From the 1940s to the 1990s, the many times the NHL considered switching to an orange puck.
The NHL has seen many changes in over a century of existence.
The rules changed to allow forward passes and allow goaltenders to drop onto the ice to make saves. The equipment has changed – the poles now have curved blades and are made of a composite of carbon fiber and high-tech resin. The rink has changed – face-off lines and spots have been added and removed, the end zone has grown and shrunk, and plexiglass has replaced chain-link fencing over the boards.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the puck. The basic elements of a hockey puck haven’t changed much since the early 1900s – a flat, black disk of cooled, vulcanized rubber – although minor improvements and standardization have taken place over the past 100 years. years.
The black hockey puck is an iconic part of hockey, but several times in NHL history they have considered changing the color of the puck to orange.
Art Ross Orange Puck
The idea was first suggested in 1949, three years before an NHL game was first broadcast on television. It wasn’t just a fanciful suggestion — the person defending the orange pucks was Boston Bruins general manager Art Ross.
Ross was an innovator, constantly looking for ways to improve the game. He came up with a new goal design – a B-shaped net that caused fewer pucks to bounce off the net when they went in, which makes it easier to know when a goal has been scored. This design lasted well into the 1980s and is still familiar to today’s kids who play table hockey.
One of Ross’ innovations was an improved puck, with a beveled edge and synthetic rubber construction standardized in the 1940s that resulted in less kickback and more consistent performance. But Ross wasn’t done.
Ross was concerned about the visibility of the puck, especially when it was in the air. So, arms laden with orange-patterned pucks, Ross went to the NHL’s annual meeting in 1949 to advocate for a more visible, brightly colored puck.
The idea was rejected.
“A change from the black puck was considered too experimental for immediate consideration,” read a Canadian Press report by WR Wheatley on June 9, 1949.
Another report from the Montreal Daily Star indicates that Bill Tobin, then owner of the Chicago Black Hawks, had already tried an orange puck in Chicago and it “didn’t work.”
This same annual meeting also included a note on television: “There was a feeling that hockey is too fast to be properly displayed and to follow the puck on television.
This same reasoning would lead to further calls for an orange puck about a decade later.
Watch the puck on TV
The first televised broadcast of an NHL game was the CBC French-language broadcast of a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings on October 11, 1952. Only the third period was shown for fear of losing ticket sales for the game.
As the decade progressed, more games were televised and fears grew that the little black puck was just too hard to see on TV. It was too easy to lose the puck in the middle of the other dark colors on the black and white sets.
In 1957, the NHL Rules Committee actually approved a suggestion to add an orange stripe to the puck to make it easier to see on television – “a quarter inch wide around the circumference or side of the puck”. The idea obviously died before the puck hit the ice, however.
In 1959, according to an article in the South Bend Tribune, the Amateur Hockey Assn. of the United States and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. proposed that the NHL add orange bands around the edge of the puck to increase its visibility. They also suggested that yellow hockey tape be used on the sticks instead of black, which would make it easier to see when the puck was on someone’s stick.
It’s an idea the NHL has seriously considered. When the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins went on an exhibition tour of Europe, they brought 288 orange pucks to test. They weren’t popular.
“We paid all these excess weight fees on these giddy things and it was a complete flop,” Rangers general manager Muzz Patrick said in a Detroit Free Press report. “The players said they couldn’t see the puck and they wouldn’t use it after the first down. European teams will use them, however, because we gave them away for free.
Ironically, the attempt to make the puck more visible on television ended up making it harder to see on the ice.
WHA tries to stand out with orange pucks
In 1972, the World Hockey Association rose up to challenge the supremacy of the NHL. They offered higher salaries than the NHL to lure players into their new league and introduced sudden death extensions to limit the ties that disappointed so many fans.
One of the ways the WHA tried to set itself apart from the NHL was with – you guessed it – orange pucks.
The WHA had its teams play in training camp and preseason games with the orange pucks, with a theory that the more visible puck would be used to help the fledgling league secure a television contract. There was only one problem: the orange pucks were awful.
