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NHL Targets Chest Protectors, Pants For Shrinking

NHL Targets Chest Protectors, Pants For Shrinking

With general managers of all 30 NHL teams meeting this week, the topic of league-wide low goal scoring was heavily discussed. Teams are scoring at a rate of 5.32 goals per game in 2015-2016, down from 6.16 a decade ago.

While most GMs may not be willing to change the size of the nets, as Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock suggested, the plan to further reduce goaltending equipment will be continued in 2016.

As TSN’s Darren Dreger reports, the decision to go forward with the plan was unanimous.

Back in March, the NHL’s goaltending supervisor Kay Whitmore mentioned that the league already had plans in place to reduce the size of chest protectors and pants, so the news that those items will be targeted is not a surprise. In fact, prototypes are already being created. Last season, the NHL heavily reduced the size of thigh rises on the leg pads, resulting in the loss of almost three inches for some goaltenders – including Chicago’s Corey Crawford and Edmonton’s Ben Scrivens.

The argument against reducing equipment size has always been about the safety of the goaltenders, but modern Kevlar and carbon fibre materials are making it easier to protect without taking up as much space in the net. General managers don’t expect it to be an issue.

As for the larger nets? Don’t expect that change to happen any time soon. If it does, expect it to be met with much hostility from goaltenders, and traditionalist fans alike. But don’t kid yourself, larger nets are being looked at closely as a possible measure that the league will take in the future.

Where do you stand in this debate? If the league can assure the safety of the goaltenders, would you be okay with reducing the size of chest protectors, pants, and maybe even more pad height reductions?

Regardless, it looks like change is coming whether you like it or not.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.


  1. MajorTrouble

    How dare goalies get better! We must take continually change their equipment so that they have to keep changing their stances/styles until they can’t play at all. *sagenod*

    …sometimes I swear that’s what I’m reading

  2. Carl

    All this talk about re-sizing goalie equipment (again!) and nothing about defensive systems taking the speed and flow out of the game or shot blocking chopping shot totals in half. Am I the only one who finds a great save just as entertaining as a goal? (I seriously wonder if I’m biased about that since I’m a goaltender). There seems to be this idea where more goals = more entertainment, and I just don’t see it… Bring the speed and flow back to the game. Allow the offensively gifted players to express themselves, take chances, make mistakes… you’ll end up with more goals without having to touch goalie equipment because that’s how good today’s shooters are when they have time and space.

    Goalies are bigger and better than ever before in history thanks to modern training methods, etc. There’s no denying that. But I don’t blame those incredible athletes for the lack of entertainment value in today’s hockey. I blame coaches and marginal players who have to slow the game down in order to keep up…

    • Doug

      Well put, couldn’t agree more.

    • #13

      Couldn’t agree more with Carl. It’s like they might as well ban training from goalies. “stop training, you’re too good”. Great save is a lot like a goal if you compare the entertainment value, especially if you’re the goalie of course. I see the point that more goals is better (for someone who’s not between the posts), but I think this can’t be on goalies expense so that all of them should learn new techniques again for the new equipment.

      And what’s the thing with Kevlar??? Is it like they’re afraid that the pucks will go through the pads??? It’s not made for killing the energy of a puck, it’s made to stop bullets… Will the next generation goalie look like the guy from the movie Hurt Locker 😀

      • Larry

        I’ve made masks from both Kevlar and carbon fibre. Neither one does anything unless impregnated with epoxy or polyester resin to make them rigid. If these materials are used to replace the high density polyethylene plastic currently used in chest protectors, arm protectors, pants, etc. the equipment will be lighter but MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE! These materials will only reduce the thickness of the equipment by about 1/16″, so you would have to make the foam padding thinner, and this would lead to goalies being hurt. To make chest protectors smaller so that they don’t present as much area to a shooter they would have to eliminate the padding on the side of the body, which will lead to bruised or broken ribs. I wear an NHL legal chest protector / arm pad combo, but I more than felt a shot on my bicep playing in an oldtimers’ league last week where slap-shots aren’t allowed. I’ve been playing since the sixties, so I’ve worn felt & leather chest protectors and fiberglass masks fitted right to my face. I’ve been crazy enough to expect pain while playing goal, but I’m not that crazy any more. No one should expect to be hurt just stopping a hard shot, but that’s what’s going to happen if they reduce the size of the chest protectors and pants. And Kay Whitmore is doing every goalie everywhere a major disservice.

