Hockey rinks in Sun Belt cities aren’t the only ones that have mediocre ice during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The ice at Chicago’s United Center was in less-than-ideal shape Thursday for Game 3 of the Western Conference final, making the puck take strange hops rather than slide smoothly, and leading several players to inexplicably fall when no one was nearby. Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen had to change his skate blades three times, a practice he normally carries out once every two weeks.
Vatanen joked Saturday that the Ducks’ equipment managers don’t like him because he makes them carry extra skate blades. However, he said the conditions don’t bother him and that both teams must deal with the hazards of playing hockey when the weather outside is warm.
The ice he skates on during the summer in his native Finland “is much harder than in here but of course there’s so many people here and summer is coming, so it gets a little soft at the end of the periods," he said. "But it’s the same for everybody. I think I maybe like this ice much better. It’s easier to skate than back home, where it’s so hard that it cracks under you.”
Fellow defenseman Hampus Lindholm said players have become accustomed to skating on the mushy ice that seems to prevail in the big, multi-use arenas that are home to NHL teams.
“We’re kind of used to it I would say. There’s so many concerts and other stuff going on, of course if you don’t let the ice freeze for a long time it’s going to be a little bit bouncy and softer,” he said after the Ducks practiced in advance of Game 4 of the West finals. “You play at big stadiums all year so it’s going to be like that.
“If I compare this ice to the one where I have my hometown rink, that one there’s nothing going on. It’s free. It’s super cold in the rink so parents are not very happy about it but the puck stays flat. Over here, you’re used to it.”
The ice in Edmonton, he said, “is pretty good, hard ice. The ice, the puck stays flat most of the time. But you’re used to it. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
But Lindholm said he has thought about changing the blade on his stick to accommodate the potential bad hops that mushy ice can cause. Teemu Selanne would change his stick depending on ice conditions.
“I see a lot of guys here making their blades a little bit bigger. I haven’t tried it yet but I might try it because it makes you so much [more] comfortable,” Lindholm said. “Especially as a D-man you want to be able to catch a puck so you don’t really have to look down.”