Hockey R&D 2012 Part 2: Smart Benches
Basically “Smart Benches” is unique rink layout that creates additional seating for fans and ensure balanced line changes for both teams for the entirety of the game.
This won’t be popular with NHL officials, but I am essentially kicking the rink-side officials (and the game announcer and time keeper) to the press box. There are probably very good reasons to have these guys sitting rink-side, but I feel with modern technology there won’t be any communication barriers with on-ice officials, so they don’t really need to be rink-side.
All that remains are the player benches and penalty boxes by the ice. The two benches are situated at opposite sides of the ice, allowing for balanced line changes in all three periods.
For “Smart Benches” I have merged the penalty box with the player bench:
What makes this bench “smart” is a sliding partition that can adapt to the displacement of the players between the bench and the penalty box. So if a team suffers many penalties, the partition can grab some of that vacated real estate on the bench.
It really makes sense because you’ll always have 13-14 guys on the bench, penalized or not. This flexible system eliminates overcrowded penalty boxes and vacant benches, an ongoing problem in Philadelphia. Kidding.
By default the box can fit one or two players (and the penalty official). If the situation calls for more room to be added to the penalty box, it can slide over (during a stoppage in play).
Once a penalized player exits the box, the penalty official can slide the partition back at their discretion. This can happen at any time, as there is still ample room on the bench (the player exiting the bench would rejoin play or would go to the bench for a teammate to join play instead).
The sliding partition straddles the player bench, and its mobility is made possible by a couple of rails.
For safety the partition’s glass would be a foot clear of the ice. Just like the player bench there would be no glass in front of the penalty box. Pucks leaving play at the player bench is nothing new, so the adjacent penalty box would have to deal with this as well.
This system could even be adapted to move the location of the penalty box to either side of the bench. This way it can be positioned near the defensive zone every period, allowing the exiting player a closer route to his own net to help out his teammates.
I believe this is a system that would streamline the game and open up a lot more premium seating for the fans.
Bonus rule: Those blue lines by the benches (Figure 1.) are to indicate the safe change area, to help with ‘too many men on the ice’ penalties.