It’s About Time – Standardizing Rink Sizes in The KHL To Be More Consistent with NHL

In the United States and Canada, the standard size of a hockey rink is 200 feet by 85 feet or, as expressed in metric terms, 61 meters by 26 meters, with a corner radius of 28 feet or 8.5 meters.  This is the standard size used in the NHL, the AHL, college hockey, and junior hockey. Hockey rinks in Europe, on the other hand, have been 197 feet by 98.4 feet or, as expressed in metric terms, 60 meters by 30 meters, with a corner radius of 28 feet or 8.5 meters. But a world-wide standard rink size may be inching closer.

The size of European rinks has been the standard size used for International competition, including the Olympic games.  The additional 13 feet in width, along with three feet less in length, does not sound like a lot but it has had an impact on how the game is played.  With a slightly greater width for European rinks, players have had more room to evade defenders that they would not have in North American rinks.  Plus, the different sized rinks force the goalies to play different angles depending on venue.

Over the years, there have been debates on which size was best for the game.  Those who preferred the smaller surface that was the North American standard would argue that it increases the speed of the game, and leads to more action around the nets.  Those who preferred the traditional European ice-surfaces would point out he larger variety of tactics available on those rinks, and the more cerebral and skillful nature of the game.

Head-to-Head

Granted, it’s been a small sample size, but during the last ten years, North American teams have won more than European games if the IIHF World Junior games were being played in a North American venue while European teams have won more often than North American teams if the IIHF World Junior games were being played in a European venue.

From 2004-05 through 2008-09, the Canadian team won regardless of where the games were played since the Canadians dominated in talent.  But after that, there was more variation in the winner.  Below is a chart of the winners, the hosting country, and whether it was a North American team winning in North America, European Team winning in Europe; etc.

Year Host Country Gold Medal Result
2009-10  Canada  United States North American winner in North America
2010-11  United States  Russia European winner in North America
2011-12  Canada  Sweden European winner in North America
2012-13  Russia  United States North American winner in Europe
2013-14  Sweden  Finland European winner in Europe
2014-15  Canada  Canada North American winner in North America
2015-16  Finland  Finland European winner in Europe
2016-17  Canada  United States North American winner in North America
2017-18  United States  Canada North American winner in North America
2018-19  Canada  Finland European winner in North America

From the chart, the IIHF World Juniors were played in North America seven times, with a North American team winning four times and a European team winning three times. The IIHF World Juniors were played in North America three times, with European teams winning two times and a North American team winning once.  While admittedly a small sample size, there seems to be a slight advantage to North American teams playing in North America and for European teams playing in Europe. In any case, standardizing the rink size would be more competition neutral and not favor a team on the same continent as the host.

Standardization

The KHL teams have historically played on rinks that conformed to the European or Olympic standard. However, a handful of KHL teams have started to adopt the smaller rink size.  This has become more urgent since the IIHF mandated that in May 2019 that all rinks used in IIHF competition, including the IIHF World Juniors and the IIHF World Championships would conform the North American standard.

This has induced many of the KHL teams to begin to change the size of their rinks in response.  The change to rink sizes does have its consequences.  It can mess up the sightlines for seats close to the ice.  Plus, it can create headaches for General Managers who have designed their squads around the bigger ice-surface.


Graphic: KHL

Right now, there are three different sizes of arenas in the KHL.  There are the arenas that will remain the European size for this season.  There are others that changed to the North American size.  Other rinks have changed to the Finnish standard which is 60 meters by 28 meters.  Below is a chart of the KHL Rinks and their sizes.

Team Size Comment
Admiral NHL
Akbars Finnish
Amur Khabarovsk NHL
Avangard International New structure to open in 2022-23
Avtomobilist Finnish Had been international. New structure to open in 2022
Barys NHL Just switched from International
CSKA Moscow Finnish Just switched from International.  Share rink with Spartak
Dinamo Minsk Finnish Just switched from International
Dinamo Riga International
Dynamo Moscow NHL Just switched from International
Jokerit Helsinki International
Kunlun Red Star International
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl International
Metallurg Magnitogorsk Finnish Just switched from International
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk Finnish Just switched from International
Salavat Yulaev Ufa International Switching sizes next summer.  New size unknown
Severstal Cherepovets Finnish Just switched from International
Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast Finnish Just switched from International
SKA St. Petersburg NHL Just switched from International.  Plan to build new arena
HK Sochi NHL Just switched from International
Spartak Moscow Finnish Just switched from International.  Share rink with CSKA
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod Finnish Just switched from International
Traktor Chelyabinsk International
Vityaz Moscow Finnish

Standardization is not an easy process, but it appears that at least there seems to be a process in place to standardize rinks in most hockey-playing countries.

Further Reading
Conway’s Russian Hockey: Field Guide to KHL Arenas
SportMK Russia: Mandate to Change Rink Size to NHL Standard

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in News, NHL and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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