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New kick plate put in on 'Joe' boards two years ago

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

"We played in this facility (Joe Louis Arena) last year and I would have thought that if the boards were going to be lively, they would have been more lively last year (in the first year with the new kick plate).  But, it just so happens that this year, we have freaky, fluky bounces. Or maybe it's just that certain individuals have figured out the little nuances of the back boards."
-- Facility Operations Manager Dan Craig on the boards at 'The Joe'

DETROIT – Game 1 mystery solved. When Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood said Saturday night that something about the boards at Joe Louis Arena changed two years to make them more lively, the assembled media wondered just what happened. Dan Craig, the Facilities Operations Manager for the NHL, said Sunday that the Joe Louis Arena ice crew installed a new plastic kick plate along the boards at the Joe Louis Arena two years ago. But Craig added he didn't see anything different or unusual than he would at any other rink in the League.

"If you go back and watch some of the games earlier this year (at Bell Centre) in Montreal, where we (club personnel) also did a brand new set of boards with a new kick plate, those boards were lively as well," Craig told NHL.com. "What (the Red Wings) did at Joe Louis Arena is similar to what we do in any other building -- the front facing gets a little worn down so we took a look at what was behind it (plywood) and replaced the half-inch of plastic that we would have done at any other rink."

Craig noted the kick plate at The Joe is tightened down well, providing a very solid and "lively" bottom -- perhaps the reason the end boards provided so much spring in Game 1. He also admitted that Joe Louis Arena (30 years) and Mellon Arena (47 years) in Pittsburgh each have the oldest set of boards in the NHL.

"We played in this facility (Joe Louis Arena) last year and I would have thought that if the boards were going to be lively, they would have been more lively last year (in the first year with the new kick plate)," Craig said. "But, it just so happens that this year, we have freaky, fluky bounces. Or maybe it's just that certain individuals have figured out the little nuances of the back boards."

The Red Wings have certainly learned to perfect the art of caroms and deflections in their own building. They proved that in a 3-1 victory on Saturday when the club's opening two goals were a result of opportune bounces off the back boards. With less than a minute remaining in the second period of Game 1, Brian Rafalski directed a shot wide that neatly bounced onto the stick of Johan Franzen for the eventual game-winning goal and a 2-1 lead.

Detroit goalie Chris Osgood knows how difficult it can be on a goalie when those bounces off the end boards get away.

"This has just kind of happened the last two years, really," Osgood said following his team's victory on Saturday. "(Our team) is scoring lots in the regular season on (the lively bounces). Especially if it comes off one side and out the other, you're pretty much left defenseless. It can be frustrating, but you've got to work them the best you can."

At the end of Game 1, no coach or player approached Craig with any concerns and he didn't anticipate hearing them before Sunday’s Game 2 (NBC, CBC, RDS, 8 p.m. ET). In fact, he felt there's absolutely no need to make any adjustments t o the boards or the kick plate for any remaining games at The Joe.

"If they were rimming the puck around and it was bouncing off weird out of a corner and off a gate, that would upset me," Craig said. "But straight away in behind the net, doesn't concern me at all because that's the way the building is built. That's the way the puck bounces. There's nothing there that's an unfair advantage to any one team."

Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams feels it's just a matter of being aware when the puck is in the defensive zone.

"Obviously, we need to be aware of it for sure since it came back to bite us twice but I don't know if there's that much we can do differently," he said. "You just have to be aware of it. It's more of an issue for our defensemen and our goalie. I'm sure they've talked about it, but Detroit plays here all the time and they know how to use it to their advantage. Everybody in the League knows the boards here are like that."

Craig said it's a simple case of the Wings knowing their rink and taking advantage of it.

"It's something that, as hockey people, you know you're rink," Craig said. "I remember the old Chicago Stadium where players knew where the puck was going to bounce and the Wings are no different than the Blackhawks. The Hawks used to do exactly what these guys do; it was an old building and they knew their building. Is it a home rink advantage? It's like any other rink; every building has its own little quirks."

That said, the unlucky bounces didn't really take the Penguins players by surprise.

"It didn't really surprise us because we knew coming in they had a lively set of boards but hockey is hockey and you're going to get some bounces here and there," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage as well."

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearAs far as the quality of ice is concerned, Craig admitted he and his crew have been working around the clock and doing the best job possible.

"The ice was good (on Saturday)," Craig said. "As you know, we're working with two of the oldest buildings in the NHL and it is May 31 and it's almost summer. We push these older buildings as hard as you can push them. Is this ice from February? No. This is ice from May and at no time is there ever injury considerations because of bad ice."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

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