NHL and Olympic Blue Lines: Why are they Blue?

the blue line

Hockey’s blue line.

Watching NBC Sports’ extensive hockey coverage of recent NHL and Sochi Winter Olympic Games has sparked my interest in the origin of the sport’s blue lines.

I understand that in hockey two blue lines proportionately divide the rink into three equal zones, thus separating the offensive and defensive zones from the center-ice neutral zone.

I’m also aware that these blue lines are important in determining whether a player is off-sides. That occurs when an offensive player crosses the opposition’s blue line and enters their team’s offensive zone before the puck arrives.

However, what I didn’t know has always bugged me. Why paint these lines blue? And, what specific shade of blue are they painted?

I think these are fair questions, but it took some exhaustive digging to locate the actual answers.

The NHL specifically chose PMS 286 Classic Blue for the two 12” thick lines that extend the width of the ice and are located 60 feet from each goal. The NHL goal was to unify all the line colors on the ice in every arena in which the sport was played.

Ironically, most hockey fans have long believed that the blue lines are Navy Blue, or PMS 282, which has a similar hue. But, they’ve been wrong for far too long. That’s because they never knew the difference between Classic Blue and Navy Blue on the PMS color chart.

In addition, while pondering the origin of hockey’s blue lines, another question came to mind, and I was never able to unearth the answer.

Can anyone explain to me why the blue lines were originally painted Classic Blue and not other PMS shade of purple or orange or green?

For the sake of ease, hockey rink maintenance workers could have just painted them red like most of the other lines on the ice.

I’m sure many other sports fans like me have often mulled over these same questions. They’re legit, plus they lead to more thoughts surrounding the genesis of the blue line.

For example, a blue line can be very prejudicial. Seriously!

How the heck do you tell a color blind kid to skate like the dickens to the blue line when he can’t even tell you if a stop sign is red?

Plus, what Canadian back in 1875 when the first indoor game was played in Montreal appointed himself king and said, “Aay, let’s paint the dang lines blue because I hate purple, orange and green!”

Did anyone ever challenge him? Doesn’t seem so.

You know I personally like the color blue, but let’s be fair here.

Did purple, orange or green ever have a chance?

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports.

Footer Hockey


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