NHL History Of Rinks

10:51:00 PM 23 Comments
Every player is well aware of the rink he is playing on. They know the length of the ice and the amount of room they have to play in the neutral zone. Although every rink in the NHL is now virtually the same with the exception of logos and ice quality, it wasn't always that way. In this feature, we will take a look at how the rink has been adapted over the years. You may be surprised at all of the changes, both large and small. Please keep in mind, that the following information is based on a majority of rinks during each time frame. There have been variances all along the way.

Prior to the 1950's:  While the pictures of rinks in this era are rare and hard to see, its safe to say that rinks varied a great deal at this time. Can you imagine a time where they didn't even paint the ice white? It is tough to say whether any rinks had lines painted on the ice. I have seen photos that suggested that some may have but its tough to say. Needless to say, if they were there, they were tough to see.

1950-1960:  This was a time of only a handful of teams. A few had center ice logos, but that had not yet become a necessity. The red line started out solid red, but as black and white televisions began to air hockey games, patterns of white paint began to appear on the center line to help decipher which line was which.

1961-1973:  During this period, most ices would have a center ice logo of some sort. The neutral zones were 58 feet white on a standard rink. Small vertical hash marks were added to the four faceoff spots at the ends of the rink.

1974-1982:  The rink would remain largely the same for many years with only small changes like the modified hash marks in the face-off circles beginning in 1974.

1983-1985: We can look back upon the early eighties as the time that led to advertisements popping up everywhere around the rink. Dasher board advertisements were introduced. At the time there was no set layout or restrictions on the placement of the ads. Also during this time, the hash-marks disappeared but the face-off dots outside of the neutral zone where changed a bit. 

1986-1991:  The mid-eighties brought a couple changes to the rink. Along with advertisers lining the boards all the way around the rink, the goal creases got a makeover. 

1992-1993:  Once again the crease would be modified as the light blue paint returned in front of the nets. On ice advertisements also started to pop up in the neutral zone in the early nineties. By this time there seemed to be a uniform system in place for board advertisement placement league wide..

1994-1995: Some slight modification to the board ad placement was the only major change during this time.

1996:  The blue paint inside the nets was removed and small NHL branding began showing up near all four corners of the rink. 

1997: The hash marks made their comeback in a style which remains on the ice today. Also this was the last year before the NHL shortened the width of the neutral zone.
1998:  The neutral zone was shortened from 58 feet wide to 54 feet wide. 

1999-2002:  The goal crease was changed to what is now the standard crease among Pro North American rinks. The old style is still used in most other countries and many minor leagues. 

2003-2004:  The last change to the rink prior to the lost 04/05 season was to the neutral zone face off dots which were changed to match the rest of the face off dots. 

2006-2007:  When players returned to the ice following the lockout, two major changes had occurred. The neutral zone was shortened once again, from 54 feet to 50 feet. Also two lines were painted behind the goal lines to create the "Trapezoid" which is designed to keep goalies from playing the puck from the corners. I still do not understand the need for the trapezoid but it seems to be here to stay. One small detail also popped up on the boards at this time. Reebok struck a deal with the NHL to supply the league with jerseys, and they got their logo up on the red and blue lines up the sides of the boards. 

2008:  It seems like perhaps the league decided that the boards surrounding the rinks had become a bit too distracting. Around this time all of the board ads started having no background color so that the boards would regain their white faces. Unlike the trapezoid, I was very pleased to see this change!

2009-2014:  A logo change by Reebok led to a quick subtle change to their logo on the boards as well.

2015: The hash marks outside the end zone circles were moved from 3 feet to 5 feet 7 inches separation. Finally, the trapezoid grew by two feet from each goal post to create what is now the current rink layout for all 30 NHL teams.

*if you find any errors or see something I missed, please comment below.

Did you know?

  • Edmonton's center ice logo faces the players rather than the penalty box because their TV cameras are on the opposite side of the rink from all 29 other arenas today.
  • The New York Islanders have used the same red line design since they entered the league. This could change once they move to Brooklyn. 
  • Some arenas used to have off-centered penalty boxes which led to the referee's circle to be painted in alternate locations as well.
  • Some older, smaller arenas in the past have had shorter rink dimensions.
    • Buffalo Memorial Auditorium  - 196' x 85' (Neutral Zone smaller then regulation)
    • Boston Garden                     - 191' x 83' (One offensive zone smaller)
    • Chicago Stadium                  - 188' x 85' (Smallest Neutral Zone in the league)
    • Detroit Olympia                    - 200' x 83' (2 feet shorter in width)
    • Maple Leaf Gardens             - 200' x 85' (Uneven corners, unconfirmed
I want to thank CF92 and Cory Gibson who were responsible for much of the research that made this possible!