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Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Icy hot? Light shade of blue impressive

Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If the ice is colored a soft shade of blue, what does that make hockey's blue lines? Orange of course.

Don't adjust your TV sets -- the Buffalo Sabres are using Rochester, their AHL farm club, to try out a new colored ice surface that could become the standard once the NHL resumes playing.

The first test comes Sunday, when Rochester plays Cleveland at Buffalo.

"It's an experiment, let's leave it at that," Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn said Tuesday while watching Rochester practice.

Quinn said the test came after NHL officials discussed whether changing the ice color from white would enhance how the game is viewed by fans in arenas and on television.

The Sabres offered to try it and, after some experimentation, settled on painting the sheet in what they call "electric powder blue." To offset the new colored surface, arena officials decided to make the blue lines fluorescent orange, which is also the color used for the faceoff circles.

The center line, normally red, is now dark blue.

NHL officials will attend the game to study the changes and how the new colors might affect the play or change the viewing experience. The Sabres will also produce a game video that will be sent to the league offices for review.

"We'll monitor it for sure," NHL spokesman Frank Brown said.

At first glance, the new color schemes are distinctive. The blue provides a softer tone than the glare that generally reflects off the white surface.

"It gives a very good first impression," Rochester Americans president Steve Donner said. "When you first walk into the building, it's like, 'Wow.'"

Americans' players liked it.

"It's kind of cool, actually," forward Thomas Vanek said. "It doesn't affect my game."

Goaltender Ryan Miller said he initially had difficulty picking up the puck, but is in favor of changing colors if it helps market the game.

"Any kind of change would help," Miller said. "If they feel like people aren't able to watch or follow on TV, we should make it more television-friendly."

There's only one question left if the new colors ever came into effect: what would you call a defenseman?

"Guess, I'd become an orange-liner," Jeff Jillson said.