CALGARY - The Saddledome will have a new look next season, although not one the fans will notice a whole lot.
The Flames are one of six teams still using the seemless-glass system, and will change to a more forgiving plexiglass system in time for the 2011-12 campaign.
“That’s good to hear,” said Flames forward Matt Stajan. “A direct blow to the head is a problem, but you see guys get hit into the glass and what happens.
“It’s that whiplash when their head swings and goes into the glass, or you get hit directly into the glass, and sometimes that’s worse than a direct hit to the het. It can rattle the brain.”
With arena safety one of the hot-button issues around the league, especially in light of the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty last week. However, the wheels were in motion long before.
President Ken King said the organization is looking at all the possible systems out there. New glass will be used on the end boards, and may be put in place along the sides of the rink.
It’s good news to the players who much prefer the Plexiglass systems used in Vancouver and Toronto.
“With this type of glass, even a modest hit does damage if it goes the wrong way,” said defenceman Steve Staios. “Cushioning the blow a little bit is another step in the right direction.”
However, Cory Sarich says there are plexiglass systems players hate.
“This stuff’s not too bad. I haven’t had too many runs with it and it gives enough,” Sarich said. “I like the (plexiglass) because of the safety, but being a defenceman it can hurt you. Pucks have crazy bounces.
“There are some systems in other rinks, that aren’t as bad, but some are terrible. In Chicago, the glass is dead. It’s so absorbent, when the pucks hit it, they don’t bounce. They hit and don’t go anywhere.
“That stuff we had for the outdoor game, awful. You couldn’t rip it around the boards.”
The Saddledome has taken measures over past years to improve safety. The seemless glass system used a decade ago was changed for one which has more sway.
The Saddledome’s boards remain stiffer than many other arenas, too, but have been improved dramatically over the past few years.