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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|Dynamo Moscow||NHL||Just switched from International|
|Kunlun Red Star||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|
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.
By Diane Doyle