In a large association like the National Hockey League, it is completely expected to have issues and debates on different aspects of the game. Fans know all too well about it, especially this season with the ongoing problems of goalie interference, offside calls and the looming potential lockout or strike year that could take place in 2020, following a nasty feud between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players who weren't allowed to take part in the 2018 Olympics Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Let's now add a new one to the list. Unfavorable ice conditions this season have led to player complaints, game delays and even a postponement, and now NHL insider Darren Dreger is reporting that ice makers are not happy about the players' accusations.
Back in January, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News reported that Anaheim Ducks goalie "Ryan Miller called the United Center ice [in Chicago] the worst he had seen in his career, saying pucks hadn’t been able to sit flat all night." Clinton adds that on the same day Miller made his complaints known, the afternoon game between the Boston Bruins and Penguins had to be delayed because of a hole in Pittsburgh’s ice.
“The biggest concern is always that pucks start rolling and aren’t sliding,” Custom Ice owner Brendan Lenko said to the Hockey News back in January. “That’s the kind of stuff that the NHL needs so that the skill and finesse players can actually use their skill and don’t have to try and trap bouncing pucks all the time.”
On Thursday night's Insider Trading on TSN, Dreger revealed that ice makers are indeed unhappy with players' claims, which hints at the NHL unable to find an easy fix for the issues in the coming weeks.
"Well most of them aren't very happy about it, certainly those who are on the side of bad ice. Now it's important to note that NHL players, teams, the operations people have the ability to document their concerns, but the reality is from a player perspective that seldom happens. Now hockey ops people would prefer to get those concerns directly because then they'll try to fix it rather than read about the players' concerns in a survey."
It is also safe to point out that a lot of arenas in the NHL also host other sports or social events, which demand constant changes in the setup of the ice.
"This season, there are 11 NHL arenas that host an additional tenant that requires a different playing surface, be it basketball or lacrosse. That includes buildings in Toronto, New York, Dallas, Buffalo, Colorado, Boston, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia. That’s to say nothing for the events that also take place atop the covered sheet of ice in all the arenas around the league, which can include everything from concerts and trade shows to pro wrestling and monster truck rallies," added Clinton in his January article on The Hockey News.
There is also issues of global warming and humidity factors, as it has been explained that people bring in moisture on their clothes when they come in attendance.
And let's be honest here: the NHL can’t control the weather and arena owners are looking to make money by renting their venue as the interest in packing the house on non-hockey nights isn’t about disappear.
So... what's the best solution?