        • Richard St-Onge

          Carbon fibre might be lighter but was not designed for high impact, unless layered with other materials and substances as stated by Larry. Look at carbon fibre bicycles frames, they are lighter, stiffer due to their shape and highly more expensive BUT, they were not meant for high impacts. One spill on the bike and you gotta dish out another 2+ grand on a new frame as it cannot be simply mended as metal or aluminum frames. Kevlar is another material that, although stronger than tensil steel (is that how you say it?) it is usually used to hold a molded structure together as reinforcement or used against small high velocity projectiles like bullets, not large blunt objects like pucks. We still need foams and plastics to help protect. The kevlar could be used to simply prevent the tear and wear of gear under strenuous use. Shoulder wings are really the only area where any true reduction is needed in my opinion. Pants could go back to a more body shaped form like Takla and D&R (Panta G) pants used to be, trimmed but still protective.

    • Matt

      Agreed. They should just ban off ice training. How about we talk about making shin pads thinner so fewer shots can be blocked. Or make leaving your feet to block a shot illegal. Forwards can take harder shots than I can. And make it a delay of game penalty when teams go into the trap or some other stupid defensive system. That will boost scoring, but it’s too do that.

    • Stew Whitman

      I know it is cost prohibitive to retro fit arenas but a great solution would be to open up the rink to Olympic dimensions. Extra 15′ of lateral space can create a lot of flow.

  3. Gregory

    Long gone are the days when they wood put the fat kid ho couldn’t skate in goal. Goalies are real athletes who work hard on improving their skills. Get rid of the trapazoid and letus handle the puck. Ues I agree that our equipment is a bit large in some areas but why does it always have ti be the goalies to change. Why don’t we get the players to use a wooden stick with no curve. Get the players to change for once.

    • Larry Nearing

      I agree that they should get rid of the trapezoid. It takes away the puck handling skill that some goalies have (although not me) for no good reason. I wouldn’t insist on wooden sticks, but I would eliminate any penalties for stick on stick slashing! If a stick breaks, maybe the stick needs to be a bit stronger. (They can dip them now so that they don’t break.) And if someone drops his stick because it was slashed (the stick not the hands), he should have had a better grip on it, and there should be no penalty. Why blame the goalies for lower goal totals? Do the coaches not have anything to do with that?

  4. Jason

    It’s hardly a debate … what this shows is a complete disregard for the actual data available.

    Goalie equipment has had absolutely no relation to average goals scored per game. Hard to believe ? Surely the gear is bigger now so it must be true ?

    Well that requires you to ignore the actual data.

    Here is a FACT for people. The average goals per game has steadily been increasing since the very early 2000’s.

    Here is the real data:

    Important things to note:
    – The most recent “great decline” in average goals scored per game began in the very early 1980’s. At this time, goaltenders were starting to wear wider leg pads. During this very steady decline, the pads didn’t get any taller and had no thigh rise.
    The NHL added 4 new teams in the 1979 expansion: Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets.
    – 1990’s, still the average goals per game were steadily declining. Goalie leg pads could exceed 12″ with folks like Kelly Hrudey and Arturs Irbe being notable bandits for extra width.
    The NHL added the Sharks (1991), Senators and Lightning (1992), Florida and Anaheim (1993), Nashville (1998) and Atlanta (1999)
    – The average goals per game sunk to its lowest for the first few years of the new millennium (year 2000). It had not been that low since the early 1950’s.
    The NHL added Columbus and Minnesota (2000).
    – Leg pads with thigh rise (that is the extension above the knee) started appearing in early 2000’s (like 2002-2004-ish era)as well as bulky chest protectors, double wide pants and massive tent sized jerseys. Around this time, the average goals per game began to INCREASE.
    – During the 2005 lockout, tighter regulations were put in place that restricted leg pad width to 11″ and size based on a sliding scale proportionate to the goaltenders body. The average goals per game continued to steadily increase.
    – In 2013 thigh rise on leg pads was limited to +1.5. The average goals per game continues on it’s increase from the early 2000’s.
    Why do you want smaller equipment and larger nets again ?
    because you have a “gut feeling” right ? … well go have a look at the actual numbers and maybe you’ll see it differently. I don’t know … maybe we should start analyzing the players too eh ?
    Think about this … from the point at which average goals per game were decreasing in the early 80’s until its lowest point in 2000-2001, the NHL added 13 more teams to the league (obviously loosing some a long the way and some being relocated).
    The decline is easily explained by diluted talent that could not keep pace with the rate of expansion.

