

The huge problem with 4 on 4 is the NHLPA.  Owners would want to shrink the roster, NHLPA would never pass that.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 03/14/14 at 02:07 PM ET

awould's avatar

The huge problem with 4 on 4 is the NHLPA.  Owners would want to shrink the roster, NHLPA would never pass that.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 03/14/14 at 02:07 PM ET

Which makes it not sensible or practical. Also, I like 5 on 5. Much more interesting.

Posted by awould on 03/14/14 at 02:14 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

Just agree to not cut rosters.  I would think 4x4 would be more tiring and that all 18 skaters would still be needed.  Regardless just agree to no cuts.  If the NHL was a 4-3 or 5-4 league instead of its self described “3-2 shutdown league” it would only enhance the brand.  It would only help growth and be more consistently exciting to watch

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 03/14/14 at 02:18 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

A far more sensible and practical solution is 4 on 4 on current surface.
It would only help growth and be more consistently exciting to watch

Maybe if we quit trying to reinvent the game by rewriting the fundamentals of the game all the time isn’t sensible at all. Maybe if we quit trying to change things into what we think people that don’t care will start caring and promote what is already established that is exciting enough. Maybe if we want to invent our own game we go do that instead of bastardizing already established sports.

Think of it like this: American football is its own game born from the bastardization of rugby. We didn’t change rugby; we just made our own game and marketed that. And to take it one step further, every year the season ends with the super bowl, a shite event with thousands of crappy commercials. Year after year this event is a marathon dud in actual game play, but the NFL isn’t changing the size of the end zones or reducing the number of players on the field in order to make it more exciting. They promote the event as is and yet millions of people still tune in to be bored piss for the game, the adverts or both.

I know I advocated for increase in rink size in a comment above, but that is born in my belief that each team should have the freedom to fashion a home rink within generally accepted general parameters rather than measuring tape cookie cutter to create a real home ice advantage.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 03/14/14 at 02:59 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

So issues from the Olympics have endangered the Habs and Bolts.  On behalf of paying fans and sponsors and everyone that has invested countless hours following these teams, thanks so much!

The problem is that the evolution of the size of players, equipment, and the XXL goaltenders have already served to radically change the game.  A video from the Orr or even Gretzky Edmonton shows significantly more room for play making and net to shoot at.  While today’s game is fast and far better than the Dead Puck era the scoring is at the same level and nowhere near the wide open 70’s and 80’s. 
Even an uber-historic and tradition rich event such as the Masters realized that changes had to be made in course layout due to evolution of players and equipment. 
I watch hockey every night, It’s my game, but what is frustrating is that is could and should be so much better if the clods that run it were more in touch with the fans.  There are still too many low scoring games that lack chances.  The game is not balanced and is dominated by defense and XXL size goaltending.

 

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 03/14/14 at 03:23 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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