Mike McKenna Gives an Insider View on the New Gear

Once again our pro correspondent Mike McKenna of the AHL’s Albany Devils brings us his unique view on the pro game. Mike is happy to answer questions in a Q&A column – so if you have anything you’d like to ask him, please add it in the comments or email david@inGoalMag.com and we’ll pass them along.

Like this one? Check out Mike’s other articles:

Ask a Pro: Q & A with Mike McKenna

Complete Guide to Professional Goalie’s Gear Setup and Customization

How do the NHL, AHL and ECHL Differ – a Goalie’s Perspective

Devil's Goalie Mike McKenna

photo by Scott Slingsby

If you are having a difficult time understanding the new goalie equipment regulations, you are not alone. Amazingly enough, one would be hard pressed to find a professional goaltender who has any idea what is going on, much less what size gear he will be allowed to use next season. Reasoning that goalies should wear ‘form-fitting’ equipment, the NHL is set to implement a new set of rules aimed at limited pad height on an individual measurement basis.

This past week I was asked by Bauer to send in my measurements. Since I will be wearing their gear again next year, it makes sense to get it ordered as soon as possible so that I can become acquainted with any changes needed to meet next season’s regulations. In order to accomplish this, I was sent a PowerPoint sheet detailing each measurement needed. After sending the results back to Bauer, it was determined that I could actually wear pads that are a quarter inch taller than my current 34”+4” set up. I was shocked.

It turns out the new rules will negatively affect a small minority, while some will actually be permitted to wear longer pads. Unfortunately, the small minority will inevitably be the ‘little’ guys: If I’m 6’2” and my 34”+4”s are deemed legal, it’s fairly obvious that anyone shorter than me is going to be forced to shrink their pad height.
Personally, I don’t think this is fair. I understand that the NHL wants to institute a uniform rules package, but in doing so, they have effectively handicapped the smaller goalies, who already face a tough enough job. Today’s game is based so much on blocking that coverage is essential; the pace of the game and the speed of the shots requires us to get in position first, react second. Gone are the days when a goalie could simply rely on instincts to get by. With that comes the need for bigger equipment, not just for protection, but for blocking area.

My belief is that pad-height is self-limiting. You can only wear so big of a pad before it starts to be a detriment to your movement. On top of that, an extended thigh rise does no good unless there is something behind it to keep the pad from bending back into the 5-hole and allowing a goal. And truthfully, how many more goals do they think are going to go in due to this change in pad height? The dynamic of the butterfly hasn’t changed; you still have to get your pads down quickly in order to stop a shot, regardless of if you’re wearing 34”s or 40”s.

But why punish someone under 6’ just because they don’t have the same genetic makeup? If Manny Legace wants to wear 38” pads and they work for him, fine by me. But should I be allowed to wear 42” just because I’m 4” taller? No way. I liked the old system: 38” maximum. Black and white, clear as day, it worked in a similar fashion to maximum stick length for forwards. However, I do believe exceptions should have been available if needed – a 6’10” goalie would need pads taller than 38”. That’s if a 6’10” goalie ever made it to the NHL.

One of the strangest aspects of the new rules package is that very few goaltenders were involved in drafting it; and hardly anyone knows the details. To me, that’s a problem. Transparency is murky right now. After turning in my measurements, they had to be added, multiplied, and eventually compared to a chart in order to determine my proper size limit. And I’m not sure anyone outside of the equipment manufacturers and the NHL has seen the chart. On top of that, you know something’s wrong when an NHL goaltender finds out about the new regulations by reading The Hockey News (ed. note: an article piece by inGoal contributor Kevin Woodley).  There should be an open dialogue between the League, the NHLPA, and the goalies.

Of course, I am writing this from the outside looking in – I haven’t played in the NHL in over a year – but I am directly affected by the new rules. Every goalie under NHL contract will need to be measured and wear NHL-approved gear. This means select goalies playing in the AHL, ECHL, CHL, and even Tier 1 junior in Canada will be forced to comply.