  5. Bruno

    Target goalie equipment size all you want. The average goalie height is 6foot2. In 1994 it was 5foot11. That is 3 inches more of coverage however you look at it. Reducing goalie equipment has its limit also.

    Why must hockey always go nuclear with all these rules changes? Baseball has not changed a single rule since the DH in the American League, yet millions of people watch it.

  6. joe Feeney

    I have been watching hockey since the days of Tony Esposito as a rookie, and the face form mask as the best facial / head protection. The arm and body protection has home from very slim (literally) to now where it is Full BOdy Armor, with a large amount of coverage beyond what is needed to “Protect” the body or arms.
    Yes there are some harder shots than there were 30-40 years ago, but the equipment should be designed to protect the body, not just the net. It has gotten far beyond this point, as it was with the pads being 15 inches wide not too long ago. For goalie equipment it is time for a back tot he future with limits not just on the “blocking surface, but overall sizing, this includes “Inside” protection that makes a blocker have effectively 2 blocking surfaces.

    I Play goalie and it is clear there is far more information on playing and styles, including this forum / magazine, which provides information on all aspects, from gear to training. It is time to move back to the skill and get away form the gear aspect. Ten inch wide pads are more than enough to protect the legs, especially with the inside legs protection currently attached to the pads, unlike my old CCM GP20’s. A bruise every once in a while is not, ro should not disable a player or goalie.

    Another thing that needs to be looked at is the shooters, who are only “Slap shot machines” wildly blasting the puck way past tenet, or giving the goalie massive time to move across for the “easy save”.

    • Derek

      Joe you’re an I}|%+! Are goalies not allowed to use the inside surface of their blocker to make a save ? There’s protection on the knuckles as well , should we remove that too ? Is that a third blocking surface ? Or do we only use one surface at a time . The pad on the back of my trapper that protects us from all the sticks poking and slashing at a covered puck , is that an unfair blocking surface or are we not allowed to make a save by punching the puck .
      Please tell me how the inside leg protection presents a larger surface ?

  7. Paul Niles

    What a joke!!! Us goalies need to be protected against these guys that are shooting over 100mph, it’s not fair to target goalies because we are getting better in our games. The reason goals are down is because of shot blocking and the defensive systems in the game so why don’t you try to change that instead. Again what a joke!!!

    • Larry

      Defenders now have light, Lexan polycarbonate plastic covers to protect their feet, as well as lighter, more protective shinguards, pants, and shoulder pads. Because of all this improved equipment NHL players are expected to block shots, and are even taught how to do so. This does not include putting one’s face and body in front of a slap-shot. There are more shots blocked, so there are fewer goals. Reduce the pad risers further, if you must, to eliminate some of the five hole coverage created by butterfly goalies, since just about every goalie in the world is now a butterfly goalie. The risers don’t protect because they’re just covering the thighs in a standing position, and the thighs are protected by the pants —- until they reduce the size of the pants, of course.

  8. Dee

    All the changes to the goalies gear is not going to help. They will get faster come up with newer techniques. Take a look at the players gear super light shed water and sweat. Makes them faster hence all the concussions, but the league is worried about the lack of scoring… Take a look at the Sticks that help the average shooter gain 5-10 MPH. Put wood sticks back in their hands if your going to take away padding from the goalies. What’s wrong with 2-1 hockey games???

  9. Trenton Hogg

    Sad state of hockey. The goalies are now simply amazing athletes with unbelievable skills. True hockey fans should appreciate amazing defensive play and a stellar save as much as offensive play and goals.

  10. Paul Ipolito

    Great comments. Is the lack of goal scoring keeping folks away from the games? NO!!!!!

  11. Dave

    I don’t blame the league for wanting to increase offense. 3×3 OT was a big improvement. I’d be in favor of a larger ice surface — there’s too many blocked shots. Lets get more shots on net. I think regulating C/A’s & pants is going to be difficult to regulate. The nice thing about 11′ pads is a universal spec that can work in all leagues, rec on up. Harder to implement sizing that’s more subjective. If the net has to get bigger, I think they should explore ideas beyond increasing the scale of the form factor. Do you create a crescent shaped crossbar? This would open up more goal space when the goalie is down on the ice. Offenses that work hard will be rewarded. Goalies who are spend too much time in the RVH or paddle down are going to get scored on. Another crazy idea would be to create a sub area inside the net that’s worth 2 points, etc. Maybe the top corners of the net? Create the equivalent of the NBA’s 3pt shot somehow. Therefore you reward shots that require greater skill over garbage goals.

