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.
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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.
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