CHICAGO – Here’s what I know about ice: It’s a few million years older than I am. It reduces swelling. It’s a pain to scrape off of my windshield.
Here’s what I didn’t know about ice until the Blackhawks enlightened me after practice Sunday: The ice at the United Center is fine. But the ice at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena is really something special.
I mean, if you chopped up some of the Joe Louis ice and put it in your lemonade, it probably would be the best lemonade you ever have had. You could put every other lemonade stand out of business with this stuff.
Well, I suppose the Hawks knew. That knowledge will be reinforced when they take the (good) ice Monday against the Detroit Red Wings for Game 3 of a Western Conference semifinal series.
“They’ve got good ice,” said Hawks center Dave Bolland, a professional expert on the subject. “When you’ve got good ice, you’re moving the puck easy. Skating, everything is moving faster. It’s a faster pace.”
The Hawks certainly could use a jump in their step, particularly after Saturday’s what-the-heck-was-that performance in Game 2. They stumbled to a 4-1 loss, which negated an impressive 4-1 win in Game 1 and created a best-of-five series for the right to advance to the conference finals.
Technically, the Hawks sacrificed home-ice advantage by dropping the second game of the series. But it didn’t sound as if Hawks forward Andrew Shaw or any of his teammates would be intimated by visiting the 33-year-old building that will be packed with thousands of Wings nuts for Games 3 and 4.
“I like it,” Shaw said. “It’s fast ice. It’s an old barn. The fans are right on top of you.
“It gets me going, and I know a lot of the other guys like playing there, as well.”
But can ice really make a difference?
“Oh, definitely,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Certain buildings have faster ice or maybe smoother ice. The players, it feels good for them. There’s maybe a quicker pace.
“They’ve certainly got some ingredients in their building that are different from ours, whether it’s the boards – end boards, side boards. They’ll have some unpredictable bounces out there.”
So not only is the ice different, but so are the boards.
Here I was thinking that all hockey arenas basically were the same.
“It’s an older building, so it’s got a lot of character to it,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “You don’t get that very often in the NHL anymore.”
OK, that makes sense.
This isn’t Corporate Sponsorship Arena in Anytown, U.S.A. It’s the Joe Louis Arena in Hockeytown, U.S.A.
The good news (unless you’re a Wings nut) is that the Hawks have had success in the old barn in Detroit. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Hawks are 9-1-1 on the road against the Wings.
Nobody on the Hawks wanted to hear about that record heading into an important Game 3.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game,” Keith said. “Whether it’s in Joe Louis or the United Center, or wherever we’re playing them, we know it’s going to be tough.”
Even if the ice is really smooth.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.