SOCHI, Russia — So you think playing on the wider international ice surface would be the best way to increase scoring in the NHL and liven up the game?
Think again, according to Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Jeff Carter, who are playing for Canada in the Sochi Olympic hockey tournament.
Neither player is a fan of the international dimensions being used here. NHL rinks are 85 feet wide and 200 feet long, but international rinks are 100 feet wide. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic hockey tournament was played on an NHL-size rink.
“I prefer NHL size for sure,” Doughty said Monday as players did media interviews at the Bolshoy Ice Palace rink.
“I’m just used to that. I played on it my whole life. I like to be a physical player defensively and it’s hard to play physical here as a D-man in the defensive zone because the ice is so wide, and if you get caught out of position, you’re not going to get back in time.
Carter said instead of promoting more offense, the wider rink can lead to less scoring because teams can stack the middle of the ice and force opponents outside for lower-percentage shots. That’s what Finland did to Canada in the teams’ preliminary-round finale, and Carter said that made it difficult to get to the middle of the ice.
“The European teams, they clog it up pretty good. There’s usually five guys in the middle of the ice,” he said. “It’s all about your compete level and battle and try and create space in there and just get pucks to the net.
“It almost feels like there’s more room over there, in the NHL. The ice is smaller but I feel like guys are a little more spread out. They force more on the boards. Where here, you get the puck on the wall, teams kind of back off and give you that space on the wall and just clog up the middle. It’s a little bit different.”
Carter said it took a little while to get accustomed to that, and to the fact players have more time to make plays and decisions than they might think.
“They’ll pressure you on loose pucks and whatnot, but as soon as you get full possession of it they seem to back off and give you that space and we have a lot of possession,” he said. “We need to get some more pucks in the middle, get to the net and try and bang a few more in.
“It kind of catches you off-guard at first. You feel like someone’s coming at you but you really have a lot more time than you think. So it’s a little bit of an adjustment. I think guys are used to it now and we should be getting better at it.”
Carter also said it’s tougher here to create offense off the boards.
“You’re a long ways from the net when you’re hanging out on the walls,” he said. “We talked a little bit about maybe trying to shrink the ice a little bit and get into the dot lines and make it feel more like an NHL-size rink.”