84 per cent of goalies taller, almost 40 per cent fewer Canadians from 1999-2000
How many times have you read or heard that goaltenders are getting bigger, and that there is a growing influence of Europeans in the National Hockey League?
InGoal Magazine decided to check the statistics to see if it was more than rhetoric.
It turns out there’s a lot of truth to both generalizations.
In 1999-2000 the average NHL goaltender was 6 feet tall and weighed 192 pounds. Today of the 62 goalies who had appeared in the league through early November, the average was 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds. A two-inch gain might not seem like much, but 84 per cent of today’s goalies are taller than the league average ten years ago.
NHL Goalies by the #s
Average height: 6-foot-2
Tallest: 6-foot-6 (Anders Lindback and Devan Dubnyk)
Shortest: 5-foot-10 (Chris Osgood)
Average weight: 198 pounds
Heaviest: 230 pounds (Jason Labarbera)
Lightest: 169 pounds (Tuukka Rask)
(Yes, the lightest and the heaviest goalies are both 6-foot-3)
Average age: 29
Oldest: 41 (Dwayne Roloson)
Youngest: 19 (Robin Lehner)
55 are traditional goalies, stick in the right hand
6 are “full right” holding the stick in the left hand.
Really useless stat of the night: Average Jersey #: 31.66
Max: 60 Min: 1
None of which comes as a shock to Detroit’s Chris Osgood, a three-time Stanley Cup winner who also happens to be the shortest goalie in the game today at 5-foot-10.
“I talk to my friends I used to play against that are scouts now in the league and they say that they can’t look at somebody that is under 6-foot-1 now,” Osgood told InGoal Magazine. “These guys are all big huge guys, but they are athletes and they train to be a goalie since they are 8, 10 years old and we were always just told to stop the puck.”
That combination of size and teaching, says Osgood, is the reason there are so many good young goaltenders coming into the league and having plenty of early success.
“The goalie has become the best athlete on the team and now they are big,” he added. “It’s not the equipment. It’s the guys are bigger and they are good athletes, whereas you used to have a big goalie but he couldn’t move. And now you have the 6-foot-5 guy that can move and play goal and that’s the biggest difference. That’s the bottom line.”
It’s equally true that more of those big, young goalies are coming from overseas now. Perhaps the best – and most extreme – example of both trends is in Nashville, where incumbent Finn Pekka Rinne and newcomer Swede Anders Lindback give the Predators almost 13 feet of goaltending.
A decade ago the idea of having two Scandinavian goalies on the same team would have been near impossible because there were only two in the entire NHL. In fact, in 1999-2000, an incredible 71 per cent of goalies in the NHL were Canadian. Fourteen per cent were from the USA, and there was only one Finn, one Swede, and one Russian.
Today, just 44 per cent are Canadian, 19 per cent American, and already we’ve seen seven from Finland, six from Sweden and four from Russia between NHL pipes. That’s more a third fewer goalies from Canada – and Nashville, San Jose and Calgary all have completely Scandinavian tandems.
Again, improved coaching is a big factor. Finland implemented position-specific goaltending coaches for all age groups more than a decade ago, and Sweden followed that lead over the last five years.
“In Finland, even if you are a junior, every goalie has a goalie coach,” Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom told InGoal. “My father was my first year and after that the team had a goalie coach and during the year you had goalie-specific practices on the ice and in the summers we had goalie workouts. So it was something when you get older, 13-, 14-years-old you get to have you your own goalie coach every practice and you do some special drills and that’s a good culture in Finland and it’s something that helps every goalie for sure. Sweden did it a couple of years ago and now look at all the good goalies that are coming from Sweden. It doesn’t take a long time.”
Evidently not. So what does the last decade mean for the future? Other then needing to be over 6-feet tall to have any shot of getting drafted as a goaltender, it’s hard to know. Will the league be loaded with 6-foot-5, 200-pound goalies? Will only 20 per cent of them be Canadian? Could the number of North American goalies shrink even further as long as their system continues to make the best goalie coaches available only to those who can afford pricey private lessons?
InGoal Magazine plans to investigate the nationality trends in the coming months, but for now we’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide – go hit the comments and let us know what you think.
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