Thursday, June 18, 2009

The end of an era in arena anachronisms!

Brian Kilrea's coaching career ended when the Ottawa 67's were eliminated in Game 7 overtime by the Niagara IceDogs in the playoffs, but really, this would make it official:

That post from a Facebook 67's fan group seems to have raised questions; either way, change is in the air.

During the World Junior championships in Ottawa last winter, the benches were on the north side, where the Soixys normally sit. The penalty boxes and sundry IIHF off-ice officials were on the south side, which is normally the visitors' bench. It is noteworthy that such talk is afoot now that Killer is no longer the coach. There's an off chance Kilrea might have resisted the move to have the benches on the same side. That has become a requirement throughout hockey, but it's understandable that Kilrea might have resisted, since he was used to having it a certain way (here one thinks of his contemporary Don Cherry's opinion, oft-expressed over the last 20 years, about putting the benches on the same side).

The setup kept the 67's from having to make a long change during the second period, which was arguably an unfair advantage for the home team, but no more so than those 3-in-3 weekends OHL fans must abide. Granted, the impact of the Civic Centre's unique architecture, where all of the seating on one side of the ice, has worked both ways in how it impacts the game. A poster on the New OHL Open Forum (which totally gets credit for this post idea) argued it has hurt the 67's:
"The biggest problem for the 67's was the opposing team had the opportunity of looking into the stands on the high side and seeing the capacity rink. All the 67's saw from the bench was the WALL. So, when you have 10,000 people cheering you on, you don't see them; therefore, you don't get as pumped up."
If they are going to be on the south side, then that has been rectified. Visiting teams will certainly lose the benefit of having an easier time making a change on the fly when a penalty expired, since the penalty boxes have been on that side of the ice.

The crux of this, though, really goes to what's lost when teams move into new arenas. This should not be taken as a young fogey's lament for an era that he is barely old enough to remember. The pathological nostalgia is best left to baby boomers. It's the loss of the little quirks of each arena which became part of the game's lore. The Civic Centre has its square corners, which as my contractor father points out, are peculiar to arenas built in Eastern Canada. The Peterborough Memorial Centre has similar square corners.

The Kingston Memorial Centre has benches on opposite sides of the ice. There was some intentional comedy during the third-last Frontenacs game there in February 2008 when Larry Mavety started to walk on to the ice during a shouting match with the Plymouth Whalers coach. The Memorial Centre also has its 200-by-92 ice surface, which was the Olympic dimensions when that arena was built (in the 1940s, not the 1890s, as some snarkers might have cracked). It was always a kick, as an adult, to overhear a group of four 11-year-olds looking at the ice surface, "Is that NHL size?" ... "No," the knowitall of the group might reply, "It's bigger," and of course his friends would doubt that an old barn in Kingston would have a rink seven feet wider than those in the NHL.

It is something which could only be absorbed by cultivating the habit at an early age, being a fan. You don't live in the world you were born into, though. Plus ├ža change!

(Thanks to Jason Cormier for the tip.)


Dennis Prouse said...

Well, that hardly took any time at all. The two teams still have to use that common exit at the end of the ice, though, and will continue to do so for as long as that building is standing. As for home ice advantage, geography dictates that the 67s still generally get teams at the tail end of a long road swing, which should be a huge advantage. When those poor visiting kids are on game three of a three-in-two-and-a-half-days trip, the home team should win pretty much every time.

Jason Cormier said...

Hi Nate, how long have you been lurking on the NOOF?

Anonymous said...

The 67's normally play the majority of their home games on Friday night, which usually is the start of a three game road swing.
It's those Sunday home games, which the 67's have much fewer of than Friday, that the visitors are pretty weary.
Those teams that find themselves in that situation coming to Ottawa are usually from the other conference.
It's certainly not the case for divisional foes like Peterborough, Belleville, Kingston and Oshawa whom 67's fans see ad nauseum.
The 67's have to deal with it when they hit the road and play Erie, saginaw and Plymouth on a weekend trip so turnabout
is fair play.