But what happens when someone from Juniors gets called up on an emergency basis early in the season and has yet to receive legal equipment from the manufacturer? Can they dress? Obviously they won’t be allowed to wear someone else’s equipment since it hasn’t been custom fitted along league guidelines. Imagine a team being forced to put a defenseman in net because their goalies don’t have approved gear!

Another problem is that – for now – measurements are being sent on the honor system. If I wanted my legs to be an extra inch or two, who’s to stop me? But eventually the NHL wants to measure each contracted goalie in person – hopefully during training camp. And then they want the equipment companies to make 150 brand new sets of gear as quickly as possible so that everyone conforms to the new legality. Before each league’s season begins.

Color me cynical, but it sure seems like a huge bureaucratic process that is likely to net very little gain in terms of increased scoring. There’s also a high likelihood that small goalies will eventually be pushed out to an even greater extent. But apparently that’s the direction the NHL wants to go, and the NHLPA seems to be along for the ride. Once again, goalies have been deemed the culprit, even though scoring has remained up since the lockout. Maybe when these rule changes go into effect and don’t make much of a difference people will finally realize it’s the technique, skill, and coaching that has elevated goaltending to its current level.

Like this one? Check out Mike’s other articles:

Ask a Pro: Q & A with Mike McKenna

Complete Guide to Professional Goalie’s Gear Setup and Customization

How do the NHL, AHL and ECHL Differ – a Goalie’s Perspective

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27 Responses to New Goal Equipment Regulations: A Pro’s Perspective

  1. Chris says:

    I couldn’t get any sort of tags to work in the comments, so I just wrote a post linking to it in response.

    http://www.nightmareonhelmstreet.com/2010-articles/july/a-response-to-an-nhlers-view-on-new-goaltending-regulations.html

    Thoughts?

  2. Hank says:

    “With that comes the need for bigger equipment, not just for protection, but for blocking area.”

    This sickens me! It should be about talent, athleticism and instincts!
    I used to love watching goalies, but now it’s just boring. Why not get a piece of plywood to cover the net????
    Every goalie outside of Marty Brodeur plays like a table-hockey goalie. Shift east-to-west and make yourself look big. WOW! How exciting!!!

    Do people forget that Grant Fuhr won Vezina’s with GAA’s that hovered near 4.00???? And yet he was one of the best and most entertaining goalies in the history of the game.

    And who cares if smaller goalies get a disadvantage? I’m sure Marty St.Louis would love to wear equipment that made him 6″ taller and 20lbs heavier.
    Should we look into designing technology to help smaller skaters?

    Shrink the goalie gear so it looks similar to Ken Dryden’s equipment, and then outlaw composite sticks. DONE.

  3. Jason Power says:

    Hank,

    Guys today also wear masks, enjoy being able to talk to thier kids without drooling, and also no longer do kick saves.

    Its not the same game. It has evolved big time. Shooters fire with acuracy, more velocity, and are faster skaters. Go back and watch some of those highlight reals from the 70s…when you see most of those goals…its embarrasing.

    Goalies should be able to wear what ever size pads they feel, to an extent. If a guy is 5’10″ and wants to wear 38″s, let him. Its painfully obvious that it does not give him a competetive advantage over others (Sorry Manny). As well, guys like a Valiquette being 6’7″ are still playing minors and backing up, despite the new rules allowing him to wear a pad this is close to 44″ tall.

    As for the composite sticks, those will never go away. Strickly from a resource point of view…lot less trees getting sliced down in BC.

    And yes, you are correct on the athletism part. This is also what keeps guys playing mens league and others playing in the NHL. They have the same gear, but its all relative. You have to keep in mind, the best athletes in the world that play hockey, are playing in the NHL.

  4. Mike McKenna says:

    Chris -

    I respect your point of view and agree that we could lose inches in the thigh rises. My pads overlap by 2 inches when in a tight butterfly. I know I could use a 36″ overall and it wouldn’t make a huge difference. Hence why I was shocked to learn my acceptable pad for next season. Clearly we disagree on allowing smaller goalies to use slightly bigger gear. That’s fine.

