WHL notebook: Portland’s rink size increased

When teams head to Portland for future games against the Winterhawks, they no longer have to ask how large an ice surface they’ll be playing on.

Portland’s Memorial Coliseum had its rink size increased to the standard North American dimensions as part of a $31.5 million renovation. The new ice surface debuted Sunday when the Winterhawks hosted the Tri-City Americans.

In seasons past the size of the rink in Portland’s game was variable. When the Winterhawks played in the Rose Garden, they played on a standard 200-foot ice sheet. However, when they played games at Memorial Coliseum games were on a 185-foot ice sheet. That gave the players less space to work with and theoretically changed teams’ tactics.

But in the first phase of the renovation the length of Memorial Coliseum’s rink was increased to 200 feet. Now the size of the ice surface will be the same no matter which venue games are played at in Portland.

“Now both of the ice surfaces are exactly the same,” Portland general manager and head coach Mike Johnston told The Oregonian. “Boards, glass, everything, exactly the same. Makes it easier to go back and forth.”

Changing the size of the rink was only part of the first phase of the Memorial Coliseum’s renovations, which included replacing the ice plant.

“The old ice plant had basically failed and it wasn’t going to last another year,” Portland president Doug Piper told the Oregonian. “It was clear it needed to be replaced. They had to go in and dig out all of the concrete and pull out all of the rusty old pipes. They put in all new chillers, put the concrete back over the piping system and then brought in new boards, new glass, and new benches.”

The next part of the renovation will include new seats, bathrooms, concession stands, an upgraded scoreboard and infrastructure improvements.

Around the WHL

Kootenay lost a key overager when winger Drew Czerwonka, the team’s captain, decided to retire. Czerwonka told Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth his heart was no longer in it after battling injuries. … Kale Kessy returned to the ice last weekend when he made his debut with Vancouver. Kessy was handed a 12-game suspension by the league for a checking-to-the-head major penalty on Lethbridge’s Ryan Pilon on Sept. 22 when he played for Medicine Hat. In the interim Kessy had a professional tryout and was traded to the Giants. … Medicine Hat’s Curtis Valk was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old center had seven goals and three assists as the Tigers went 4-0.

League leaders

Points — JC Lipon (Kamloops) 329 goals — Lipon 15; assists — Colin Smith (Kamloops) 25; penalty minutes — Jamien Yakubowski (Lethbridge) 45; wins — Cole Cheveldave (Kamloops) 10; goals against average — Cam Lanigan (Medicine Hat) 1.80; save percentage — Lanigan .941.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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