With some interesting topics being discussed at the GM meeting (coach’s challenge) there have also been a number of no brainer topics floated by the league’s general managers. One in particular, goalie equipment, is something they should seriously consider.
Based on reports, adjusting the size of goaltending equipment appears to be the second most likely topic to move forward beyond cocktail napkins and off-hand conversations. Compared to the debate over grandfathering visors, the rules behind adjusting goalie equipment would be more difficult to fight.
Although there isn’t much room for sweeping change, I think adjustments to what goaltenders can wear could be made. More importantly, these changes can be made without sacrificing the safety of those in net.
After the last lockout, goaltender’s pads were reduced from 12 to 11 inches in length to go along with restrictions to the size of the glove and blocker. Additional restrictions cover internal portions of the pads (knee and calf wings) along with chest protectors. One recent development with chest protectors addressed the build of certain units. The rule states that the chest guard must be anatomically proportional to the goaltender wearing it.
Anatomical restrictions are where I think the league has some room to work when considering new rules to enact.
As it stands now, the league has a rule that stipulates a Limiting Distance Size for each goaltender based on specific measurements that determine the size of goal pads. This requirement ultimately determines the specific height that determines what size pad a goaltender can wear. This basically prevents goaltenders from wearing the largest pad manufactured to maximize blocking area.
While you can’t get much more anatomically correct than that, the rule doesn’t necessarily prevent goaltenders from adding length to the top of their pads. Ironically that is the specific area Kay Whitmore said they could target.
Not all humans are made equal. One 6’1” individual may be top tall and have shorter legs than another person of the same height. Because of this, different goalies wear different sized pads. For example, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’ and 6’1” and I fit quite well into a 36 inch pad.
Specifically, the pads I wear now are 36+2 – an extra two inches on the standard thigh rise – and they fit quite well. However, that actually makes my pad 38 inches in total. If I tried to wear a traditional 38 inch pad I would swim in it. However, the advent of the thigh rise extension allows my pad to fit me perfectly while still offering the coverage of a longer piece of equipment.
Without getting into the tangled history of goal pad design, the thigh rise extension began picking up steam in the professional and retail world about seven or eight years ago. Adding length to the thigh rise of a pad adds additional five-hole coverage without affecting the overall performance of the goaltender. If the NHL were to limit the size of a goaltender’s thigh rise, I think you would see a number of goalies with significantly different equipment next season.
A couple of goalies who immediately come to mind are Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury. Both are phenomenal goaltenders who also happen to use a fairly significant thigh rise on their pads. While the rise they use on their respective Bauer and Reebok pads wouldn’t completely disappear, it could be limited by a new rule. This wouldn’t affect how their pads fit in anyway, it would only alter the amount of net the pads cover when each goaltender is in the butterfly.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either would see their play altered by this change, but if they were reliant on the coverage provided by the thigh rise on their pad, there could be a slight adjustment period.
Luckily this isn’t a change that will be felt by amateurs playing travel or in local adult leagues. Unlike the sweeping change to 11 inch wide pads, there will be little change (if any) to the pads you will be purchasing. Retail models of pads would never be affected by such a rule (even if it is reflected in lower levels) which means that the only difference you will see is from the masked men you watch each night in the NHL.
What needs to be determined is if this will actually result in any sort of change in goals scored. I doubt there will end up being any sort of significant change. There will be a few more pucks that find a way through the five hole, but ultimately you’re still talking about the exact same butterfly goalie getting his pads on the ice.
Ultimately I very much doubt that this change would bring about a change in goal scoring, which would be the prime motivation for enacting such a rule. However, when you talk about providing goalies with even a little less room to stop the puck, some change could come about.