To Expand or Not to Expand the Ice?

Did you know that not all ice rinks are the same? Many rinks around the world have different shapes and sizes. I would like to focus on primarily is the ice hockey rink. Here in North America, we tend to follow the NHL rink standard size, measured as 200 by 85 feet or 60.96 by 30.48 metres. In international or Olympic ice hockey, the rink’s measurements are different. The length is the same but the width is at a 100 feet. That is up to 15 feet (4.57 metre) more ice compared to the ones in the NHL. You might not believe at first that not all rinks are exactly the same. Well, remember the last four winter Olympic games? Three of them were played on international standards. In Vancouver they played in an NHL sized rink. Ice Hockey rinks have never changed in North America in a long time and that got me thinking, what would happen if we expand them here?

Image Source: Wikimedia

Nowadays, we see hockey players get fitter, faster and stronger. A survey by Angus Reid proposed the question “If,” the question went, “it meant reducing the rate of traumatic head, neck or back injuries, would you support widening the ice surface for hockey? The results of that survey indicated that “Out of the 1,013 participants who responded, only 7% were against the increase in width” (Globe and Mail). Many fans always love the physicality and hard contacts between the players. With a rink size a little smaller, there is not a lot of room to maneuver on the ice. Alexei Kovalev, a former right wing player who played for 5 NHL teams stated “There is more space and more room for players that can be hurt [to] get away and skate away from getting injured,” (Globe and Mail), refereeing to the different style of hockey played in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) where ice is international standards. With more room on the ice, there would be less hitting and more passing between the players.

In Finland, the ice rinks they use are between the NHL and Olympic ice standards. It is called “hybrid style.” Hybrid styles rinks measure between 86 and 98 feet, depending on the area. Sports analyst Pierre McGuire has qualified, Finland’s hybrid rinks as one of the reasons why “a country that size, a little over five million people, can develop so many good players — they still have hitting in their game but you still can get to the net in their game.” (The Star). Hybrid rinks are a good idea. You could have more room to move and there is the physical aspect of the game. Genius!

So, if expanding the rink is not a viable solution, there could be the idea to eliminate body checking. It may make the game safer and reliable. When kids start playing pewee, the hockey players are prohibited to body-check under the age of 13 (CBC). When those players are older, body checking is aloud in most hockey leagues. Getting hurt is a major problem in hockey. Injuries are widely on the rise and it is time for players to feel and be safer on ice.

Nevertheless, expanding the rink may not make entertaining but it can improve safety. Hockey players face many challenges to make it into the big leagues, including sometimes injuries. For sure, hockey is a fast sport, and the highlight reels can make you watch them again. Only time will tell if there would be changes happening.

Ralph Barretto
Staff Writer

Originally Published in Vol. 47 Issue 4 on October 25th, 2017

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