In this week's reader mailbag, Adam Proteau answers questions on the NHL moving to bigger ice surfaces, the league's Olympic future, what the Isles are looking for in trading Thomas Vanek and Andy MacDonald, and more.
The NHL is back in full swing after the Olympic break, but THN’s online mailbag never stops swinging. Thanks for all the submissions.
After watching another round of Olympic hockey, once again I really enjoyed watching the game being played on a larger ice surface. Any chance of the NHL going to a larger surface anytime soon? I’m guessing it's a million-to-one shot, but I can’t be alone here.
Ed Beckmann, Livermore, Col.
In this case, I’d say that’s a generous set of odds. I’d also say it was even less likely than that. For one thing, there are many NHL people who will tell you the style of game that’s played on the bigger ice isn’t their idea of entertaining hockey. And to be fair to them, there were certainly some excitement-challenged games in Sochi.
But beyond the change to the on-ice product, the financial costs associated with removing rows of seats would be another obstacle in the way of making the ice dimensions larger. Now, just because teams remove x number of rows, that doesn’t mean they can’t transfer the higher ticket prices to fans in what would be their new front row seats. But there would be fewer people in the arena, which means fewer people at the concession stands.
Former NHLer Bobby Holik has said a number of times that bigger ice would also give players more room to avoid collisions (and by extension, concussions), but I don’t think anybody, Holik included, is expecting the league to make that change. So don’t hold your breath.
I’m a long-suffering, embarrassed Islanders fan. More than 35 years! What do you think the Isles will get for Thomas Vanek and Andy MacDonald? Also, do we have a team option on whether Buffalo gets this year’s first rounder or a 2015 first? Is it our choice or does it depend on some other stipulation? Thank you.
Chad Anis, Lindenhurst, N.Y.
First thing’s first: because neither Vanek nor MacDonald are signed beyond this season, Islanders GM Garth Snow isn’t going to get equal value for either player. In Vanek’s case, if Snow can recoup what he traded to the Sabres – most importantly, that first-round pick, but also an above-average prospect, or young NHL roster player with room to grow – he’ll be happy. MacDonald’s status as one of the better blueliners available at this year’s March 5 trade deadline will allow Snow to seek a big haul as well, but again, contending teams who will be at the front of the line for MacDonald aren’t about to deal the type of young, NHL-ready breakout stars the Isles need. So you’re looking at draft picks and prospects for MacDonald, too.
And yes, there is a condition placed on the first-rounder Snow dealt to Buffalo. If the pick becomes a top-10 pick, the Islanders have the option of deferring it until the 2015 draft.
I have a simple proposal regarding NHL participation in the Olympics; make men’s hockey into a sport in the Summer Games. Hockey in the summer sounds ridiculous, right? Well, here in North America basketball is a winter sport yet appears in the Summer Olympics. I’ve been to ice rinks in the summer, and it works just fine. Having it played in a non-traditional country, as the Summer Games most often would be, is the way to grow the game.
How would they make this happen? Pretty simple: The NHL offers the NHLPA and IOC a “take it or leave it.” If I told my boss I’m going to do what I do for someone else for free while he still pays me, he’d wish me luck and tell me not to come back. The NHL owners have every right and reason to pass on Pyeongchang. So, Mr. Proteau, why hasn't anybody thought of this? Or have they and, for some reason that I'm missing, decided against it?
Chad McGinn, Shenandoah, Pa.
You make fair points. But remember, the IOC is a business in and of itself and the Winter Games needs a few anchor sports to thrive. One is figure skating, another is curling, and the third is hockey. So the IOC has a vested interest in keeping men’s hockey where it is.
Could the NHL inform the IOC it would only consider letting its players play in the summer? Sure. Could doing so adversely affect a number of their relationships, including the those with with the IIHF, broadcaster NBC, and advertisers? Sure. It’s not as easy as drawing a line in the sand and expecting the other side to jump.
Besides, do you really want NHLers to have even less of an off-season to recuperate from the previous year? Many wouldn’t. And I don’t think any major injuries suffered in the summer would anger GMs and owners any less than injuries suffered in February. We’ll see how the relationship between the league and IOC evolves, but I wouldn’t think we’ll see this approach.
If line changes are so difficult in the second period, why not put one player’s bench on each side of the ice? Sure, some carpentry would be required, but it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal.
Larry Schmidt, Sarnia Ont.
You could go back to allowing teams to situate their benches across from their opponent’s as the NHL used to do until 1965 but in doing so, you’d give one team an advantage. How? Because one team would be closer to the penalty box and have an easier time changing players after a penalty kill. In other words, fix one problem, create another.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.