Calgary Flames president Brian Burke wants the NHL to adopt a bigger ice surface.
In an interview with Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca, the 59-year-old said he’s not interested in making the ice international sized (200 x 100 feet) but he’s proposing the best method is to go 200 x 90 feet.
“I’ve felt this way for a long time,” the 59-year-old Burke told TSN.ca week. “When I was GM of the [Vancouver] Canucks, I felt the ice was too congested for the size and skill we had on our team. I thought the size of the ice surface affected my team’s ability to excel. That’s where it started for me.”
Burke suggests the changes would be good for hockey, and says the extra five feet would make “a big difference in the quality of hockey.” He says slightly more room will make it easier for players to navigate.
“If you really think about it, it’s crazy that we are still using the same size ice surface as we started with in hockey,” Burke added. “The players have gotten so much bigger and stronger. There’s not enough room out there. It’s too congested. An extra five feet would make a big difference.”
As McKenzie notes, changing something as big as the ice surface is always a tough sell to hockey traditionalists, and there’s the problem of most existing NHL arenas not being configured to be wider than 85 feet. Expanding would be costly, and would come at the cost of premium seats being ripped out.
Burke apparently lobbied the Penguins, who were opening the Consol Energy Center in 2010, to try to the wider ice configurations. He also went to the Edmonton Oilers on their new arena. Both attempts were unsuccessful. Despite the failed attempts, Detroit Red Wings senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano is a proponent of the idea and said when Detroit gets their new rink, they’ll be capable of expanding to 90-feet.
“Brian and I are big proponents of the 90-foot-wide ice surface,” said Devellano. “I really believe it will help the NHL game with more flow, less congestion and maybe even a few less injuries.”
This is an interesting proposition and not a bad one, it just doesn’t make sense logistically given the cost and infrastructure changes. Opening the ice would allow more skilled players to operate, and make the game more exciting, but don’t bet on any teams adopting Burke’s suggestion any time soon – it’s just impossible to implement right now.