How sweet is a Sweet New Home?

November 22, 2000 10:00 AM
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It’s disappointing to listen to all the misinformation on Las Vegas-based sports radio programs, especially in regards to hockey.

It’s bad enough when a given handicapper gives an opinion on a game on the air, but his tout service gives out the other side to customers (usually in football). But in hockey, when outdated technical trends are offered — statistics that can be easily looked-up or compiled – it just shows the lack of homework from these "experts."

A recent trend that was brought up involved betting against teams in new home arenas. One radio personality suggested this negative could last for years, but the data doesn’t prove it to be true.

The current generation of new arenas started with the 1995-96 season, with five new rinks to open the season, and two more at midseason. Among these seven teams, six produced records at .500 or below, along with significant losses against the betting line.

 

1995-96 Opening Rink Records

Team (Rink) Opening Streak

Montreal (Molson Centre)

4 wins, then 2-7-1 (-975 units)

Vancouver (GM Place)

1-4-4 (-730 units)

Boston (Fleet Center)

3-4-2 (-695 units)

St. Louis (Kiel Center)

5-6-3 (-640 units)

Chicago (United Center)

7-7-3 (-595 units)

Ottawa (Centre Corel)

1-11-2 to open at midseason

Colorado (McNichols Arena)

The exception: 8-0-2 to open

Colorado was the exception to this initial group, but the Avalanche were a relocated team (from Quebec City), not a team changing buildings within the same city that season.

And Montreal’s fast start is understandable when management parades 30 Hall of Famers on the ice prior to the opening contests. You bet the youngsters wanted to prove they belonged in a Habs uniform, too. But when the euphoria ended, so did the winning streak, as the Canadiens became a go-against club to bet on.

Even the Calgary Flames suffered in the renovated Olympic Saddledome (now Pengrowth Saddledome), going 1-7-3 to open the 1995-96 home schedule.

Also hurting the Flames was a brutal schedule that season, since the work wasn’t to be finished until after the season started. Thus, the team opened the schedule with seven consecutive road games before finally hosting Western Conference playoff finalists Colorado and Detroit (both losses), then heading back onto the road for six of the next seven.

 

Changing times

However, new rinks opened since that breakthrough season have not produced similar results, as adjustment periods continues to dwindle as the dilution of talent persists with more and more teams joining the league.

Plus, technology in rink construction has improved, minimizing those ugly bad bounces off seamless glass systems or the dashers. Still, there are other adjustments players need to make, such as the angle and depth of the corners, larger ice dimensions (Boston and Buffalo), lighting and background adjustments, and the groundswell of noise from local fans in more spacious buildings.

 

1996-97 Opening Rink Records

Team (Rink) Opening Streak

Buffalo (Marine Midland)

3-3-0 to open (-65 units)

Philadelphia (CoreStates)

4-5-1 to open (-160 units)

Tampa Bay (Ice Palace)

1-0-0, then 0-4-2 (-395 units)

*Phoenix (America West)

2-0-0, then 0-6-2 (-875 units)

*relocated team

Since 1997, four additional buildings have opened. The only noted change is that the teams seem to win the hyped home opener more often or avoid lengthy losing streaks, again demonstrating that the trend is evaporating.

 

Most Recent Opening Rink Records

Team (Rink) Opening Streak

Toronto (Air Canada Centre)

3-0-0, then 1-4-2 (-665 units)

Carolina (Raleigh E&SA)

0-2-0 (-205 units), then 6-1-1

Colorado (Pepsi Center)

4-1-0, then 0-3-0 (-565 units)

Los Angeles (Staples Center)

3-1-1, then 3-5-2 (-405 units)

After Colorado’s fast start, the Avs fell shockingly to the Panthers, Islanders and Kings, but then went on to a long undefeated streak.

The Maple Leafs followed a similar scenario as Montreal, while Carolina went against the norm and righted its ship after just two initial setbacks. The Hurricanes initial lose streak was anticipated, however, as they opened the season with nine straight road games and were obviously dragging in outings prior to the home debut.

In conclusion — In the past, when the Canadiens dominated the league, a victory at the old Forum — one of the league’s most intimidating buildings with tons of championship banners hanging from the rafters — usually carried over to the visiting team’s next game, so a bet here was often a winning proposition. In 1992, this statistic was a real winner, taking the money 75 percent of the time, and was well over .500 for the next four years.

However, times have changed and so have the trends. Take a closer look at them before you blindly go the window to bet simply on a technical trend.

 

Hockey picks

Last Week: 6-2-4 +390

Season: 53-35-10 +825

Best Bets: 11-5-3 +660

Date

Game

Pick

Tue

Tor @ NYR

Leafs

Tue

Fla @ Mtl

Under

Wed

Van @ Wash

Canucks

Wed

Cgy @ Minn

Wild

Wed

NJ @ Ana

Under

Thu

NJ @ LA

Kings

Fri

Car @ Bst

Canes*

Fri

Pit @ Phil

Over

Fri

NYR @ Buff

NYR*

Sat

LA @ Pit

Kings

Sat

TB @ Fla

Panths

Sun

Phx @ Phil

Flyers