February 27, 2010
Big Ice, Small Ice
Okay I want to get this off my chest while the Olympics are still on and international hockey is still at the forefront: North American ice is not small. International ice is big ice, but North American is actually the standard sized ice surface.
You see, way back in the 1800s when the game was being created and the rules drawn, it was decided the ice surface would be 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. Why? Pretty simple really. When McGill students who wrote up the original rules of hockey they were using Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink. Built in 1862, the ice surface measured 204 feet by 80 feet. They tinkered with the number a bit over time, but with a standardized ice surface for the nation's most popular game set, every indoor rink subsequently built in Canada and the United States used it.
So why do the Europeans use bigger ice? Again, fairly simple. Europeans did not begin playing Canadian style hockey until the early 20th century. And a governing body, the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace - forerunner to the International Ice Hockey Federation - was not established until 1908. They adopted most of the Canadian rules when estalishing their own set of rules, but they more or less had to change the ice surace measurements because there were so many indoor rinks already in existence by this time. These rinks were built with other sports in mind, such as figure skating and their own hockey-like ice games. So they were built bigger and wider.
The LIHG-turned-IIHF settled on the 200 feet by 100 feet rink dimensions, providing 3000 more square feet of playing surface. Subsequently, as the game caught on throughout Europe, their indoor rinks were built for these hockey measurements.
I woud like to see a standardized ice surface in place nowadays. It seems ridiculous to have two different surface sizes. Of course, that would mean every rink on one of the two continents would have to altered, so it's just not going to happen.