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New Goal Pad Regulations for 2010-2011 Complex and May Make Little Difference

New regulations to keep goal pads proportional to the goaltenders’ size are complex and it is unclear if they will make any difference.

The most recent edition of the Hockey News has published an article Size Does Matter on upcoming changes to the rules to ensure goaltenders’ leg pads will be proportional to the size of the goalie.

In what sounds like a bureaucratic exercise that only a government official could like, Kay Whitmore, former NHL goalie and current guru of equipment size has come up with a complex formula to calculate permitted size of goalies’ leg pads next season. The NHL hopes that by keeping gear proportional to the size of the individual, they will make the game fairer and increase scoring chances.

disclaimer: I’m 5’8” and maybe, just maybe, that’s part of the reason I’m writing about goaltending and not earning a living being one. I wear 34” pads that do not come up to my waist, but they are wider than the NHL would approve of because I can’t afford new ones for beer league hockey.

Current 2009-2010 Leg Pad regulations:

Check out a video on Kay Whitmore discussing current regulations.

11.2 Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches (11”) in extreme width when on the leg of the player. The maximum length from bottom mid-point to top mid-point of the pad is not to exceed thirty-eight inches (38”). The minimum length of the boot of the pad is to be no less than seven inches (7”). The boot channel of the goal pad must be flat or concave in appearance. No attachments such as plastic puck foils are permitted.
Calf protectors must follow the contour of the calf and ankle and can have a thickness of no greater than one and a half inches (11/2”). No raised ridges will be permitted on the calf protector that would be deemed to act as deflectors of pucks.
The knee strap pad is not to exceed six inches (6”) in length by five and one-half inches (51/2”) in width by one and one-half (11/2″) in thickness. The knee strap pad must be fastened to the inner risers. The total width measurement of the entire inner knee padding (pad risers) including the outer knee strap pad must not exceed two and a half inches (21/2”) in thickness. The inner kneepads are not to exceed seven inches (7″) in length, five and a half inches (51/2”) in width. The length of seven inches (7″) is measured from where the inner padding attaches to the leg pad and back to the end of the inner padding. Medial rolls (raised seam ridges) will not be permitted. All knee protection must be worn under the thigh guard of the pant.

For  all the NHL goalie equipment regulations.

I hate this new plan. Some short guy should take the NHL to human rights court as being given smaller tools to earn his living purely because of his stature. Darren Pang, if he was still playing, would have to buy kids’ road hockey pads to conform to these regulations. Is Martin St. Louis told he can only use a stick of a certain length?

Clearly goalie gear is a tool for stopping the puck. It is not just for protection or it would all be form fitting and the catcher would be replaced with a blocker. Every goalie deserves the same size gear for stopping the puck.

Aside from being discriminatory, this sounds like a significant waste of time and resources – and it is a shot in the dark at best. Even Whitmore himself admits as much when he says:

“This might blow up in our faces because goalies might end up being faster and quicker and maybe they’ll ultimately be better. Maybe I’ll end up getting fired because of this.”

So where exactly is the problem? Currently the NHL does not permit pads longer than 38” in length. Under the new rules apparently, 6’5” Pekka Rinne would be permitted pads that exceed this maximum. OK, so the tall guys see no change or, it’s not clear, they maybe get longer ones. I guess that also means that the guys a bit shorter than Rinne can keep their 38s. Wait, that’s most goalies, isn’t it?

There aren’t many goalies under 6-feet and they aren’t exactly the guys you need to open up for more goals: Theodore, Toskala, Turco, Osgood. OK, Tim Thomas as well. Or put another way –the guys stopping most of the pucks now are the same guys who won’t see a change in pad length.

Nice –the league expects a significant increase in scoring because a couple of short guys are apparently stopping every shot between their legs when in the butterfly unfairly. Right. We have a whole system created that makes life tougher on a few goalies who already have it tough. Sounds more like employment insurance for someone from the NHL home office with a tape measure and a pocket calculator.

Here’s how difficult the system is to try and understand. I haven’t seen it officially, I’m just doing my best to interpret what the Hockey News has written. They are a quality publication and in a well-written story I found it tough to sort out (did I mention I’ve taught calculus and physics).

A. Measure from the floor to the middle of the kneecap. Presumably with a straight leg. Subtract the length of instep.

B. Measure from mid knee-cap to the pelvis. (hmmm, exactly where I don’t know.) The top of the pad can cover 55% of that distance.

