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Once Again, The Bigger Ice Debate

from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,

After watching the World Hockey Championships this past couple of weeks, you have to wonder at what point the NHL will begin to face reality.

We speak here of the failure to recognize how the entertainment value of their product is on a downhill slide.

We speak of their continuing insistence, for instance, on keeping their ice surfaces at exactly the same size as its always been, despite the fact the game is almost choking itself to death given the increase in the size of the players and the speed at which they move.

It’s a simple case of physics the NHL types simply won’t face.

You have bigger, faster players in better shape than they’ve ever been, racing around in the same confined area. That means more collisions and at a greater impact level, and as a result you’re getting the kind of horrific injuries you do, including concussion and skyrocketing injury rates that demand more and more depth in organizations. And more collisions mean more defence.

continued

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We speak here of the failure to recognize how the entertainment value of their product is on a downhill slide.

says who?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 05/19/13 at 11:07 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Shocked, shocked I tell you, that a Vancouver journalist would want the league to change the game after his team got embarrassed in the 1st round.

Comes off as a very long temper tantrum.  I can almost picture him pouting while writing it.

Posted by Hootinani on 05/19/13 at 11:09 AM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

It doesn’t really matter how much people argue about bigger ice making sense. There is no way owners will allow all the expensive ticket seats that would need to be removed to accommodate this.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 05/19/13 at 11:39 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Finns do pretty well in terms of playing NHL-style hockey on bigger ice without turning the game into soccer on ice by making a 92-foot-wide rink the norm as opposed from jumping from 85 feet to 100 feet, but the NHL would never do so…

And I’d argue that Gallagher might have more of a point if Ken Hitchcock and Darryl Sutter didn’t ultimately coach their teams to dump and not chase, trap like hell and grab and grope their way to success.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/19/13 at 11:53 AM ET

Avatar

It doesn’t really matter how much people argue about bigger ice making sense. There is no way owners will allow all the expensive ticket seats that would need to be removed to accommodate this.

There’s sort of a point there, but not really.  The seats lost aren’t the front rows but the last rows of the lower ice section.  Instead of the old rows 1-5 being closest to the ice rows 6-10 would be the closest to the ice.  What was charged for on the glass seats before would be charged for on the glass seats then.

Furthermore, if the overall circumference of the playing area was greater there’s a likelihood that there would actually be more on-glass seats than there were before.  Probably not many, I’d have to do the math and I don’t care enough to track down the formula to get the exact number, But if you expand the rink by 5-15 feet you’re talking about 3-10 seats on each short side of the rink.  6-20 more seats to charge on-glass prices.

And, really, the NHL jacks up ticket prices every year by 5-10% for no reason already.  They’d just roll in those lost seats as a ‘reason’ to jack ticket prices up 7-12% in any year instead.

And I’d argue that Gallagher might have more of a point if Ken Hitchcock and Darryl Sutter didn’t ultimately coach their teams to dump and not chase, trap like hell and grab and grope their way to success.

Enh.  Those coaches coach that way because it works on NHL ice and it works on teams with less talent.  If the ice surface presented enough of a change that those strategies didn’t work anymore, they either wouldn’t coach that way or they’d get fired and the new coach wouldn’t coach that way.

The question is whether a larger ice surface would actually solve the basic gameplay issues hyper-defensive systems create for the NHL.  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s such an expensive change to attempt I’d have a hard time thinking it would ever get any traction ahead of a ton of rule changes that while really stupid, are at least cheap.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 05/19/13 at 12:13 PM ET

Primis's avatar

The question is whether a larger ice surface would actually solve the basic gameplay issues hyper-defensive systems create for the NHL.  Maybe, maybe not.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 05/19/13 at 12:13 PM ET

Well the answer to that is an obvious and resounding “No”, since many (not all, but many) of those defensive systems were developed in Europe using the larger ice surface.  Nobody in the NHL devises new systems, they incorporate them from other levels and leagues.

Once you realize that, it kinda’ becomes a pointless argument.

