By Riley Maracle 
BELLEVILLE – Canada’s men’s hockey team will face a lot of tough tests during the Olympics, but opponents and new teammates aren’t all they have to get used to.
The games are being played on an Olympics-sized ice surface, which is wider than that used in most places in North America: 100 feet (30 metres), instead of 85 feet (25 metres). The extra 15 feet may not seem like a lot, but it can really make it harder on players who are not used to it. But Canada has one player who is – all thanks to Belleville.
As a Belleville Bull, defenceman P.K. Subban – now with the Montreal Canadiens – spent four seasons playing on the Olympic-sized ice surface at the Yardmen Arena.
Jack Miller, the radio broadcaster for the Bulls, has travelled all over the globe covering world junior hockey championships played on both Olympic and North American ice surfaces. He says the larger surface poses both advantages and disadvantages for players who are new to it.
The challenge is “being able to cover it, not getting beat to the outside, knowing where the boards are, knowing how much faster you have to adapt if you’re going to come wide – you don’t want to give up the middle,” Miller said. “Sometimes you have to squeeze in, but you’ve got to know how much room you have on the sides … Especially early on in the tournament, you see guys getting beaten to the outside. And let’s face it – most of these have speedy forwards, so it is more of a chore on defencemen. So in that respect, P.K.’s experience will certainly come back and help him very quickly.”
Subban’s brother Jordan, who is currently a Belleville Bull and also a defenceman, knows the challenge of the larger surface first-hand, and says playing here helped him with his international play.
“When I played for Team Canada (at the under-18 international tournament), it helped me when I went over there. So I can only think that it will help (P.K.) with getting used to, and being comfortable on that ice surface,” Jordan Subban said.
Alex Yuill, another Bulls defenceman, also knows what it’s like to transition to the Olympic ice surface. Yuill was traded this season from the Barrie Colts, who play on a North American-sized surface. He had to make a change in his play when he came here, he said.
“It slows the game down, actually; you just have to make smarter decisions.”
Bulls rookie forward David Tomasek has played on both Olympic-sized and North American-sized ice. Tomasek spent 10 years playing in his native Czech Republic, then moved to the United States and played there for four years before being picked up by the Bulls.
“On (the Yardmen) ice you need a good team that skates well, because you need to take it wide (and be) speedy,” he said. “You need to take (advantage) of it.”
The play on that ice is a little less physical than on the North American surface because of the space, he added: “You have less hits, I think.”
It also changes the way a team handles the power play, Tomasek said. The power play is where Subban is expected to spend most of his playing time.
“On the power play you have extra room. You can make extra plays,” he explained.
Team Canada begins the tournament at noon Thursday, taking on Team Norway. Subban will not be playing Thursday, but will be in the lineup for Friday’s game against Austria.