  12. Jay

    I think they should stick the decision makers of this crazy idea in the net and blast the pucks at them with the tiny equipment ….for sure they will agree to leave the goalie equipment as it is….i am all for bettering the equipment for safety no taking away the protection of the goalie for etertainment reasons.

  13. John Bryja

    Do we really need more goals per game? Soccer is kind of a popular spectator sport around the world. How many goals do they average per game?

  14. Stefan

    That whole debate s****. Every year the same talk. Why not just go all the way and remove the goalie completely. Larger nets? Sure. But why we´re at it, why have nets in the first place? Why not just give points every time a player crosses the goal-line………..oh wait , we can call it “American Hockey”.

    Yeah, I´m being sarcastic. And just to be on the save side, no offence ment to any real American hockey fan. I know a lot of you love und understand hockey.

  15. Darren

    I am a goalie and agree with reducing pants, just about all goalies in the NHL wear an XL pant which is absolutely huge. These pants have internal waist bands or guys use suspenders to hold them up because there is no way they would stay up without. I am 6ft 190lbs and wear a medium pant which is still quite large. I face high quality shots (jr a) and have never had any stingers (vaughn V5 pant). There is no reason pants can’t be cut down in size and still provide exceptional protection.
    Next time your in a Hockey store try on or even look at goalie XL pant and you will understand.

  16. Old Goalie

    This is ridiculous, forever goalies were left to figure it out on their own down at the other end of the ice — and again we go and ruin THEIR game by getting in the way of THEIR scoring.

    Face it, the position and coaching has evolved. Teams have coaches like Mitch (a guru of sorts) who was hired in ’91 by Buffalo who made a science out of the position, just showing goalies a little love — leaving a wake of great goalies, lower numbers and flipped control of the game. Feel free to change it up, don’t worry he’ll figure it out. Your struggles to make this high scoring will continue.

    It sounds to me like some unhappy old hockey goalies don’t like having their numbers being beat by todays NHL goalies. It’s all relative, players today as a whole are a lot better and so is the goaltending. Make no bones about it, they are bigger, stronger, faster and put in WAY more training then the old goalies ever did. Sure it was fun to hit the pub, but now it is a big business and they train that way.

    I was wondering if Kay does his own testing? I think he should do a test and stare down a Weber shot in a thinned out kevlar vest like Happy Gilmore in the batting cages. Let us know the results. if that doesn’t work maybe they could tether goalies to the net or maybe remove the masks so they won’t go down anymore. Come on!

    Go ahead and cut back equipment. The goalie fraternity will only be more agile, more athletic and ruin your plans again. If the masses don’t like the low scoring games so be it.

    BTW, feel free to look at those riffles (aka composite sticks) the players carry.

  17. Riley

    The problem with using ‘technology’ as an excuse for goalie gear shrinking is flawed. Sure, yeah. They can shrink them down by using expensive stuff, the pros can afford it. But what about the amateur people aspiring to be in the league? Once you shrink the stuff a noticable amount the lower-quality gear will NOT be able to match it without posing serious risks to young netminders. And then what? The steep learning curve becomes even steeper. If a goalie wants to use the gear that the pros use they’ll have to spend out their asses only to get smaller gear, and thus look worse. They are thinking with the public interest in mind, not the goaltenders’.

  18. Tuukka Rask

    If they want to make hockey more exciting then why doesn’t the NHL take away the trapezoid?
    How about getting a contract with ESPN, shit the WWE has highlights on their now. What a joke, Hockey is one of the oldest sports in the world and if you disagree then maybe you should look at what Native American’s were playing before the first Thanksgiving. Oh and by the way Thanksgiving was a Trojan horse, but History after all is meant to repeat itself if it isn’t recorded. Politics, that’s my point! Politics is why the viewing number are down. I mean without a doubt the NHL has the best Jerseys in the sporting Universe as Earthlings know it. But is that really a reason for them to cost $120 minimum and that is for a cheap version. Stop trying to change the game, start trying to change lives. Add more teams and give away tickets, that’s what the Lightning did and look at where they are now. Don’t give teams who suck on purpose a chance for a number one draft pick and while we are at it stop giving away participation awards to every kid. Second place is after all the first loser and that is what Hockey is about. Giving your entire body in order to lift a 35 pound cup and that is a 35 pound weight that no single man can lift by himself!