    However, at one point you called me a liar, and I take great exception to that. Although thigh rises themselves are made of rigid foams (there’s no plastic in there as you claim – too heavy) and resist flexing, they are capable of bending back into the 5-hole because of the pad’s natural flex at the knee breaks. Believe me, many pucks have hit the top of my thigh rise and continued on into the net – and I use incredibly stiff pads. Until you have faced professional-caliber shooters using today’s weapons (one-piece carbon fiber sticks), I’m afraid you may never understand the true power of the shots we are currently facing. To call me a liar on this matter is in pretty bad taste.

  5. Mike McKenna says:

    …and Jason Power…

    You’re dead on.

  6. jr says:

    Great insight Mike. This is the case of the top guy making decisions for the little guy of course the goalies. It is sad to see that NHL and goaltenders without any communications, in this day and age there should be a discussion.
    A 38″ max is better IMO is better for everyone at the end of the day.

    But from Kay Whitmores position, I believe he is the one doing all this(correct me if I am wrong) he has a dream job and is doing anything in his power to keep it even if it doing the wrong thing and disrespecting his former position and comrades at the same time.

  7. Jason Power says:

    Mike,

    STL for life bro…Good luck next season. Also, if you have time off in the summer, email me.

  8. Jason Power says:

    Sorry, had to chime in one more time on this. I just got off the ice with 48 students and couldnt stop thinking about this one.

    “This used to be true. Old pads were limited in size because they were heavy! But today, pads are incredibly light and up near the thigh, incredibly thin, negating much of the negative effect on goaltenders movement.

    His extended thigh rise point is a complete lie. An extended thigh rise is made of extremely stiff plastic, it’s not some soft malleable piece of fabric. Pucks don’t just float thru the pad”

    I have a set of pads that belong to Grant Fuhr when he was with the Blues. 14″s wide and a easy 39″ tall. Garth Snow pushed the limits as well, and he sure as shit didn’t have the pads of today.

    Considering I spend 12 months a year working with goalies from US, Canada, Czech, Sweden, and Norway…I can honestly tell you the point Mike makes is valid. I have seen kids with +4 thigh rises, only to get hit with a puck hard enough that it pops right through. Granted, we could argue that proper position would tell you that your stick should have been there to begin with.

    As I sat in the locker room, I dismantled two sets of new Brian’s gear that I have…couldn’t find any of this super hard plastic you speak of.

    Also, in Chris’s response you mention Ben Bishop uses 38s so we should all deal with it. I have two clients that are also 6’7″ (STL boys…must be something in the water). According to the new “space measuring system”, one will be able to wear 37″ pads, and the other 43″. Both gents are the exact same heighth. One has a 10 pack instead of standard 6er, and the other has a cariboo for a mother (his legs are just rediculously long). Does this make sense to any of us? And trust me, if Ben could…he would wear some bigger pads. But then again, Ben is not a true butterfly goalie.

    Also, the one major thing people like Chris seem to misunderstand is, despite the goalies mass/ he still plays in front of a identical net as everyone else. So a guy who is 6’2″ wearing the max 38 inch pads essentially takes up the exact same square inch coverage as a goalie who is 6’8″. Keep in mind, that ogre at 6’8″ has to squat down and literally hide behind his pads, otherwise he is standing a solid almost 3 feet above the net…which is entirely pointless when your job is to cover that 6×4 area.

    As for the coverage comment that Mike brings up that everyone is so offended with, welcome to lingo of the goalie world. I know many people say “why did the goalie go down when the shot was high?”

    Well, when we go back and look at those glory years of the 70s and BS careers of the 80s (Ken Wreggets words, not mine), 90% of goals were scored along the ice. So along comes Allaire with Roy, and they truely developed the modern butterfly. This changed the game, because now shooters had to learn to get acurate and pick high. A goalie goes down to literally increase his odds of making a save…which really, is his right. If this bothers people, then my guess is its because they can’t lift the puck.

    The position of the goalie has become a complete 180 from where it was 20 years ago with the fat kid in the net. One could argue that a professional goalie is the most athletic/limber/best enduranced person in sports. And also, trust me when I say this…more goalies than not get higher thigh rises to protect their hips.