Whatever process was used to turn the pucks orange also affected their durability. As a result, pucks warped during play – flattening out on one side if they hit the boards too hard or shattering when a hard blow hit the post.
Another problem was that the orange puck was often harder for goaltenders to see, especially at the home of the Ottawa Nationals – their rink at the Ottawa Civic Center had orange seats. Suddenly, the orange pucks were abandoned.
The WHA eventually settled on a dark blue puck, which was not far off from the NHL’s black puck, but they weren’t done experimenting with brighter colors. They tried a bright red puck in the 1974 preseason, but it was never used in a regular season game.
The dream of an orange puck in the 80s and 90s
In the 80s and 90s, we still worried about being able to follow the puck on television. Before the days of high definition, the puck could easily be lost on screen, making it particularly difficult for new viewers to follow the game. With the NHL’s expansion into southern US markets in the 1990s, this was a particular concern.
In 1982, efforts were again made to get the NHL to consider orange pucks which would be more visible. According to a Chicago Tribune report, the Black Hawks used orange pucks in practice in the 1981-82 season and they weren’t the only ones, as teams expected the NHL to introduce orange pucks in the preseason. 1982.
“Fans always say they can’t see the puck,” said Black Hawks public relations director Don Murphy. “They will see that.”
The 1982 preseason arrived, however, and the orange pucks never materialized. According to a Dec. 5 report in New York’s Daily News, the “orange pigment continued to turn the rubber brown.”
Still, with the NHL’s expansion to Tampa Bay, San Jose, Anaheim and Sunrise in the early ’90s, pressure to improve television broadcasting and make the puck more visible was a constant concern, with orange pucks reappearing in 1991. and 1992. The NHL wanted a lucrative TV deal but the little black puck was a problem.
“The problem with hockey,” NBC producer Glenn Adamo said in a 1991 Chicago Tribune article, “is that you have a black puck that’s only about three inches by one inch and is on white ice. And the problem with television is that you can’t have 100% or more white saturation or the colors start to sing and buzz – literally.”
According to a 1992 report by Thomas Boswell in the Daily Oklahoman, an experiment with orange pucks on TV made them look like “an orange comet with an unattractive teardrop effect”. But he quoted Joel Nixon, the NHL’s vice president of broadcast, as saying, “High-res television is coming. Maybe it’s time to review things, even the orange pucks. »
In 1993, however, new NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed the idea of orange pucks altogether: “I would never advocate orange pucks or any other crazy ideas.
Orange pucks and other crazy ideas
Although Bettman suggested that the dream of an orange puck was dead, that wasn’t quite the case.
1993 saw the introduction of the Firepuck – a puck with built-in retro-reflective materials which, in combination with a spotlight, made the puck shine on television. The Firepuck was demonstrated during the 1993 NHL All-Star Game, which featured clips of the puck used during a Minnesota North Stars practice.
The Firepuck was later experimented with by the IHL, although it was never widely adopted. Photos of the experimental puck show that it was, indeed, very worn.
A few years later, Fox acquired the NHL rights and introduced its own variation to make a puck more visible on a TV show: FoxTrax.
While the FoxTrax puck was not an orange puck like Art Ross had dreamed of, it produced an effect similar to the 1982 experiment with orange pucks on television: a comet on the screen with an effect of tears.
The augmented reality light-up puck was introduced during the 1996 NHL All-Star Game and lasted until the end of the 1997–98 season, when the NHL broadcasting rights reverted to ABC.
These days there are a lot of orange pucks around. Hollow plastic pucks are frequently used for floor hockey, hard plastic pucks with nylon liners are used for street hockey or inline hockey, and an orange puck on the ice usually means it’s getting ugly. is a heavier, weighted puck to use in practice to increase stickhandling speed.
The NHL is unlikely to consider orange pucks again, as the advent of high definition television means the little black puck is easier to see than ever. But it’s amazing to think that if it had been introduced to the NHL in 1949 as Art Ross intended, an orange puck would be part of the game’s lore.