greening the game

They painted the ice green at the Detroit Olympia: pastel green. This was in 1953, at the end of January. The first reference to this I saw was in French, and the word that caught my eye was combattre and the thought I had was bien sûr, c’est logique, bonne idée. What are you supposed to do when the respect’s all gone and suspensions don’t seem to be restoring order? Obviously, as with this year’s playoffs, NHL hockey had grown so tetchy that they had to do something to calm the tempers of men. Could be worth another try, maybe, given the week hockey has been having.

And, plus, in 1953, it seems to have helped the home team: the league-leading Red Wings won both their green-iced games, 4-0 over Chicago, then 5-1 versus Toronto. Already topping league scoring, Gordie Howe helped himself to two more goals and three assists against the Leafs.

Although there were penalties galore in that game. Fern Flaman, Tim Horton — the cool of the green does not seem to have affected their thermometers. And — oh. Okay. Looking again, it seems that mood-altering wasn’t what the Olympia’s ice-man, Red Tonkin, had in mind when he mixed in 15 gallons of green paint with the 400 gallons of water he was freezing. He was just trying to cut down — to combat — the glare of the Olympia’s overhead lights.