C. Add in the distance from the top of the boot to the bottom of the blade to get total length permitted on the pad. I’m guessing they measure along the top of the foot so guys with big feet get bigger pads. Great, I’m a size 8. This last bit can only be on the bottom of the pad – you can’t be a guy with long feet and use that to make the top of your pads taller.

A+B+C gives you the new permitted pad length.

We have then a complicated system that requires significant resources to manage. It will have a minimal effect on a few individuals. Whether you like it or not, it should serve to reinforce the advantage that tall goalies already have in today’s game.

Hey Kay, if you wnted to increase scoring why not just go back to the way it was in 1920? Goalie gets fined for going down, can’t leave the crease and wears no mask. That oughtta make the game more exciting.

Tell me, please, that minor hockey leagues won’t be adopting this.

Update: Pierre LeBrun comments on this issue.

About The Author

David Hutchison

David is one of the founders of InGoal Magazine which he began in 2009. Of course he finds time for some goaltending of his own as well, and despite his age, clings desperately to the idea that some NHL team will call him to play for them - though in his mid-forties (OK, late 40s) it'll likely be for a practice when everyone else on their depth chart has the flu and the shooter tutor has gone in for repairs.


  1. Paul Szabo

    Thanks for bringing back yet again how silly this whole bureaucratic exercise has become. For all the tinkering and pencil pushing by the NHL brain trust, have we actually seen much of a difference in goal scoring, SP, GAA etc? Of course not. The goals scored have a lot to do with the defensive systems in place that leave little more than bad angle perimeter shooting, goalmouth scramble goals and lucky screen shots. Those issues will never be changed with new equipment rules. And we all know what happens to the supposed “crackdown” on obstruction once playoff time rolls around.

    This mentality strongly suggests that in the future only giant size goalies will be drafted. They are already bigger and will have access to bigger equipment, making the playing field far from fair.

    The other issue is how this will eventually have an impact on minor hockey. Imagine the nightmare when opposing coaches start insisting that these rules be applied and verified for youth goalies. Maybe it won’t happen, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As the article points out, the rules are not terribly clear and not many seem to know exactly what they mean.

  2. Chris

    Actually, I think what they’re doing is actually smart for a change. Just reducing the size of equipment didn’t really make it any easier to score. Now they’re targetting something they should have looked at years ago. With modern pads, tall thigh rises completely close off the five-hole, which allows many tall/flexible goaltenders in the butterfly to completely close off the bottom of the net. This eliminates the most frequent area for scoring and allows the goalie to concentrate on using his hands to catch higher shots. I’m not saying it’s easy, exactly, but it certainly simplifies the game. This is why almost every goalie in the NHL now plays an identical style.

    By reducing this specific part of the equipment, the league might actually succeed in forcing goalies to stay on their feet and play a more complex/individual game, which may or may not result in more scoring but will certainly make for a more entertaining sport to watch. It’s not going to make the goalies happy, but that’s why they get paid.

    And bear in mind, I’m speaking as an active goalie. 6′ tall and recently went from 34 to 37 inch pads – and let me tell you, it makes a big difference.

  3. David T

    Whatever happened to a 1-0 game being entertaining? Must it be 7-6 in order for fans to enjoy it? I miss the low scoring games.

  4. pszabo

    Here’s my two cents in reply to Chris:
    If your logic applies, then why not make smaller batters in baseball use smaller bats? Smaller tennis players use smaller raquets? If one considers that the equipment has a defined size and is an integral part of the game, then let goalies wear it as they wish. Remember, the actual goal in mind was supposed to be creating more scoring. NONE of these changes have demonstrably proved that. Not one. Only Reebok and Nike Bauer can be smiling about this right now.

    I too am an active goalie and goalie instructor. While I agree that there are limits to everything and that reason nees to be applied to the size of goalie equipment, I simply feel that the NHL is barking up the wrong tree. If the game is boring, it is primarily not because of the goalies’ equipment. It is because of the way the game is coached and officiated (defense first for the former, frequently inconsistent for the latter). Curious how the NHL is not applying the same rigourous scrutiny to players’ sticks, which are ridiculously more powerful than before…

  5. Kris

    This method of thinking is just hindering us smaller guys. Because your body is bigger (more blocking area) you get to wear bigger gear?? Is the NHL trying to phase out smaller goaltenders?? I think it should be reverse…the smaller guy gets to wear larger gear, and the larger guy has to wear smaller gear. That way it evens the playing field. Personally I think they should just leave it alone. look back at the gear in the 80’s that stuff wasn’t small at all, and I bet over 80% was bigger than league regulations allowed after it was worn for a while.

