Alright, so I've had this theory for some time now, but that has been due in large part to reasons outside of player safety. But upon further review, I think making the rinks wider, or Olympic size, will drastically reduce the number of concussions sustained throughout the course of the NHL season. My initial reason to argue in favor of widening the NHL rinks was to increase the amount of open ice for skill players, as I believe the current play surface is too small and narrow for the height and speed of todays hockey player. In other, more simpler words, the players have evolved beyond the regulation rink.
But I was looking at some of the more notable concussions that have occurred over the past few weeks, and as one might obviously suspect, most all of them involve open ice collisions wherein one or more players in an unsuspecting victim of contact to the upper body and fierce impact into the boards or glass. Now where does widening of the play surface come into play, you ask? Well, it's quite simple.
As I said earlier, I believe the modern day NHL player has evolved to such a degree that the size of the rink is no longer large enough to contain 10 players at a time. They are too big, and too fast. You will not be able to stop this "pandemic" with equipment changes. You would have to completely eliminate hitting from the game. So by widening the ice surface, you not only eliminate the need for sweeping rule changes, you give the players more room. And with that space, the players will be more aware of their positioning in relation to other players on the ice, and on top of that, it would provide players with more room to maneuver. A lot of the violent hits we have been seeing are a result of tight playing situations. That is to say, players find themselves skating across the ice when a 6'3 defenseman comes screaming in at him, and he really doesn't have anywhere to go. With a wider surface, a defenseman is not able to completely commit to a crushing blow due to the fact that forwards now have more ice to work with, and can escape from his cross-hairs (forgive the metaphor). But perhaps most importantly, it will also drastically reduce the amount of violent hits against the boards.
The dump-and-chase method has been in hockey as long as I can remember. But it has become a more and more popular method because, again, due to the large part to the size and speed of the players, skating the puck into the zone has become incredibly difficult and risky. So we have teams dumping the puck in along the boards, and when the forecheckers go to collect the puck, that is where the contact is made into the boards, and this is where a great deal of our concussions are happening. By widening the surface, you give the players the ability to safely and securely carry the puck into the offensive zone. And on top of that, a team with possession in the offensive zone no longer has to play the puck around the boards nearly as much. There is much more open ice within the actual zone, allowing for offensive players to stay away from the dangers of the boards.
But alas, I understand that the game is a business, and the owners will never be totally receptive to this proposal. The widening of the surface would result in the loss of a few rows of premium seating, and in turn there's less money to be made. Perhaps if the implications of how this proposal would impact player safety in a positive nature, the owners, they would be more willing to accept it. After all, it would be in their best interest financially, as well. It protects their investments made on the ice.
So let me know what you think.