NHL History Of Rinks

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!
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Goal Horn said...

I'm kind of curious if the corners in some NHL rinks in the old days were different because it seemed like the corners in the Montreal Forum back in the 50s and 60s were tighter until the 70s.

Gary Crago said...

Zone face off hash marks have moved from 3 feet to 5 feet 7 inches separation for the 2014-2015 season.

"The hash marks along the faceoff circles in end zones have been expanded from three feet (3') apart to five feet seven inches (5'7") apart, bringing the NHL hash marks to the current international standard."


Unknown said...

The Philadelphia Spectrum had cameras on the bench side like Edmonton does today.

Also, I've seen clips from way back (40's and 50's I believe) that had a face-off dot outside each blue line, dead in the center of the ice. (In some cases the current blue line dots were present, in some cases, the center dots were the only ones on the ice). I've also seen this layout in international clips as late as the 70's. I'd love to know what those dots were about and when/why they were eliminated.

Unknown said...

Edit: In the 1976 Canada Cup they used the three dot set-up outside the blue lines. Would love to know the story behind that.

J.R. Gain said...

In the movie "The Rocket," some of the games show a dot between the face-off dots in the neutral zones, in the center of the rink.

Jeff Marek mentioned on his podcast something called "penalty shot dots." I think that's what they were. He said there was one on each side of center in the neutral zone, and another in line with the face-off dots in the offensive zones used for rules that aren't in the game anymore.

hawk valentine said...

http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/hockey/nhlhistory/nhlrules.html this will help you out a lot. The rinks were no painted white til 1949. You didn't mention that the goal lines, along with blue lines, were moved 2 feet closer to center in 1998 and styled that way until put back 2 feet in 2005. That rule was to create a tiny neutral zone and make more room behind nets to create more offense. This was really hard on us goaltenders as all our angles and visual markers were off and playing the puck behind th3 not was way harder. The rink in SF is still marked that way and I hate it. That's partly why I play in Oakland, plus they have an NHL and Olympic rink. One day the NHL will finally play on Olympic rinks which they need for there size and speed.

Hallwings said...

I think the rectangular goal crease was still around during the 1985-1986 season, and it wasn't changed to the semi-circle with a rectangle until the following (86-86) season.

Josh Smith said...

Minor correction: The trapezoid change for 2014-15 only moved out the points along the goal line. The trapezoid remains the same width along the end boards, effectively making the sides 'steeper'

Jager said...

Why are Edmonton's cameras on the wrong side? It's annoying watching the penalty boxes instead of being able to see the line changes.

Hallwings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DTC said...

Yes! In some of the older rinks the boards would often have less of a curve making the rink more rectangular. Must have been tricky for gauging where the puck would bounce.

DTC said...

I appreciate the feedback! Keep it coming, and I will try to work on the issues to update this page. I put together things like this as an informative piece so we can all learn, and believe me, I learn just as much in the process!

DTC said...

Good eye! I have re-uploaded the 2015 graphic to reflect the new trapezoid.

DTC said...

Thank you! I have re-uploaded the 2015 graphic with the spaced out hash marks.

BS1980 said...

Didn't the NHL have faceoff circles just inside the blue line in the offensive zones instead of in the neutral zone for a while?

Hallwings said...

to Jager: Actually, quite a number of arenas had the "main" camera behind the players benches back in the day--Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Saddledome (until the 1995 renovation), Detroit Olympia, Hartford Civic Center, the Forum in Inglewood (until the 1993-94 season), the old Met Center in Minnesota, the Spectrum in Philadelphia, the old Pittsburgh Civic Arena (until the 1992-93 season), the old St. Louis Arena, the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field), and the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Those are all I can think of off the top of my head.

TheSparkleRaptor TSR }{ ROBLOX And More said...


turkeyhundt said...

I thought I remembered this as well. Where the attacking team would have to win it, but not pull it back too hard if they wanted to keep it in the zone. Am I high?

Tim Brulia said...

Until 1988-89, some of the older rinks (Boston Garden, Montreal Forum, Winnipeg Arena, I think Le Colisee) had the player benches on opposite sides, with the penalty box located beside the home bench in each case. The official's crease in these rinks was lopsided due to the off-center location of the scorer's bench. In 1988-89, the NHL made mandatory that player benches must be on the same side.

Hallwings said...

Le Colisee did indeed have the penalty box next to the home team bench. As for the Winnipeg Arena, that venue continued to have the penalty box next to the home bench during the 1988-89 season (at least through November, since there's a clip of the Jets honoring the then-Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and they still had the penalty box next to the Jets' bench).

Gregory Tinius said...

I don't see any mention of the goal line moving back two feet for the 2006 season.

Gregory Tinius said...

(Very cool page tho. Thanks for putting it together!)

Qualz said...

Since 1949-50 season, ice surface has been painted white.
Sourse: http://nhluniforms.com/1949-50/1949-50.html

Tim Brulia said...

If you can get ahold of a copy of the first printing of Total Hockey, there is a section that shows (with graphics) how rinks were marked from the beginning to the then present.

TBE said...

The trapazoid is to prevent the trap that the devils did back in the early 2000s, I'm almost sure of. Was really awful hockey to watch it was a snoozefest.

Gordon W said...

There is an article in the Toronto Life magazine with some photos from the Hockey Hall of Fame. There is one from Maple Leaf Gardens taken in 1948 that shows three face off dots at the blue line. https://torontolife.com/city/toronto-sports/toronto-maple-leafs-archival-photos-century-of-nhl-memories-hockey-hall-of-fame/