CHICAGO – If the ice crew at the United Center wants a smoother surface, Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger has a suggestion—blast the AC.
Fans might not appreciate that, though.
Choppy ice created some wild bounces as the Chicago Blackhawks raced to a 6-5 victory over the Flyers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night. While some players like Pronger shrugged off the conditions, others were a little more critical.
Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell said the ice was “below average.” Although he realizes it is hot in Chicago, he hopes “they’ll be able to do a better job” for Game 2 on Monday night.
Blackhawks centre Dave Bolland said the conditions made it tough to handle the puck and “play around with it,” but short of turning the United Center into a giant freezer, Pronger sees no solution.
“You can make it hard, but it would be about four degrees in the building,” he said. “I’m sure the fans would appreciate that.”
Choppy ice is like a bumpy infield, creating bad hops, and there were more than a few on a night when the teams were racing back and forth. They had no trouble putting the puck in the net—when they got a handle on it.
Although the Flyers had just three giveaways, the Blackhawks coughed up the puck 11 times, and it was a sloppy game for both teams. The execution wasn’t great and the conditions didn’t help, particularly during the latter stages of the periods. But with the warm temperature outside, players realize they have to deal with less-than-perfect conditions inside.
“It’s so hot outside, I don’t know if you could do anything about it,” Blackhawks left winger Kris Versteeg said.
He said the ice was fine for about the first 10 minutes of each period.
“The last 10, it heats up a bit,” Versteeg said. “There’s nothing they can do about it. They’re not going to change the temperature or anything like that. They’re not going to tell the people to stop screaming and opening doors.”
Or, for that matter, to bring parkas.
Pronger said the conditions were no different when he played in the Stanley Cup finals with Edmonton at Carolina in 2006 or with Anaheim the following year.
“I don’t think it’s any worse than it was in Anaheim or Carolina,” he said. “As you progress in the playoffs, the ice gets a little bit softer.”