    I honestly think only a few people are going to understand that last comment.

    Sorry for the rant.

  9. Love all the great comments everyone, keep them coming! While if you have read any of my stuff you’ll know I agree with Mike (and Jason) the power of a good piece to me is not in being right or wrong, but in its ability to spark debate.

    So folks, keep the debate raging. It makes us all better having to think through and justify our opinions, or occasionally even thinking about changing them!

  10. John W says:

    Mike great article, thank you for giving us nonprofessionals an articulate perspective and wonderful insight into goaltending at the highest level today.

    As I have learned more about hockey to help my son, who is a goaltender, I have recognized very few people understand the position as it has evolved into today, with respect to technique and equipment.

    Incorrect, as well as a lack information about different types of equipment, proper technique (B-fly vs. Hybrid) and lack of respect for the position that is perpetuated by well-meaning people whose interest is not always goaltending, but elsewhere, has probably caused many young kids and parents to give up on the position or caused others to simplify the physical prowess or skills required to play the position effectively today. This is why I value InGoalMag and your articles as they help educate my son and I and others who I direct to this great resource.

    I think your articles will stimulate discussions that will help educate all about the position and I laud your efforts. So, please keep up the great work and best wishes this coming season.

    Regards
    JW

  11. Thank you John for the kind words about inGoal – we certainly feel lucky to have Mike on the team!

  12. paul szabo says:

    As others have already mentioned, outstanding article Mike. If you think that goalies are scratching their heads about how these new equipment rules actually get put into practice when building their equipment, I can add that on the manufacturing level they cause as many or more headaches. I help out in a consulting role with Passau Hockey, a custom equipment company in Montreal. I have seen first hand the expensive, time consuming and sometimes just plain silly lengths they must go to in order to accomodate the NHL’s flavour-of-the-month modifications agenda. The most recent examples included the need for the calf wraps to be recessed by 0.5″ and the requirement that the blocker cuff be rounded and not a single flat piece as it is currently. How some of these changes will result in more scoring is so obscure that I honestly don’t see how Kay Whitmore can keep a straight face when explaining them.

    Moreover, in the lock-step rush to get all PC, minor hockey associations have promised to follow this lead immediately ie. as of this fall. If the pros can’t understand how the rules and measurements are made, can you imagine the confusion when opposing minor hockey teams start demanding a check in the other goalie’s gear at some tournament? Just plain ridiculous in my opinion.

    FYI: I can also confirm that when the pad is built there are no plastic sheets inside it (unlike a blocker board). There is nothing but multiple layers of foam.

    Regarding the stick issue: I don’t have the link right now, but I read what I thought was a pretty legit and in-depth report about analyzing the supposed improvements in performance of composite vs. old-school sticks. This included interviews with a large cross section of players. The result of the study suggested that composite sticks were clearly better for puck-HANDLING because they were so light and uniformly balanced. However, for increasing the actual power of the shot there was effectively little or no difference. If one looks at the NHL skills competition, for example, the hardest shot has not continued to go up and up in speed. It has remained relatively static for 20 years. The info I was able to dig up said that Zdeno Chara beat Al Iafrate’s 20 year old record by a mere 0.2 mph (105.4 vs. 105.2 mph). However, the real recordman is Bobby Hull with a reported 118.3 mph blast way back when? Wasn’t it 40 years between cup for the Hawks?

  13. Chris says:

    Mike, no disrespect intended and I apologize how that came off. However, I simply do not agree that pucks that hit a +4 thigh rise bend it. The plastic I’m talking about is in certain pads, agreeably not all. Still, a thigh rise is there to make saves, which is still the point if a puck occasionally does make it through once in a while. Having played through college and flirted with the pro’s (admittedly, this is now a few years ago in the early 2000′s and was NOT the A or the show), I’m certain that if any puck hit anything but the very edge of the rise, then there is no worry it wouldn’t support it. You make it sound if you’re knee isn’t behind it, it won’t stop the puck. I disagree completely.

