Petes' quirky arena OK with OHL

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

There are all kinds of creative ways to describe the wacky bounces of the Peterborough Memorial Centre.

You can call it the Crazy Carom Castle, the Peterborough Puck Ping-Pong Emporium or London head coach Dale Hunter's favourite -- SpongeBob SquareCorners.

But however the quirky corners of the historic arena are labelled, the London Knights still have to find a way to win at the PMC or it will be RIP for their season while the Petes advance to the Memorial Cup in Moncton, N.B.

The Knights, who went to Peterborough yesterday to prepare for Game 4 tonight, declined trying to book practice time at the rink. The OHL says the venue is a non-issue.

"The dimensions of the Peterborough arena have been up to league standards for the past 50 years and that's never changed," OHL referee-in-chief Ted Baker said.

There are two sides to this argument. The first says the OHL needs a cookie-cutter format for its arenas to make sure every rink is the same. The second says that's unlikely and near-impossible to enforce, plus it eliminates old-fashioned home-ice advantage teams get from knowing every nook and cranny of their old building.

"It's our rink, but it's the same for both teams," Peterborough forward Steve Downie said after Game 2. "They could dump the puck in and it could bounce out right in front of our net, too."

The problem is Peterborough's advantage is of a physical nature, while London's edge in playing at the John Labatt Centre in front of 9,090 people every night is a mental barrier for opposition teams to overcome.

"Our rink is what most players are used to -- only ours is bigger than most of them," said London defenceman David Halasz, who played many times at the PMC while with the Ottawa 67's and Oshawa Generals.

"There, when you rim it around the boards, you have to know there's going to be some puck that bounces right in the slot. You have to be ready for that and get in front of it. The best way to get the puck out is to send it up the boards rather than go around."

The Petes are 9-0 at home in the playoffs, but they also won twice at the JLC to take their commanding 3-0 lead. Home or away, they're a fine hockey team this year.

London's complaint also eats away at the unique characteristics that distinguish a city's venue. In baseball, there aren't many who think the Red Sox have an advantage over the visiting Yankees or Blue Jays or Tigers in Boston because of the Green Monster in left field. The strangeness of the layout is celebrated in that sport.

Some think the NHL has lost something by having cities build modern rinks that appear indistinguishable on the inside. The OHL has a few rinks left that don't conform to today's expectations -- the PMC and the St. Michael's College School Arena are two good examples -- but the trend right now in the league is to construct new entertainment complexes that are close in design to the JLC.

Truth be told, the Knights won't be calling the PMC "bush league" or a "barn" if they score one more goal than the Petes tonight.


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