Coming up soon I’ll have a quick post about some changes regarding this here blog – that’ right I’m going to start charging for it. $99 bucks for a year’s subscription! Just kidding, this site will always be free, because frankly that’s what this content is worth. I mean who wants to pay to read lame jokes about hockey cards?
Now, it’s time for the good ol’ Raw Charge Question of The Week! This week it’s a nice general topic about the NHL in general.
Make the players wear the Great Gazoo’s helmet. Boom concussion problem solved. Now everyone can get back to watching their favorite players without wondering if the next hit will force them to spend the rest of their life in a dark room. That was easy enough, eh?
Actually, as I think about the question and scroll over some of the other folk’s answers I keep coming back to an idea I’ve been kicking around for a couple of seasons. Pretty much since I returned from my one year protest following the lock out:
Make the playing surface bigger.
According to Rule 1.2: “the official size of the rink shall be two hundred feet (200’) long and eighty-five (85’) wide.” The rinks have generally been that size since the NHL began play. Some of the older barns like the Boston Garden may have had slight variations, but now, as the new buildings become more uniform, most of them play to those regulations.
|According to Wikipedia (where this picture is taken from) The Garden measured 191x83|
The problem is, while the rinks have stayed the same, the players have gotten bigger. When the Toronto Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup in 1966-67 their biggest everyday skater was Frank Mahovlich who was listed at 6’ 205lbs. Last season’s Bruins team featured 13 players on the roster bigger than that with Zdeno Chara logging an impressive 6’9” 255lbs.
|1940's player meets 2010's player|
Add in two referees and two linesmen and that’s a lot of human flesh cluttering up the ice. Even with some of the rule tweaks that were instituted post lock-out it’s easy for defensive minded teams to clog up the neutral zone and choke off entry into the offensive zone.
Any time widening the playing surface is mentioned the immediate outcry is that owner won’t go for it because it’ll eliminate too many expensive seats along the glass. That’s true, but at least it’ll give them an excuse to raise ticket prices as opposed to doing it for no apparent reason. Or, maybe they can see past the short term loss of revenue to the long term benefit of strengthening the game.
Smart owners will find ways to recover the revenue lost from removing a couple rows of seats. After all, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik made the audacious move of removing luxury suites during the latest Ice Palace renovation and hasn’t suffered from it. In fact, he’s received nothing but praise (and boosted attendance) for the recent makeover.
Expanding out to full international ice (210 x 98) might not be the answer, but adding 2 or 3 feet of width on each side will make it hard for teams like the Lightning to stack the blue line with three or four defenders to prevent the opposing teams from skating freely into the zone. Of course, with the way the Lightning defenders have been letting the other team into the zone uncontested all year that really hasn’t been a problem yet.
Wider ice surfaces might not be a cure all for the concussion rampage that is currently sweeping through the league but it can’t hurt either. Space equals time in the NHL. Making a defender skate an extra foot or two to deliver a crunching hit along the boards could be the difference between Sidney Crosby suffering another brain bruise or him slipping by and scoring a goal.
Some critics complain that games played on international ice by European professional teams are low-scoring and boring. That the large ice surface makes the game resemble soccer more than the high-impact, rock ‘em-sock ‘em NHL hockey they’re used to watching. Well, yeah of course it’s not the same – they’re not using NHL-caliber talent. While they’re pretty good, they’re not the best. Moving to larger ice won’t eliminate hitting, but players will have to be more conscious about making sure they are in the proper position to make the hit.
The league has a lot on its table this summer. From negotiating a new CBA, to realignment, ownership issues, concussion problems and a serious decline in the quality and consistency of officiating the last thing they’re thinking about is redesigning the ice rink. However, as the game moves forward and the players keep getting bigger and faster it is an issue that will require more attention.
|Gonna keep postin' 'em! AP David Zalubowski|