  6. Dan

    This is a great idea, you wouldn’t give mugsy bogues shoe lifts because he’s not manute bol’s size. Play with what you got.

    • David Hutchison

      Well, you also wouldn’t tell Mugsy that he has to have a thinner sole on his shoe because he’s shorter. I think bigger pads for bigger goalies is more like telling Manute Bol that he can wear lifts because he’s already tall.

  7. Nick

    I think pszabo hit the nail on the head. The true issue is the team’s style of play be it overly defensive as to opposed to riskily offensive.

    Another consideration in my mind is simply the level of skill distribution at the goalie position versus a forward/defensemen. What if every NHL game had NHL All-star caliber players? Granted, All-star games are less under par when it comes to hitting and penalties … but the scores of these games elevate with the level of skill. Assume all of the top goalies in the world are NHLers and realize that there are only 60 jobs to fill; there are approximately 900 forwards in the NHL. How many ‘skill’ (read pure-scorers) players are in other parts of the world but not playing in the NHL that could school 3rd or 4th line NHLers? Aren’t the goalies going to be pretty damn good considering these numbers?

  8. Kris

    Dan, no you wouldn’t because Mugsy isn’t trying to stop stuff from going in to a net. I say make the gear one size you can use, protective enough for all, and then everyone gets to use it up to that size limit. it’s similar with stick length.

    It’s not goalie gear that is stopping scoring, it is the defense 1st style teams play. Take a look back when Gretzky was lighting up the scoring records….older pads were 13″-13.5″ inches wide, and goalie still had sunburn from being lit up.

    Times change and so does how the game is played, athletes are bigger,better, and faster now, and the training they go though starts at a way younger age and is more advanced. How can you not expect them to get better at what they do?

  9. Dan

    I don’t understand why the NHL is so hell bent on trying to increase scoring and penalizing goalies because it isn’t happening. Like Kris said, times change and the goalies of today are much better than the goalies of even ten years ago. In the 50’s and 60’s during the “golden years” of hockey, games were low scoring and nobody seemed to mind. In fact if you were to check GAA stats from this era they are similar to the GAA stats of today. However, even though I am a goalie I do have a problem with the thigh rises of todays pads and the size of the chest protectors.

  10. Jason

    That is ridiculous. Seriously, I am 5’9 but by the new measurements…requires me to wear a 31 inch pad? I currently wear 34+2s.

    How many more kids/Jr/Pro goalies do I need to see get their knees blasted out because they can’t wear thigh boards? Imagine that number amplified to the extreme’s with super short pads.

    I think, like every goalie/goalie coach that there is plenty of scoring, especially in the NHL. I think Whitmore is just searching for job security and creating a name for himself. Lord knows he didn’t do it while he was playing.

  11. Broice

    All this talk about scoring is ridiculous, the net should be 6′ X 4′ and pads should not be altered anymore. If anything, pads should go back to 12″, gloves and blockers should be kept the same. The only thing I could agree with is the shoulder area of chest protectors getting more form fitting for all netminders. Though if that was done all players should go back to wood sticks so that shots will be less likely to “hurt” netminders in the collar area. Wood sticks would also be a good idea because players may start to try to pick corners more than just blow it by the netminder, which I think is much harder to stop.

    I measured myself and came up with about a 32″ pad I normally like a 34″ pad and believe me it in no way totally covers the 5 hole. When I moved to a 34″ pad I was wearing a 30″ before and my knees were getting a beating, I can only assume that about half the shots from before would get through and I could look forward to being crippled by the time I’m 30.

    The NHL is averaging over 5 goals a game that means for every 1-0 game there needs to be an 11 goal game. Hockey should be around a 5-6 goal game… 3-2, is a good even game, enough goals and enough stops. Plus who the heck wants to see aimless goals drift through goalies legs or around (if the make the nets bigger also) goalies, that is not excitement. Back and forth play, shots, big saves, and action is exciting not games that have cheap goals!

  12. Sara

    I agree, the game was/is fine without all this tinkering.