Posted by Primis on 05/19/13 at 12:23 PM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

I’ve always been pro bigger-ice.  International games are more fun to watch, IMHO.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 05/19/13 at 02:09 PM ET

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Whether or not bigger ice is a good idea, it will never happen in the NHL. Adding 15 feet to the width of the rink is impossible for the arenas today. The entire sight line and structures of the lower bowl are based on and 85 foot width. It would cost hundreds of millions to retrofit every lower bowl in every arena in the NHL. This goes without any consideration of the NBA which share 2/3s of the buildings. They don’t want the front row seats 15 feet further back with the slope of the bowl to match. This is crazy talk and anyone who spent more than five minutes thinking about the logistics would realize it ain’t gonna happen.

Posted by timbits on 05/19/13 at 02:15 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Holy fuch, I’m watching the live game between SWE and SWI for the WC and the Euro TV announcers just said, “No North Americans involved in this game.”  Was that fuching necessary???

Will be watching Tricky Dicky Axelsson (#28) and, of course, Jarnkrok (#19 - how apropos).

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 02:37 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I just cringed.  Jarnkrok went in for the forecheck just a little too aggressively and smashed nearly face first into the boards.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 02:48 PM ET

SYF's avatar

They have a penalty in IIHF called, “Checking into the head.”  Two minute minor.  Interesting…

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 02:50 PM ET

SYF's avatar

2-1 SWE at the first intermission.  It is a dirty, dirty game.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 03:06 PM ET

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Well the answer to that is an obvious and resounding “No”, since many (not all, but many) of those defensive systems were developed in Europe using the larger ice surface. 

I don’t see how that’s terribly relevant, though.  I’m sure the stand up goalie style was something that didn’t originate in North America either, yet it matriculated it’s way here, was somewhat effective for a time, and was surpassed by other styles that proved themselves superior to a more modern game.

So, sure, defensive styles were developed elsewhere.  The question is whether, given NHL talent levels, a larger ice surface could open up passing lanes and whatnot.

I think it would have some degree of impact simply because when there’s more space on the ice it’s harder to clog things up.  How much of an impact?  Hard to say.  Enough of an impact to make it worth the expense of doing it?  Hard to say.

I think the NHL would try something goofy before they’d try something that expensive.  Like, say, not allowing a defensive team to have all 5 skaters in the defensive zone at once.  Stuff like that.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 05/19/13 at 04:00 PM ET

SYF's avatar

After spending one period of both teams slapping their dongs in each other’s faces, they actually settled down and played an entertaining game of hoceky.

2-1 SWE at the start of the third.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 04:10 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Seriously, the Stanley Cup’s far, far more impressive than the IIHF World Hockey Championship Cup…or whatever it’s called.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 04:29 PM ET

SYF's avatar

It’s 5-1 SWE with about three and a half minutes to go in the game.  SWE is gonna win it.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 04:38 PM ET

SYF's avatar

SWE 5-1 winners over SUI.  Congrats.  Jarnkrok was awesome defensively.  The Wings have got a real good player. Real damn good.

Tricky Dicky was invisible, at least to my eyes.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 05/19/13 at 04:46 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

There is no way owners will allow all the expensive ticket seats that would need to be removed to accommodate this.

um, that’s the opposite of what would happen.  you’d get MORE expensive seats if the ice were bigger.  think about it.  larger ice means the linear length of the boards is longer, which means the first row is longer, so is the second row, the third row, etc.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/19/13 at 04:50 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

They don’t want the front row seats 15 feet further back with the slope of the bowl to match

um, if the ice were widened by 15 feet, that means each side is only moved back 7.5 feet.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/19/13 at 04:52 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

I don’t see how that’s terribly relevant, though.  I’m sure the stand up goalie style was something that didn’t originate in North America either, yet it matriculated it’s way here, was somewhat effective for a time, and was surpassed by other styles that proved themselves superior to a more modern game.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 05/19/13 at 04:00 PM ET

What are you talking about? The stand up goalie style was the only style of goaltending for years when hockey first started. I don’t recall the name of the first goalie to go down to make a save, but for a while there was a penalty to do so. I think Glen Hall is one of the goalies credited with creating the butterfly, with Patrick Roy perfecting it in the mask era. George will likely know more about this if you’re interested.

Posted by Bradley97 on 05/19/13 at 06:49 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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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