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Complete Guide to Professional Goalie’s Gear Setup and Customization

Mike McKenna on what he wears, where it comes from, and who pays for it all at the pro level

Like this one? Check out Mike’s First Article How do the NHL, AHL and ECHL Differ – a Goalie’s Perspective

Mike McKenna

If you’re a goaltender, chances are you’ve been asked this question; “Why on earth would you want to be a goalie!?!” Although there are many different routes to take when answering, the main idea almost always gravitates towards a common theme: equipment. If you’re anything like me, you found yourself instantly drawn to the guy standing awkwardly in front of the red cage, decked out from head to toe in goofy-looking equipment and wearing the coolest looking mask you had ever seen.

As a child, I was lucky. My dad, Terry, is an off-ice official for the NHL in St. Louis (as was my Grandpa), a part-time gig with a major bonus: two tickets to Blues home games. And since off-ice officials have to arrive well in advance of the opening faceoff, it afforded me a golden opportunity: watching the opposing teams’ warm up. I developed a habit of studying their goaltenders’ every move and taking note of the gear they wore. Before long – and mainly due to an intense fascination with equipment – goaltending was my passion.

I’m even luckier today. New gear arrives every few months, not as a ritual of professional extravagance or elitism, but rather a necessity. After several months of constant use against the hardest shooters in the world, foams contained within goalie gear starts to break down rapidly. Because of this, I usually receive a new blocker, glove, and pad set 2-3 times a year, depending on playoffs. It’s generally accepted – although not mandated – that AHL goalies will receive at least two sets of gear per season, while those in lower leagues might receive only one. Once you reach the NHL, however, things change. If you need or want something – especially if you’re the starter – a new piece of gear is only a phone call away. Goalies routinely rotate 2-3 sets of gloves at one time, and some even have home and away helmets. Regardless of the level you are playing, professional teams are responsible for the cost of all equipment.

Although I have the option of wearing any equipment company that has paid league fees (NHL, AHL, ECHL, etc all have this requirement), I’ve worn primarily Bauer since I was 15 years old. When I made it to NCAA Divison-I hockey with St. Lawrence University, I had the chance to visit Bauer’s goaltending headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario for a custom fitting. That day I met Todd Brown, director of Bauer’s goalie products. Ever since, we have maintained a strong working relationship: if I need something, Todd is the first person (aside from our equipment manager) that I call. He has all my specs on file and can quickly make changes or recommend a slight alteration for my next set of gear.

One myth associated with pro hockey is that equipment companies always pay goaltenders to endorse their product. While some NHL (and a select few AHL) goalies do receive incentive packages to promote a certain manufacturer, not everyone is so lucky, especially in the current economic climate. The reality is that some goalies choose a company based purely on customer service. Just like any other business, personal relationships can be very powerful. I use Bauer not only because I like their product, but because they have been very good to me throughout my career. I’m a firm believer that loyalty pays off in the long run.

I’m sure plenty of people reading this would like an in-depth analysis of my gear setup. Like most goaltenders, my equipment has evolved over time. I’ll do my best to describe all the modifications. Keep in mind that all of my equipment is sent to Kay Whitmore at the NHL for inspection and approval, just like every other goaltender playing in the NHL or AHL. If you look close enough, you can find his signature somewhere on every piece of gear I wear. Please forgive me if I leave anything out, and feel free to ask questions. Hopefully I can answer them all in another column.


Spec: Bauer Supreme One95
Size: 10 D/E
Hollow: 1/4” – 3/8” depending on ice conditions
Mods: I use a size 9 TUUK cowling instead of a 10 because I like a shorter ‘wheelbase.’
Pairs/season: One pair of skates, 3-4 sets of cowlings.


