Coming to a Retailer Near You… Smaller Goalie Equipment?

Gary Bettman has decreed that goalie equipment is (still) too big.  Bettman has become a whipping boy for fans in every city (have you ever seen him cheered when he comes out to present the Stanley Cup?) and even though I strongly disagree with his insistence that home teams wear road jerseys I do agree with him on goalie equipment.  I suppose I should automatically disagree because I’m a goalie but he’s right.

Take a look at Henrik Lunqvist’s pads… they’re so big they’re protecting each other!  I’m 6′ tall and wear 34″ pads so how does a 6’1″ keeper need 38″ pads?  Yes, players today shoot exponentially harder than they did just 20 years ago when everyone was using a wooden shaft.  The increased velocity of shots today is similar to the increased velocity of tennis serves when comparing wooden racquets to today’s composite ones.  So today’s NHL goalies need better protection than ever before.  But “better” is not the same as “more”.

ESPN’s John Buccigross has campaigned for larger nets in order to increase scoring.  There’s not a goalie in the world who will support that idea… from the looks of this protype I forsee a lot of shots at my head!  Not to mention where I’ll put my water bottle.  So the onus will be on the Goalie’s Union to support smaller equipment as its contribution to increased scoring.  There’s no reason for equipment to make a save, it should just protect the body part that is making the save.

The newly announced Goalie Equipment Working Group is meeting today to review the current size of equipmnent and whether a fair formula can be applied to the size of a goalie’s pads and still offer the tallest goalies the required protection.  The nine-man group includes three current goalies (Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Rick DiPietro) and two ex-goalies turned GM’s (Jim Rutherford and Garth Snow).

GARTH SNOW??!!  Is he there to advocate for or against smaller equipment?  Can he say anything about the size of goalie equipment without being called a traitor or hyprocrite?  If he comes out in favor of smaller pads he’ll be lynched by DiPietro, his committee colleague and starting goalie on Long Island.  If he comes out in favor of smaller body armour he’ll be drawn and quartered by every goalie in the league!  Garth Snow is the same goalie who used to scratch his ears with the extensions he added to his shoulder pads.  It’s a long read but check out this funny story about how Snow hid two young Guatemalan boys underneath his shoulder pads.

It seems the only solution is dictate how goalies are allowed to “fit” their equipment.  For example, if the NHL Rules Committe (or anyone with an NHL badge) measures you to be 6’1″ then the maximum length for your pads is 36″.  “But Mr. Bettmann, Swedish femurs are extra long” might be the response from Lundqvist.  So maybe the maximum pad length is toe to ankle + ankle to knee + x inches.  I don’t know the magic formula that will be agreeable to the NHLPA but compare the goalie pads in these photos of Jaroslav Halek and Ken Dryden:







Is Halek even wearing pants?  Sorry, take away my Goalies Union membership card for unloyal support if you must, but goalies like Dryden and Vladislav Tretiak dominated their position based on skill, and not from bloating up to the size of the Michelin Man.



  1. Like your formula idea. Do not like the bigger nets, especially as one of the heads being aimed at belongs to my son. I’ve noticed over the years players tend to use the goalie as the target. Besides, goalies will then want bigger masks

  2. Goalie equipment has gotten out of hand, and at least they have some goalies on the equipment board fighting for ‘tender’s rights (Brodeur was a smart choice, not so much on Snow; coulda been worse if they had Giggy). When did gear go from protection to being used as weapons for stopping pucks? Today’s shooters are better and armed with better equipment, so goalies really must keep the pace, but these tall pads…Havlak looks like he could rest his chin on the thigh rise like Dryden used to do on his goal stick. These goalies are starting to look like box lacrosse goalies with their massive C/A’s and it takes away from the athleticism needed to play goal if you just let your gear do all the work…

  3. B. makes a great comparison to box lacrosse goalies. I never thought of it that way but now that I do, it’s somewhat bothersome. I guess lax goalies have a different perspective (and rightly so I’d imagine) given the scores you see at an NLL game. BTW, I just read in the new edition of Goalies World magazine that 5’9″ Manny Legace wears 37″ pads! I’m 6′ and wear 34″. I think (no evidence at hand) that Dryden wore 36″ Coopers.

  4. The evidence for Dryden is at the top of the page. His pads go halfway up the net. That’s 3 feet (36″). But he was 6-4 as well…

  5. actually, duh…. that’s four feet. He looks just over half of four feet, so those are some short pads for a 6-4 dude.

  6. a goalie should wear the minimum amount of equipment to keep him safe. Why should armor be any bigger than that?

    Interesting idea about the goalie’s head becoming more of a target if smaller shoulder pads are worn. Maybe shooters wouldn’t shoot up toward the head if there wasn’t as much net to see up above the shoulders. If head injuries are an issue for goalies, then maybe taller shoulder pads would be a good idea, if it made the shooter not want to shoot towards the head.

  7. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  8. As a goaltender, I must agree with everything reganfletcher has to say. I personally have no power over my equipment yet (as I cannot fund it), so I am a 5-foot-8 goaltender wearing 34 1 pads. It was a miserable time getting used to them and not too different playing with them today. I was told that five-hole protection was the key in the butterfly.

    In the meantime, Glenn Hall, one of the butterfly-style pioneers, stated that he adopted the method so he could protect the five-hole, feeling that if his knees were behind his stick, he could stop pucks along the ice. He was also remembered as using shorter pads than everybody else in his heyday.

    But nobody has made a goal pad that protects the goaltender and does just that. Not yet. I could actually fit a 25-inch pad, and seeing how Ken Dryden’s gear was not much bigger, even that would be generous.

    However, shoulder pads tend to be larger mostly due to the need for good protection (shots at the chest and arms are still quite hard) without the weight or the advantage of thick padding on goaltending pads. Granted, the shoulder caps have been at ridiculous dimensions, some of that extra space (still around half an inch) is quite effective at minimizing injuries. Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach in the 1970s always shot at the shoulders and head to injure and intimidate rival goaltenders, including Ken Dryden. Despite advancements in technology in the field of sports equipment, we will probably not see the shoulder pads of the 1970s even if we do see the leg pads coming back. A re-evaluation of shoulder pads’ dimensions is still in good order, though.

    Overall, a fine blog, and an excellent point made about goaltending gear.

  9. The NHL game today is almost becoming unwatchable. The goalies are simply too good and too big. Most of the goals scored are lucky goals – deflections, traffic, rebounds. People do not pay huge money to see butterfly goalies blocking the puck. By today’s standards, a lot of the classic big goals of yesteryear are really bad goals. The NFL, the most successful sports league in the world, is constantly tweaking the rules of its game to adjust competitive balance & scoring. Why can’t the foundering NHL do the same?

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