Any word on shrinking the Kohl Center sheet yet?— Zach Kier (@zrksju) December 7, 2020
It's still on the list of requests from the Badgers men's hockey team but there's no telling when or if it'll actually happen. Some background: This has been a topic for nearly 15 years and a reminder of how out-of-favor the Olympic-size ice sheets have become. Mike Eaves said in 2007 that he would prefer a 90-foot-wide ice sheet compared to the 97-foot Kohl Center rink. (NHL sheets are 85 feet wide; true Olympic rinks are 100 feet.) At the time, the Badgers did most of their practicing at the Dane County Arena connected to the Bob Johnson Hockey Facility at the Alliant Energy Center. That rink was 97 feet, so it made sense (to some, anyway) that the Badgers' game rink be the same.
In 2012, LaBahn Arena opened as the women's team competition venue and men's team practice rink with an ice width of 91 feet, 3 inches (the precise measurement is courtesy UW ice guru Cale Klein). The smaller rink is generally considered to lead to a livelier game as players are closer to the puck and each other. We've seen that a few times in games the Badgers men's team has played there this season. But now — at least in normal seasons — the men's team has two different widths to work on, which is probably pretty high up on a list of first-world problems in NCAA hockey, but it's less than ideal.
Changing a rink's width isn't an easy or cheap fix. (Unless you're Ohio State, where the Value City Arena surface was built for 100 feet but is now 85 with rubber mats covering parts of the corners that would be exposed. But that's another story.) I wouldn't expect it to happen in the next couple of years, especially now that UW will be working its way back from pandemic-related financial challenges.
One thing to note: The Kohl Center is due for an addition added over the loading dock with space for student services (strength and conditioning, weight training, academic advising) as well as some new offices. As part of that project, scheduled to begin in the summer of 2021, some behind-the-scenes areas on the ice/court level are going to be reworked. But I haven't seen any plans involving changing the rink size.