Spec: Bauer Supreme One100
Size: 34”+4”
Mods: Stiff knee breaks, incorporated toe bridge, no straps above knee, all outside straps below knee, extra stiff knee lifts
Comments: I like my pads as stiff as possible, while retaining a mild “S” shape to them. I don’t want my pads to flex at the knee. Straps above the knee aren’t necessary because of this. My knee lifts are the maximum length and as stiff as possible: I make a lot of saves with them when down and I need as much on-ice coverage as possible. In college, my pads were 37”+1” and they fit properly because the boot used to break down so much. Today’s pads keep their height because of the stiffness of the boot. I’ve gradually moved to 34”+4” over time because of this…and because of my short shins!
Tip: If you want your pads to retain their original height, DO NOT turn them upside down to dry. It makes the pad flex to a 90 degree angle and causes them to break down prematurely.
Pairs/season: 2-3, but could easily use 5-6 if given the resources.


Spec: Bauer Reactor6/Vapor/custom
Size: XL
Pairs/season: One.
Comments: My pants are basically the old Reactor 6 with some slight cosmetic changes. Pants are one thing I don’t like to change very often. One pair a year is enough.
Tip: If you wear a belt, make sure NOT to over-tighten it…many young goalies lose coverage this way.

Arm & Chest

Spec: Bauer Supreme One95
Size: XL
Mods: 1” extra length and double padding on the arms.
Number/season: One…but would use at least 2 given the resources.
Comments: I wear my arm & chest as high as possible in order to protect the clavicle area and tuck it into my pants for improved mobility/comfort. You’d be amazed how torn up this piece of equipment is after a year of usage. There’s no mercy on goalies these days and we take a beating up high in practice.


Spec: Bauer Supreme One100
Mods: Single T-trap instead of double T.
Number/season: 2-3, could use up to 5-6
Comments: I like the solid feel of the single T-trap. No need to change something that has worked for years.


Spec: Bauer Supreme One100
Mods: Palm size is 10% bigger than stock.
Number/season: 2-3, could use 4-5


Spec: Warwick Custom
Model: Miller
Bars: Titanium
Artist: David Gunnarsson aka DaveArt
Number/season: One
Comments: I’ve used Warwick masks since I was 15. They’re the lightest on the market and always fit perfect. Gary takes pride in his work and it shows. I started going to Dave last year when I was with Norfolk. I’d seen several of his helmets and checked out his website ( He’s the best mask painter out there; I have yet to see a style he can’t do. I’m a huge IndyCar/F1 fan and as such, my preference is a helmet that looks good up close, but even better from a distance.


Spec: Sher-Wood
Model: S.O.P 9950
Number/season: 4 dozen +
Comments: My stick is a modified Grant Fuhr pattern that I got when I was 13 or 14 years old. It’s a slightly open heel curve and a pretty high lie…about a 16 or 17. It hasn’t changed much since I scored a goal as a 17-year old in the NAHL.


  • RBK knee guards
  • RBK throat collar
  • Vaughn Epic Double Cup w/ player cup underneath

Editor’s note: I got the first question in because I just had to clarify this one – you probably read it correctly – 3 cups!  Mike replied, “Almost every pro goalie uses a regular cup or jock underneath a goalie cup.  It’s not worth taking the chance with how hard these guys shoot.”

  • DRI-fit long-sleeve shirt & pants, tight fit for both
  • Easton garter belt
  • Easton wrist bands

Like this one? Check out Mike’s First Article How do the NHL, AHL and ECHL Differ – a Goalie’s Perspective

About The Author


  1. Jason Power

    Great article,

    I think more people would love to hear from pros their specs and reasonings why on their gear.

  2. James

    I have to say ABSOLUTELY on more articles like this.

    Mike’s in depth breakdown was awesome.

    As far as a question goes, how about this:

    Since you have a great relationship with Bauer, do you get trial sets in the off season to get a feel for which set would work best? And what do you look for in a new line of gear….

  3. Nick Hein

    Excellent article … I’ve often wondered who foots the bill for sticks especially the times I’ve seen players hand them off to someone in the stands.

    I have some questions about jerseys. Do players often buy one of their own to have a keepsake or does the team give you one? Do you have one for community service type events? How many game jerseys do you go through?

  4. JR

    Great insight. I agree, more of these kind of articles.

  5. ShogiBear

    I love that you are basically using some of the same equipment that you used at 15! I think I have stuck with the same brands for years now without thinking about it

  6. Steve

    Isn’t the 1/4” – 3/8” hollow in the skates pretty aggressive for a goalie? I thought most goalies used at least 1/2″ hollow to make it easier to glide side-to-side?