    You said your pad’s overlap 2″ when in a tight b-fly. I totally believe you could still have a tight b-fly with proper pads. However, when you are in a wide butterfly, suddenly you still have 5-hole coverage for a tip etc.

    We do agree that this change is a poor one though.

    Still, I do want to also praise you and the owners on a great site and please continue doing such a great job.

    Chris

  14. Chris says:

    “Also, the one major thing people like Chris seem to misunderstand is, despite the goalies mass/ he still plays in front of a identical net as everyone else. So a guy who is 6’2? wearing the max 38 inch pads essentially takes up the exact same square inch coverage as a goalie who is 6’8?. Keep in mind, that ogre at 6’8? has to squat down and literally hide behind his pads, otherwise he is standing a solid almost 3 feet above the net…which is entirely pointless when your job is to cover that 6×4 area.”

    Jason, I’m not sure how this contradicts what I said? I’m not arguing for larger goalies…

    As for Garth Snow, he did push the limits and his movement suffered because of it. I was speaking of a little while before that though, as really pads took a big evolution in the early 90′s and again in the early 2000′s. Snow was in semi modern equipment for much of his career.

    I don’t really think I disagree with most of what you said?

  15. Mike McKenna says:

    Chris -

    Honestly, you are telling me that pucks don’t bend my thigh rise back? The truth is that if your knee isn’t behind it, and the puck is traveling at full speed, it will flex the pad back and result in a goal. I wear really stiff pads and it happens. A lot of guys prefer flexible gear and that amplifies the problem. Now, if the pads are overlapped, it provides enough resistance to keep that from happening. If you’ve never worn pads with an extended thigh rise, you wouldn’t know.

    But come on. You’re trying to argue against my personal experience with professional shooters. With no factual evidence of your own. If you want to continue your argument, please give us a detailed rundown of your playing history, including your flirtation with pro hockey.

  16. Chris says:

    I’m not saying it never happens, but the way you describe it, its almost as if it is just some light foam up there. It is a lot thicker than that and will stop pucks.

    I have worn pads with a +2, both loved and hated it for different reasons, but there was no question that my five hole coverage was amplified. I have a fairly wide butterfly and stick discipline wasn’t near as required for any shot outside the circle. I made saves I thought were for sure in because of the rises.

    Mike, I am impressed with your resume and would kill for it to be my own, but at the same time, I’ve played enough high level hockey to be able to put my own personal experience out there to combat yours. I played college and flirted with the UHL before deciding that it wasn’t worth it and moved on. You are a better goaltender than I was or ever would have been, I have no doubt. Still, as you explained yourself (in your absolutely excellent article comparing the NHL, AHL & East Coast), after you get around the level of play near the top, the speed of the shot isn’t THAT different, it is the way the top players think the game that makes the difference between the skaters that really make it and skaters that don’t.

    I’m not trying to be combative about this, I like this site and am not trying to do anything but add my personal experience. As you played in the NHL, I would expect readers to place more weight on your opinion, but that is up to them.

    Take it easy.

    Chris

  17. Devlin says:

    Hey Mike.

    Are goalies bound in any way by the agreement between the AHL and Reebok? I know most skaters are required to use Reebok sticks, gloves, helmets, etc. Are goaltenders totally exempt? How would you feel if the league forced you to use a particular brand?

    And I know this is off topic, but how do you feel about the move to Albany this year? We’re all looking forward to seeing you in action!

    Devlin

  18. I agree with Mike on this one the 38″ pad height was perfect. Now don’t get me wrong I am in no way a professional goaltender or need to follow the rules, but the new pad rules are like saying, hey 6’5″ kid, you win the lotto because you are tall, sorry 5’9″ kid, you are short, therefor I don’t like you. Not fair at all unfortunately.

  19. One last point, is Whitmore just making these rules because he was a lousy goaltender and he is trying to get back at people? I don’t understand his reasoning behind the new rules at all. or the logic for that matter!

