Changes to the NHL Rink Configurations

By Bob Haynes

I would like to suggest that the league to make some minor configuration changes to the rink for the better of the game. I know that it is not fiscally possible to change the size of the rink due to the number of buildings in the league and the number of fans that this could displace from each arena.

These changes would make it harder to play the trap which every fan dislikes watching. These changes to the rink will allow goalies show off their true talents of moving the puck. Finally the changes remove the “long change” and would make the game the same for every period of hockey played.

Figure 1 – Current NHL Rink Configuration

Expand the Neutral Zone
The NHL moved the blue lines away from the goal line several years ago to give teams more room in the offensive zone, however that ice came from somewhere and the neutral zone (the area between the blue lines) had to be made smaller by the same amount. In the effort to increase space in the offensive zone, the league has actually made it more difficult to get the puck into the offensive zone. Presently the offensive zone is 75’ long with 11’ behind the net. That leaves 50’ only for the neutral zone area of the game. While the 75’ zone gives players more space to operate and more room for the team to defend, it also moves the defensemen further from the net at the points. Tampa Bay and Washington are currently exploiting the smaller neutral zone to play defense further from their net. This is similar to the old Boston Garden that had a smaller surface and allowed the Bruins to really clamp down at home.

I would like to see the NHL add 8’ from each offensive zone of the rink to center ice. This would effectively add 32% more room at center ice for passes to be completed and speed to be generated that would lead to offensive pressure. This would move the point men 8’ closer to the net, which puts the defenseman closer to jump in the play for offense. This would allow teams to attack with more speed at the blue line. This would also make it more difficult for a team to trap at center ice and this is the real key. I am aware that this would also bunch the defensive more in the defensive zone, but I feel the extra speed that would generate coming to the blue line would increase the offensive pressure more.

Remove the Goalie Trapezoid
I really dislike watching the puck sit in the area behind the net and the “slot-hockey” goalie cannot go play the puck. This seems so silly to not allow goalies to play the puck in their own end. I am suggesting removing the trapezoid behind the net and allow the goalie to play the puck anywhere. Now I am not asking for goalies to drop back and fire the puck down ice for offense, but the rule just feels silly to me, a no-touch area in the most physical sport? With no two-line passes watching goalies fire the puck all the way down to the other blue line is not the goal here. I suggest a compromise to this. Remove the trapezoid and allow the goalies to play the puck all over the defensive zone; however the goalie cannot pass the puck across his blue line.

Move Benches to Opposite Sides of the Rink
I have always disliked the 2nd period and the long change in the NHL especially during playoff OT games. To that end I would like to see the NHL move the home and away benches to be centered on the red line and on opposite sides of the rink. The configuration would also put the team’s penalty box on the same side as the bench. Finally the scorer’s table would be on the home team side of the rink. The benefits here are that this configuration would remove the congestion at the benches and spread out the players at center ice. It also removes having the benches separated by 8 feet at center ice. It separates the players when going to the penalty box after an altercation.

Good Night and Good Hockey!

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