    • Scott B

      With the aggressive lateral movement, necessity to telescope as quickly as possible, as well as a few other reasons, the deep hollows are a must

    • Peter Bement

      I use 3/8″ all the time, because of my butterfly style. I started on a 1/2″ to build up my leg strength and style with the glides back-and-forth, but then switched to 3/8″ when I couldn’t keep a grip on the ice because of my leg strength when doing a butterfly slide. I would suggest at least a 3/8″ hollow to anyone, unless you were in a low youth level, maybe bantam or peewee and lower.

      • mike

        My son plays AA Bantam and he only let one guy ( kinda funny the guy is my old Jr. High Asst. Principal ) but he uses a 3/8 cut. He actually just let our local skate shop guy sharpen his skates because his guy was not available and the guy in the skate shop even though he was told 3/8 put a 1/5 in and screwed my son up during the next game. it effects hin so much that between 2 and 3rd period he had to have then re sharpend this time the guy at the away rink we were at did a good job and put a 3/8 cut on. his 3rd period was much better.

  7. DJ Abisalih

    What about equipment colors? For example, why are the bars of your mask black, as opposed to white or silver (look or comfort)? Also, why do you choose dark colored pads?

  8. Marc Andre

    Great Article,

    I’ve recently swichted to 1/2 deep and loving it

  9. Rob

    What happens to his gear after he’s done with it? Please feel free to mail your pads to my house. I’ll even pay for shipping.

  10. Brandon

    This article is every goalie’s dream come true IMO!!!

    Thanks Mike for sharing! I look forward to hearing more about your equipment and setups/customizations!!

    It would be cool to read more in-depth analysis on items like your modified Grant Fuhr curve with pics etc. I, like you, have been using the same Sherwood stick for over 10 years.

  11. Patrick

    Like others have said, very good article. I would love to see more!

    a few questions for mike…

    1-have you had a pair of pads made that will conform to the new rules next yr? Do you think it will be difficult for you to loose some of that +4 thigh rise? will this change your style of play? etc.

    2-Im assuming you have met and talked to brodeur. So with that said what are some of his equipment mods, or needs? obviously he has very modified equipment (pads,glove, c/a). Also i have heard he uses a new stick every game? would like to know if this is true and if you know any other pros who do the same.(i cant remember which goalie but i heard he uses a new stick ever period) and i have also heard some goalies get there skates sharpened every period? does this have any truth to it?

    3- I am also a formula 1 fan and was wondering if you have ever been to a race? also whos your favorite driver?

    thanks mike, good luck with the rest of your career!

    • Patrick

      Brodeur uses a new stick every period

  12. Kris

    Awesome Mike thanks a ton, it was a great read!!

  13. burgherRaveen

    Well done write up, quite comprehensive!

    34″ + 4! WOW. That’s tall. Plus 3 cup jock? How do you find moving around?

    I play Elite A Men’s League [DMHL Toronto] and between the pants, my 1 cup, I sure don’t feel anything, because I crouch into the shot. Even if I’m down in a wide BF and take a shot up close – I haven’t felt anything. These lads can sure shoot, I tell ya.

    I have 35″ pads and I like the mobility and bf coverage. I play the puck a lot and keeping my feet moving is important. If the pads are too tall, they knock against each other and would throw me off and I would trip!

    I recently purchased CCM Vector skates – I like the wider toe and got a ‘new’ U cut. The centre of the cut is flat, edges are sharp. I got the sharpest cut possible, like a forwards [can’t remember in inches], but I’m liking the control in a wider stance and going side to side including one leg up push off to adjust to rebounds.

    Looking forwards to more articles, thanks Mike and inGoal!

  14. david kerins

    Great article..very interesting..I will be trying my pads without top straps..they are allready so loose.

  15. goaliegirl30

    Thanks so much, great information. Let’s face it we’re all gear geeks.
    What happens to the used equipment? I’m sure even used it’s better than the gear I see so many adults using.

  16. Kris VanWagner

    I started using the player cup under my Vaughn double cup……may talk about a confidence booster! I no longer have to worry about cup shots as much!

