This week's Big Question: What's the ice like around the league compared with two years ago?
James van Riemsdyk, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs: "It's been awful. I don't know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it's been so bad. The puck's all over the place. ... I know we have a lot of events in here. I think they're trying to fix some things and change some things. Both teams are playing on it, so it's not an excuse [for players] in that regard. But for the sake of the product of the game -- we talk about goal scoring and stuff like that -- if you have a better ice surface and the puck isn't bouncing around as much and guys can make plays, you would think that would be as good a reason as any to get more goals in the league. I know they're working on it and they're trying, but it hasn't been good of late."
Brooks Orpik, D, Washington Capitals: "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a place that has good ice. I think Pittsburgh actually has good ice, after years of Sidney [Crosby] going over ... it started with all of us bitching about it. It finally got to the point where Sid would go every day and constructively sit down with the guys who ran the rink and tell them exactly what he felt was wrong with it. It was good dialogue between them, and the ice started getting better and better. That's the one place I think is consistently pretty good. A lot of the buildings, like MSG, Chicago and some of those buildings, L.A., they're so overbooked with other stuff, it's tough to expect really good ice. It's disappointing because it brings the quality of the game down, the speed ... you see some of the skill guys like [Nicklas] Backstrom or [T.J.] Oshie having a tough time settling pucks down, you know it's probably the ice. It's tough to bitch about it because both teams have to play on it."
David Perron, LW, St. Louis Blues: "I think we all understand the business. There's concerts, there's different things. I don't think it's great. I think there's different things in between periods. There are shows. There are so many people skating on the ice. ... The temperature when [the stands are] filled up is hot. I wouldn't want to be the guy trying to fix it because I'm not sure where to start, but it's definitely something we have to look at."
Ben Lovejoy, D, New Jersey Devils: "I think that NHL ice, you expect [it] to not be perfect. A lot of things go on in these buildings. We are professional athletes that are the best at our game. We're not expecting perfect ice sheets every night. We have to go out and execute on them."
Ryan Suter, D, Minnesota Wild: "I feel like the puck is bouncing a lot. I don't know if that's the ice, if that's the puck or what it is. Some nights it's good, some nights it's bad. Who knows what it is?"
Ian Cole, D, Pittsburgh Penguins: "I think it's getting harder for them to keep good ice. I think they have less concerts, less stuff like that in places like Edmonton and Calgary. You come to a place like Boston or New York or L.A. or Chicago, and they have a lot of other things going on in the arena, which makes it hard to keep good ice. There's more people, more events. Singers complaining it's too cold in the arenas, so they want the heat turned up. I mean, if the singers want it at 60 degrees, it's tough to keep ice. Everyone is very knowledgeable about it. I think the right people are very aware of the situation, and they're trying their best to keep good ice. I don't think they're purposely trying to make bad ice. These people are trying to do their job, trying to do it really well, but unfortunately sometimes circumstances are out of their control, and they're trying to do the best they can, so we just have to deal with it whatever it is."
Mike Cammalleri, C, New Jersey Devils: "I'm not an ice complainer. I think there's probably people whose job is that specifically, and they're doing the best job to their ability. As long as both teams have to play on the same surface, I'm happy."
Frans Nielsen, C, Detroit Red Wings: "I think it's always going to be a little up and down, especially with those rinks that have so much going on, like basketball the one night, hockey the other -- it's going to be tough to maintain the ice so [that] it's perfect. But I think you see [at] some of the newer rinks, the ice is really good. [At a] brand-new rink in Detroit next year, I'm sure it's going to be perfect there too. It's understandable [at] the older ones, the pipes get old and all that kind of stuff, but if you look at, like, MSG, it's pretty much every day something's going on, right? I'm sure [at the] Staples Center, it's the same thing too. It's tough to make it perfect, but I think overall they're doing a really good job at it."
Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings: "It's so depending on if there's been some sort of activity the day before, or something like that, that it changes. Carolina, we couldn't even play this year. We had to reschedule the game because the ice was so bad. [The worst ice is] always somewhere warm."
Nick Holden, D, New York Rangers: "They're doing a better job of managing it and making sure to be kind of proactive, making sure the ice is better. Obviously, any given day or night the ice might turn out crappy, depending on whatever circumstances. This will be my fourth year in the league consistently playing on NHL ice, and I think what they've done with shoveling off the ice during breaks, having players and refs rate the ice, they're trying to get it to the best they can. They're doing the best they can, and on some days some arenas are good, and some arenas you can get chippier ice."
Cam Neely, president, Boston Bruins: "Well, I know they're certainly putting a lot more time and energy and effort behind making sure the quality is as good as it could be. Obviously, buildings that have a lot going on, whether it's a two-, or three-sport building, or has a lot of concerts and events, it's really difficult to maintain the ice as much as you'd really like to. But it's certainly something that the league is doing a really good job of making sure the quality is as good as it can be, primarily for players' safety. It started with cleaning the ice during those TV timeouts, and that makes a big difference."
Barry Trotz, coach, Washington Capitals: "I think the buildings are probably better than they ever have been. The ice technology and what the NHL does is probably better than ever before. Probably the speed of the game, the technology of the game, the blades are a lot harder using different components, the skates are a lot stiffer, guys are digging in, they're stronger. It's sort of evolution. We're a society that tends to complain about everything. It is what it is. Everybody wants a voice, everybody wants it perfect, and it's not going to be. Life isn't that way."
NHL team senior executive: "We've discovered this with our own players. Ice seems bad when someone says it's bad. When no one's talking about it, no one notices it."
Retired player, current Eastern Conference scout: "That's a tough one. It looks like it varies from building to building. So many events going on in the arenas nowadays. I think it has some [negative] effect."
Eastern Conference executive: "On one hand, the buildings are being used so much more for non-hockey events. But the NHL is also so much more cognizant of the engineering and technology that go into making the best ice possible. They are surely doing the best they can for the players' safety and the game. It's not a major issue, from what I hear."
-- Craig Custance, Joe McDonald, Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun