Rink little short of NHL standards
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HELSINKI, Finland -- While the Penguins were beating Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League, 4-1, last night, preparations for NHL play took place inside Globe Arena a 45-minute flight away in Stockholm, Sweden.
Workers were crawling around the lofted scaffolding inside the dome-shaped hockey rink hanging goal cameras to facilitate replays should they be needed tomorrow and Sunday when the Penguins and Ottawa Senators play regular-season games as part of NHL Premiere.
"It's not going to be as high tech as what we have in our NHL buildings, but these are real games and we have to get it right," Kris King, senior director of hockey operations for the NHL, said.
Swedish fans attending the games will notice the smaller ice surface and other changes to Globe Arena rink for these NHL games.
Even with the transformation and a concerted attempt to conform to NHL standards in every way, the players, coaches and referees will be aware of several subtle differences from what they are used to in league buildings back in North America.
The first is the dimension of the rink.
Although it was rebuilt to shrink it from the larger international hockey ice sheet, the Globe's surface could not exactly duplicate the 200-foot length required by the NHL.
Instead, it is 196 feet, with the neutral zone losing four feet, and that's no small thing for players.
"Four feet doesn't seem like a lot, but you fight for every foot you can get, especially with the way teams play now, trying to create turnovers through there," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
It's also an adjustment for defensemen carrying the puck up the ice.
"You get over the blue line, and you're right on top of the red [line]," the Penguins' Brooks Orpik said. "It's only a few feet, but it definitely seems like more than it is."
The corners also are a little tight, less rounded, compared to the NHL buildings, making the Globe Arena surface something like old Chicago Stadium or Boston Garden.
The boards and glass are a different height, too, with the boards about six inches taller. The glass, overall, is six to seven inches shorter along the sides. King said there wasn't glass matching the NHL height available in Europe and it was too expensive to ship from North America.
That's a concern because a player shooting the puck over the glass from his defensive zone is subject to a delay-of-game penalty.
Crosby said defensemen and wingers will have to be cautious about chipping the puck out of their end off the glass, a common tactic.
"Even guys on the penalty kill, a lot of times you want to make sure you get it off the glass and out," Crosby said. "Five on four can turn into five on three pretty quickly if you're not careful."
King said the higher glass that runs around the end boards will be extended by a pane or two to help compensate.
The benches are longer than usually found in the NHL because some European clubs dress more than 20 players, and camera areas without glass at the ends of the benches increase the prospect of shooting the puck out of play.
Even though the benches are longer, there is only one door for each team, close to center ice, meaning a goaltender rushing to get off the ice during a delayed penalty will have to scramble to climb over boards that are six inches higher than usual.
"We'll talk to our officials and, accordingly, they'll use common sense if a guy looks like he's trying to get up and over," King said.
The Penguins have had a practice and morning skate at Globe Arena heading into today's practice.
The Senators also will practice there after spending the past four days in Gothenburg, Sweden.
"We've got the luxury to practice [at the Globe Arena] more than Ottawa," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
Because the rink had to be completely redone, with reconfigured boards and new ice, the surface is just rounding into shape.
"Everything will be fine," said Dan Craig, a Canadian ice technician who is overseeing the ice for these games. "It takes three or four days with good skating for the ice to mature properly."
Craig gained fame when his crew buried a Canadian dollar, or loonie, at center ice in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, when Canada won the men's and women's gold medals.
He promised there is neither a loonie for Crosby nor a krona for Swedish winger Daniel Alfredsson buried in Globe Arena ice.
First Published October 3, 2008 12:00 am