Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Smaller ice surface brings bigger gate and bigger savings. But will it mean a better chance for Gold?

The 2010 Winter Olympic Hockey Tournament will not be on the wide open surfaces of an Olympic sized rink as in the past, instead in a bow to cost recovery and common sense, the IIHF has decided that the 2010 Olympics will be played on an NHL sized ice surface.

The change in the usual Olympic practice of larger ice surfaces, will save the Vancouver Organizing Committee some 10 million dollars in renovations to GM Place and will free up 35,000 seats for fans for the duration of the tournament. IIHF president Rene Fasel showed unusual sense for an Olympic type bureaucrat when he said “it would be stupid to spend so much money to make this construction,” marking perhaps the first time that anyone connected to the Olympics ever counseled against overspending on facilities. Rene better be careful or they’ll be taking away his key to the executive washrooms and stop inviting him along on those world wide dog and pony shows.

With the cost of the Olympics jumping up by over 110 million since the original budget was laid out, saving 10 million dollars is nothing to turn ones nose up, it also will mean that the major surgery required of the GM Place ice surface won’t be necessary saving time and not causing any unwanted or un-needed changes to the set up there already.

Fasel did say that the decision was a hard one, but they factored in the idea most of the participants in the Olympic Tournament already play on the NHL size surfaces with their club teams, so the change won’t be all that radical. He also said that the recent changes in rules by the NHL and the strict enforcement of them has made the NHL a faster paced game already and perhaps that will be more than enough to provide a highly entertaining Olympic tournament even without the extra space on the ice.

It’s a valid point and one worth considering when everyone suggests that the change to an NHL size rink will be an instant benefit for the Canadian and US hockey teams. With more and more Europeans plying their trade in the NHL, all will be more than familiar with the intricacies of playing on a smaller ice surface. Rather than giving any team an edge, it will probably even up the ice surface for all teams both European and North American.

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