  20. Wayne says:

    “But what happens when someone from Juniors gets called up on an emergency basis early in the season and has yet to receive legal equipment from the manufacturer? Can they dress? Obviously they won’t be allowed to wear someone else’s equipment since it hasn’t been custom fitted along league guidelines. Imagine a team being forced to put a defenseman in net because their goalies don’t have approved gear!”

    This is the point I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else.

    In the past few years, all goaltender equipment had to be PRE-approved by the NHL (Rule 11.8 reads in part: A goalkeeper who plays with equipment that has not been inspected and approved by the League’s Hockey Operations Department, or who tampers with equipment after it has been inspected and approved by the League’s Hockey Operations, Officiating and or Security departments will be suspended for the next two (2) League games, his Club will be fined $25,000.00 and his Equipment Manager will be fined $1000.00 (to be deducted from his pay), regardless of whether or not such equipment previously complied with League standards), so an emergency call-up would possibly have had to use the injured goaltender’s pre-approved equipment. Now, without universal maximums, even pre-approved equipment can’t be used by an emergency goaltender.

    So what is a team to do? Will all teams need to have a third goaltender with a complete set of NHL-approved equipment at all games in case a goaltender is injured and the team needs a back-up just to sit on the bench?

  21. Brian says:

    I beleive that goal pads today are way to big. Play butterfly style, if you want but you have to wear pads sized the same as everyone else. Manufacturer’s have started making pads fit to big because that’s what people see and think they need. Pads should fit 1″-2″ above the knee, period. There is no reason to have pads coming up to the groin area, other than to take up more space/cover more area. It’s not about protection, Martin Brodeur, doesn’t seem to have a problem wearing pads that fit. I have played a little adult league goal, and I have to say that it is impossible to fit pads when I buy a new set, because they are always adding +”2 or +3″. Watch the games from the late 80′s – mid 90′s, those goalies wore pads that fit correctly and no one got hurt. You can’t tell me that players are shooting harder than MacInnis or Al Iafrate or Brett Hull. New pad designs are all about bending the rules and taking up as much room as possible.

  22. [...] before the lockout, Martin Brodeur is still miffed about the trapezoid,and the little guys aren’t exactly thrilled with the new pad rules. The thing is Gary is right. As much as I find thorough enjoyment in the old [...]

  23. Kris says:

    I just wanted to comment on Hanks post up there, you said give the goalies gear like Ken Dryden had and then let them play. Just so you know most pads back when Dryden played averaged between 14-15″ wide……. the gloves and upper body gear were a little smaller, but you also didn’t have guys with composite sticks that were able to kill you back then either.

  24. [...] through Twitter (@MikeMcKenna56), but also occasionally guest blogs on goalie-specific topics for InGoalMag. McKenna actually started using Twitter for the same reason that hockey fans are using it…to [...]

  25. Adrian says:

    I was happy when I saw you got called up

  26. Emil T says:

    Gotta say, I’m a goalie and favor saves over scoring, but agree with Brian (sept 19, 2010). +2 to +4 pads look ridiculous and overtly unfair. Even a 6-5 goalie gets safe knee coverage with 36″ (+0″) pads, yet almost all pros (including sub-6′ runts) use 38′s, obviously for no other reason except butterfly ice coverage….padding/protection is no longer an excuse. NHL should limit pads to 36, no exceptions! Bring back the acrobatics of Hasek and Billy Smith!

  27. Willie says:

    It is obvious to even a casual fan that when the goalie doesn’t leave the butterfly and has both feet/ ends of the pads hinged over the side posts. THERE IS A PROBLEM! take a notice of how some of the goalies have a good sized rectangular pad at the inner part of the knee and other’s don’t. Shot safety… I seriously doubt it it is an added support to rest on the ice to keep the pads upright. Keeping rebounds directed back down to the ice. Hockey is killing hockey. Cancel half a season who cares we still have the best playoffs in the world of sport. Bring on the flexible 500 pound goalie who can butterfly and be tall enough to have his shoulders near the top bar. The entire net will be defended with just a shrug, a lean, and a bit of creative sewing of undergarments to keep the puck from blasting through. Sub 1.00 GAA .970 save percentage. Possible with the right body style and equipment exceptions. Take care all they don’t.

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