  17. Jude

    Really enjoyed this feature. Would like to see a reoccurring series asking these questions to goalies at all levels!

  18. Spencer

    Do you use anything under your trapper like a glove to ease the sting of some shots, or is your glove padded better than a stock glove.

  19. ShyningKnight

    This article was great, really insightful and informative. As an adult goalie, this was really nice to read

  20. Joe from Chicago

    Holy cow, 48-50+ sticks per season? I’ve used one the past three years. To be perfectly fair, I’m about to get a new one and I’m an in-house league-er, but still…

    • Dave

      1 in three years? What stick do you use? I have warrior sticks, that I like playing with. But still as a rec-league player, need at least two and usually 3 or 4 for a 25 game season.

      • John Doe

        Maybe if you’re hoarder… I have played against players like Mike Fisher, Drew Doughty, etc.

        And this is what I’d recommend (depending on how you treat your gear):

        *-2-6 sticks per season. (If one breaks, you’re screwed if you don’t have a backup)
        *-1 catcher. (I find that catchers last longer, if you condition them properly and don’t buy crappy material)
        *-1-3 blockers. (You can easily get them repalmed, but you need a spare while having the other repaired)
        *-2 sets of pads (I find that the newer styled pads break down at the boot really fast, and they’re absolute trash afterwards. If you get Brown, you could use them for quite some time. So, you could use a pair for 1.5 seasons)
        -Chest, and arms- This you need to spend time looking for. You can easily modify, and attach new padding if/when it breaks down. (These can last quite a few seasons with proper conditioning, and repair)
        -Pants- Again, with proper repair and conditioning these can last quite a while. However, I highly recommend replacing the shells the MOMENT you start feeling shots. With proper pants, you don’t need three cups.
        -Jock- 1-2/season.
        -Skates- You can get the cowling replaced, new blades, new boots and new laces if they start wearing out. You only need one pair, and a cheap backup pair while you’re waiting on repairs.
        -Mask, just one per season. (Maybe a backup mask if you plan on getting yours airbrushed.

  21. Jocelyn C

    Thanks a lot Mike for sharing your insights with us.
    I do personnalize my own gear myself since the very beginning of my ”career”. I’m now 47 and still play 3-4 times a week and you’d be surprised of the quality of the players I’m facing !! To keep it short, I also use the regular cup underneath my Bauer Pro, with the socks straps on, it serves double purpace !! keep in mind that even with the best adjusted cup, it might move a little and you’d know the pain if you get hit !!! so that extra cup is a little safety for us.

  22. Chris

    Super cool article!!! I would like to know in your case Mike, does Bauer mind that you use a Sher-Wood stick? And why would you personally use SW over a Bauer stick? Thanks and keep up the good fight!!!!

  23. Trey

    im a goalie and i have never used a cup because i feel like i cant move as well

    • george

      Well Trey the longer you play the shorter the odds of getting tagged. When you do, and you will, you will wrap that rascal… I only used a players cup for the same reasons of movement… I have been tagged several times.. It always feels better when it stops hurting.. ALSO I have seen guys cups actually BROKEN by shots.. Soooo just as a word to the wise.. you will get hit there…. yes you will….. when you do remember this reply….lol Lots of luck…

    • george

      Oh and if you think you cant move well when wearing one watch how you move when you get tagged not wearing one…

  24. ralphbove

    Damn i wish i thought of that 3 cup solution back in the late 70’s when we just stuffed newspaper under a regular cup as that is all we had- probably why i had an actual nut fracture in a D1 game requiring surgery. im still singing high

  25. Steve

    Great article. Great insight, Mike. Been debating a trip to Brians for some custom adjustments. Always wondered if a fitting would make the difference. I miss those Appleton Arena boards of my youth. Good luck in your pro career. You represent the SLU faithful well.

  26. Vince

    Wow…2-3 pairs of pads a year!? I play at a decent level (prep school) and I use the same set for like 2 or even 3 year. But I guess that if I could I would have one set every year

  27. Enrico

    Great Article! i would like to read more of these and of course also on how to fit your gear correctly…. I just started goaltending and i’m not sure if i put on my gear correctly. I mean i got so many options to make something more tight or more loosy….