  13. Hank

    Mr.Hutchison, this article is ridiculous. But I’m glad you admit that goalies use their equipment for stopping pucks and not protection. You bring up the 1920’s but in that era, that’s precisely what equipment was used for – protection. And that’s how it was from the game’s inception until approximately 1997.
    Once Garth Snow discovered sofa cushions, the goaltending position changed forever. Pads were now used to block the net.
    That has to stop and I’m glad the NHL is doing what it can to take back the game.
    You bring up Marty St.Louis having to use a shorter stick. That’s an asinine comparison. First, there IS A RESTRICTION on length of sticks.
    Secondly, Marty isn’t allowed to wear stilts or put on twice the body armor to protect his smaller frame.
    Just like smaller goalies, smaller skaters have to deal with a physical disadvantage in size and mass. Why should goalies be any different?
    It would be no different if some woman or midgets cried foul so the NHL was forced to give them equipment advantages so they could play in the NHL.
    Or how is it fair that Manny Legace can wear goalie pads that are 80% of the length of his leg but Luongo, using the same pads, is only allowed to cover 60% of his? Shouldn’t he be allowed to wear 42″ pads then?
    Rules have swung so far into favor with goalies that it’s nearly destroyed the entertainment value of the game.
    Like the great Ken Dryden once said, the larger equipment has changed the psychological battle between goalie and shooter. For decades the shooter saw lots of daylight, now there is none.
    And speaking of Ken Dryden, he, along with fellow greats such as Patrick Roy and Marty Brodeur (not to mention Kelly Hrudey, Garth Snow and Brian Hayward among many), has stated that the goalie equipment is out of control.
    So excuse me if I don’t agree with a beer league goalie over guys who have their names on Cups and reside in the Hall of Fame.
    I’ll take their word for it. Unlike current goalies, they’re livelihood doesn’t depend on a low GAA or Save % so they’re future worth doesn’t bias their opinion.
    Goalie equipment must be shrunk.

    • David Hutchison

      Love a guy with an opinion! Thanks for adding yours.

      Without going into the whole argument I’ll just say a few things: My St. Louis comparison is completely valid. Yes, there is a restriction on stick length – but is is absolute, not relative to his height. So, I am only arguing that goalies should also have an absolute limit. As to “midgets” looking for advantages – they can use the same length stick as Marty St. Louis – but in goal they would have tiny pads. Mind you, they wouldn’t want 34″ pads either, but should they not be permitted to wear them as big as they can athletically handle?

      For what it’s worth I might be a beer leaguer but I wore the very same pads Dryden used back in the day (albeit much shorter!) and they are still in my house. They are wider than modern pads and the width had nothing to do with protection. Which isn’t to say that today’s gear isn’t purposefully larger!

      You also can’t shut down a “beer league” opinion because you can name some former pros with a different opinion. If I name other ex-pros with a different opinion does that make for an argument? Hardly….base it on facts, not the stature of other people who share your opinion.

      I’m all for controlling things – all I’m saying is control it the same for all goalies. Absolute limits are fine.

  14. James

    This rule seems to be how one would get fitted for a goal pad. Besides oversized goal pads aren’t actually an advantage, they have a negative impact on skating and side to side movement.

  15. Carol

    I don’t know enough about pads (since I’m not a goalie) to know how this would affect anything. But I do know as a new fan to hockey, I don’t mind the low scoring games. If I wanted a bunch of scoring, I’d watch the NBA.

  16. steve

    So if they start fitting to proportion for all goalies,that means you wont see any goalies under 6’2″ in the NHL anymore. In baseball, does a player that’s 5’9″ have to use a shorter bat than a player that’s 6’3″? Make a standard max size and if a shorter goalie can still move fast in that max size then good for him. NHL teams will just pick bigger goalies to get around the system.

  17. Goalieman82

    Goalies should just wear the pads that fit. I’m 5’8″ and my pad is a 35. I couldn’t imagine wearing a 38″ pad. People should wear what’s comperable to their size not bigger or smaller. To small they get injured too big and they look like a living sofa! You wouldn’t wear a skate that’s too big for your feet would you?

  18. Jay Boogeyman

    The rule seems to how one would get fitted for a goal pad. As being 5’8 myself, i went through a few sizes of my own, 30s, 34s, and at last found 32 to be PERFECT. 34 pads on a 5’8 goalies like myself, and the David, John Vanbiesbrouck, and a Very Few others are too big. I for one are not into the rules for the goalie pads, I say make the ice a bit bigger. Make the net a few inches bigger, little things around the goaltender, would in fact open up the game. Why does everything come down to the goalies? When will it stop? What next take away the stick and the blocker from the goalies, and just have catching gloves on both hands? Or make the leg pads to the point where they look like shingaurds? I say stop trying to over think what the goalie is wearing, its the skill level, not the pads, that stops the puck….