Flyers' Mason on new lights: Whose bright idea was this?

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers' goalie Steve Mason says he has had trouble tracking the puck in the new lighting.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers' goalie Steve Mason says he has had trouble tracking the puck in the new lighting.
Posted: November 04, 2014

STEVE MASON knew something was different at Wells Fargo Center the moment he stepped on the ice for pregame warmups in the Flyers' first exhibition game on Sept. 22.

Everything was brighter - and not necessarily in a good way.

If you've been to a Flyers home game this season - or even watched one on TV - you know what Mason means. The only difference is that you don't need to stop frozen black rubber discs flying at 100 mph.

The Wells Fargo Center replaced the entire rink lighting system in the 18-year-old arena. An antiquated, traditional lighting system was swapped out this summer for a state-of-the-art setup with more than 25,000 LED bulbs.

The idea, according to a press release sent out at the time by Comcast-Spectacor, was to "reduce energy consumption by 66 percent," deliver "superior broadcast quality lighting" and "improve playability with substantial reduction in glare."

In that preseason, pregame warmup, pucks that Mason wasn't even seeing were whizzing by him - or worse, hitting him.

He figured the chrome on his new mask, which attracts glare, was the problem. He luckily still had last season's mask, which he wore for that first period and every period since - but it hasn't helped all that much.

"I've had a lot of trouble tracking the puck in the lighting," Mason said last week. "I don't know the right term. It's just a weird glow out there. With how bright it is, you think it would be clearer.

"It's almost too white out there, if that makes any sense."

To be clear: Mason made it a point to say that the lighting system is not to blame for his winless start to the season. In fact, he has said time and time again that he needs to be better - even if the truth is that the Flyers have given him very little support.

He is not alone in his struggles. The new LED lights are so tuned and focused on the playing surface that less lighting is now sprinkled on the crowd. The result is a darker backdrop to the glass than the players are used to seeing.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who has since gone down with an injury, said it's been difficult to track the puck when it is in the air or rimming around the glass. The puck blends into the crowd.

Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Kings had the same complaint for their Staples Center home - where the lighting was also "upgraded" this summer.

A spokesman for Comcast-Spectacor and Wells Fargo Center, Ike Richman, said the system used at Staples Center is not the same as in Philadelphia. The one at Wells Fargo Center was installed by Iowa-based Musco Lighting.

Staples Center president Lee Zeidman told the Los Angeles Times that the arena will work with the Kings (and Clippers) to make tweaks to their system.

Right now, the Wells Fargo Center has no plans to make an adjustment, even after Mason and MacDonald's complaints were relayed by the Daily News.

"We can, if need be, make adjustments," Richman said. "There are other implications, though. There could be other shadows and inadequate lighting in other areas."

Richman said the building was not interested in change because for one, the NHL already approved the system as "fully compliant and acceptable" and also, he said the players had not voiced their issues directly with team management.

Mason is off to a tough start. The sample size is small, too. But one has to wonder what kind of a difference the lights have made, since his save percentage (.903) on the road is a lot closer to his career average (.907) than at home (.849) this year.

"I always thought Wells Fargo Center was one of the more dim arenas in the league before, but it became my home and I got used to it," Mason said. "Now, it's totally different. I'm not a fan [of the new lights]. We also haven't had a lot of time to play there. If it were up to me, we'd practice there more often. That's how you get your home-ice advantage."

Cross checks

* Has anyone seen R.J. Umberger? The supposed upgrade at left wing over Scott Hartnell has been invisible for long stretches. He has three points so far and played just 9:41 on Saturday. Meanwhile, in Columbus, Hartnell has 10 points in 11 games. Reminder: Their salary-cap hits are nearly identical over the next three seasons.

* Whose defense is more banged up, the Flyers' or Rangers'? New York captain Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder) is out for 3-4 weeks, Dan Boyle has a broken hand and Kevin Klein has a foot contusion. Forward Derek Stepan (broken leg) is still out another couple of weeks, too.

* James van Riemsdyk took on his little brother, Trevor, at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. Amazing to think the Flyers could have had Trevor, an undrafted free agent, too, if they had hung on to James. Trevor, a 23-year-old defenseman, signed with the Blackhawks this summer after leaving the University of New Hampshire. He skated in the Flyers' prospect camp in 2012.

Quotable

Hockey Hall of Fame netminder Grant Fuhr chimed in on Ilya Bryzgalov in an interview last week with The Canadian Press:

"He's the most talented goalie you'll ever see. I hate to see a guy waste that talent, where he alienates his teammates and ends up with no job. He should easily be a No. 1 goalie."

Fuhr, 52, was Bryzgalov's goalie coach in Phoenix, before Bryz became a Flyer. He did the interview while promoting his book: "Grant Fuhr: The Story of a Hockey Legend."


On Twitter: @frank_seravalli

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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