When the Sharks 2011-12 season begins, there will be some noticeable differences inside HP Pavilion at San Jose.
No, there hasn’t been a new type of playing surface created to replace the ice. However, there has been a dramatic shift in technology regarding the traditional boards and glass.
As a result, an entirely new system will be put in place before the Sharks annual Teal and White Game in September and will then be used moving forward. Kudos to the HP Pavilion at San Jose maintenance crew for keeping the old boards usable since the building opened in 1993. They would still be available under National Hockey Leauge guidelines thanks to plenty of TLC, but the safety aspects of the new system makes the decision a no-brainer.
In the end, the welfare of the players is a top priority and members of the Sharks players leadership group, along with the Sharks executives and building staff, had input on the decision to move forward.
Players can be sent into the glass and the boards at speeds above 20 miles per hour and the products provided by Sport Systems Unlimited are extremely player friendly.
Improvements start with the glass, which will now be an acrylic shielding glass that's dramatically more forgiving than the current model. That flexibility will result in more give upon contact, meaning less direct impact to the players. Even with the increased flexibility, the glass will actually be thicker which enhances the safety factor. The glass will also sit in “u-channels” on top of the boards, which will allow for an amount of give at the base. These advancements will ideally minimize head and shoulder injuries.
Due to the flexibility provided by the new glass, there will be less need for support in terms of the glass breaking or popping out of place. Traditionally fans at HP Pavilion have watched games with metal stanchions placed every four feet in the five-foot high glass in front of them. There are two changes in this regard that will provide a better fan experience.
First, the metal stanchions will be replaced with smaller, clear, slimmer and flexible polycarbonate sleeves that bend with the glass. This will provide more clarity for the spectators as the silver metal was clearly more obtrusive. Secondly, the improved technology for the glass and its supports means fewer supports will be needed. Now, instead of a traditional stanchion every four feet, the clear polycarbonate sleeves will be situated every eight feet along the sides of the rink.
The wider glass and smaller support poles will allow for a truer play of the puck when it travels along the glass.
The next improvement will be at the top of the dashers where fans traditionally saw a hard orange plastic cap. Now that will be replaced by a black soft cap. Again, safety is the primary factor as the material is 96 percent more compressive than the traditional hard plastic. The material will need to be replaced more often, but that's a small tradeoff for the players’ health.
As for the baseboards, there has always been an orange kick plate at the bottom as the puck rolled around the ice. This kick plate adhered to the dashers and actually stuck out away from the boards. Under the Sport Systems format, the kickboards will be inlayed and will form an even surface from top to bottom, meaning it will be seamless to allow for truer play.
The improvements may not appear to be much from the outside, but from a safety standpoint, HP Pavilion earned another notch in the list of reasons why players like to play here.
That covers the visual changes, but not every alteration. Another important change is how the boards will be held in place at the bottom, something that will be extremely beneficial to the conversion crew. With the advanced system, the boards will be placed into the tracks on the concrete in the same way every time, providing more consistency during contests.
In an effort to provide symmetry for the team in every aspect of their game, a replica system has been installed at Sharks Ice on the club’s practice (South) rink.
Some changes will be visible while others will be out of the field of vision. But in the end, the investment in the board and glass system will benefit every player who steps on the ice.