SAN JOSE -- Maintaining a perfect ice sheet in California weather in a 23-year-old arena is, undoubtably, complicated. The ice in places like San Jose and Anaheim is never going to be as pristine as in Edmonton or Montreal.
Still, several Sharks players have grumbled about the playing surface this season in particular, and head coach Pete DeBoer seemed particularly annoyed after Thursday night’s 3-0 loss to New Jersey. When it was suggested to DeBoer that the Sharks may need to “simplify their game a little bit” on bad ice, DeBoer replied: “Maybe we fix the ice. How about that?”
Help is on the way.
Sharks COO John Tortora explained to CSNCalifornia.com on Friday what is being done to make the rink more playable, and noted that the soggy weather in the Bay Area this winter has complicated ice maintenance.
“The increased rains the Bay Area has received this year, along with the humidity that comes with it, has made it more challenging to keep building conditions at an optimal level,” Tortora said, via email.
“Recently, we made the decision to implement a supplemental dehumidification system, much earlier than we have in the past. The system is expected to be installed and online within the next two weeks.”
The Sharks have brought in dehumidifiers in the past, usually around playoff time. California has been enduring an extreme drought for the past several years, although this winter has brought much more rain than in recent memory.
Eight of the Sharks’ next nine games are at home, beginning with Saturday’s meeting with Washington.
Some Sharks players have not been shy about expressing their displeasure with the ice. Along with the weather, thought to be the main culprit, the AHL Barracuda have played all of their home games at SAP Center this season, too. On days where the Barracuda play in the afternoon before a Sharks home game, the ice has seemed choppy.
Logan Couture agreed that it's worse this season than in previous years. San Jose is just 12-15-3 at home, but is an NHL-best 25-9-3 on the road.
“You can’t make excuses, both teams are playing on the same ice, but if you ask opposing players, you’ll probably get the same answer that the ice is pretty garbage,” Couture said.
“You get on a power play and you try and make a pass, and you can’t because it’s skipping everywhere. Obviously our power play is one of the better ones in the league, and I think it’s affected our power play. You hate to make excuses, but the ice just isn’t good.”
On Feb. 26, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic suggested that the Sharks had voiced their concerns to team brass about the ice conditions. On one play in a 3-1 San Jose loss to Buffalo that night, San Jose surrendered a goal when a simple D-to-D pass bounced over Brenden Dillon’s stick in the defensive zone, eventually resulting in a Johan Larsson goal.
“It just goes to show how bad the ice is here on a nightly basis,” Vlasic said. “I’m not saying that’s the reason why [we lost], but yeah, it bounced over [Dillon’s] stick. We’ve been saying the ice has been pretty bad, but…that’s an unlucky bounce.”