Hockey games at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will be played on North American-sized ice surfaces instead of the larger international rink, organizers have announced.
In a joint statement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the Vancouver organizing committee said the decision would save a $10-million worth of renovations to GM Place and the Pacific Coliseum.
It also means that as many as 800 additional seats will be available to spectators for each Olympic match.
Considering the circumstances, IIHF president Rene Fasel said, it makes sense to leave existing ice surfaces as they are at Vancouver's two Olympic hockey venues.
"I say it very honestly: It would be stupid to spend so much money to make this construction," he said.
Some countries have expressed concern over the decision, Fasel acknowledged Wednesday. They worry it will give North American players an advantage over Europeans, who grew up playing hockey on the larger rinks.
Fasel said the larger international rink provides a "big advantage" for more skilled players because it gives them more room to move unimpeded.
However, headded, the larger ice isn't as big a factor, now thatthe National Hockey Leaguehas cracked down on hacking, slashing and interference.
If European teams dominate at the 2010 Games, it could also help end the long-running debate about whether playing on a larger rink puts North American teams at a disadvantage.