  19. Ryan

    I’d be OK with reducing the overall bulk of the chest protector as long as they let us keep squared up floaters on the arms (especially the one on my glove hand). Round arms… no thanks.

    The other important thing to think about here is foam technology like poron and D30.

    Reducing the bulk will force manufacturers to come up with thinner and more protective foam cores. And if the new types of foam absorb more of the energy from a shot, you’ll get fewer rebounds.

    Fewer rebounds = fewer goals. Just think of pants that absorb 99% of the energy from a puck! No more plastic thighs that shoot pucks out at crazy angles. I’d take smaller pants that ‘eat up’ pucks.

    Reducing the bulk might create a few more ‘squeakers’ (boring goals), but energy absorbing foam will reduce rebounds and help keep the number of goals down. That’s my 2 cents!

  20. Andrew Wienke

    I agree with many of the comments. To me (a former goalie), I would rather watch a 1-0 or a 2-1 game rather than watching a 6-5 game. I also agree that a lot of the materials that many cite for improved protection–Kevlar, for example–are great for stopping penetration of a high speed projectiles, and do not offer much in the way of a puck or collision. Yes, having Kevlar in pants might offer additional protection, but to take away space for padding is inviting injuries. If there was a way to come up with a better foam that was smaller, then yes, by all means go ahead and trim the pant sizes.

    I do not have an issue with taking away pieces that exist solely for puck stopping (Thigh Risers etc.). However, everyone knows how important confidence and the mental aspect of the game is with regards to goaltending. If the league takes away protection and the goalies start fearing the puck and loses confidence in his/her gear, the play will suffer and the game as we know it will be drastically changed–and for the worse, I fear.

  21. Sean

    Here’s a thought that also coincides with one of the other comments made regarding slow play in speeding up the game in creating more scoring opportunities . If you want to generate more goals and more scoring opportunities for these players then fine instead of discussing making goal nets bigger or shrinking goalie gear, why isn’t the discussion on focusing on making the entire rinks bigger in bringing into play the Olympic size rinks? Giving the more talented players as well as all the other teammates/linemates on his team more room to be able to move negotiate get around and set up better opportunities for scoring. For some reason I don’t see any lack of scoring happening in any of the Olympic Games.

  22. steve mordow

    The NHL already reduced the size of the pads to 1970s levels (11″ width), the blocker in now 8 x 15″ (smaller than the 8 x 16″ worn in the 70s and 80s, and the catch gloves are now “kiddie size” (much smaller than those Cooper gloves worn back in the 70s and 80s). It appears that reducing the size of goalie gear below 1970s levels has NOT helped increase scoring in the NHL.
    A better way to increase scoring is to make the forward’s shots better, This can be accomplished by increasing the curve on the forward’s sticks to 1.5″ instead of the current .5″ (like the old WHA did). This will add a lot of velocity to NHL shots and be more challenging for us goalies.

  23. sylvain

    I agree we goalies could shrink the size of our pants as everybody slim like me (i am 6’2 weight 190 lbs)
    wear XL pants to cover more, not protect more. I already live with stingers with a top end chesty and i just play some good beer leagues, mostly 3 on 3, so i can’t imagine going with less chesty but they could shave a bit the floaters i don’t mind.

    I think the players are too fast and too big now for the ice dimensions, and changing to olympics size would be good for the game, but too costly for the arenas.

    I guess hockey is ready for a major change: let’s play it 4 on 4 all the time to give more space to the players and create some more offense. Sure the teams will lose 4 forwards, but that will make a good pool of NHL players for a future expansion draft.

  24. CJ

    The 3 on 3 OT seems to be working, more scoring chances, more excitement, more SPACE. Smaller goalie equipment is not the answer, a bigger (Olympic) rink is.

  25. Dan Anderson

    Let’s all take a deep breath here guys. All the league has said is that it will be targeting the “size” of pants and chest protectors, nobody said anything about thinning out the protection. Let’s all be honest, our pants are huge and our CAs don’t need to have the massive shoulder floaters. Throughout history we have been adding bulk in an attempt to fill holes and space in the net, from cheaters on the gloves, added blocking surface on the inside of the blockers, thigh guards and massive jerseys. When the league reduced the size of the thigh rises on pads everyone was up in arms claiming goalies were all going to have knee injuries from the lack of protection, not one goalie has missed a game from taking a puck to the knee or thigh since the reduction. While we’re at it, I think the gloves should be smaller too.
    If we’re all as good as we claim we are, then reducing the size of our gear shouldn’t make that much of a difference

    • steve mordow

      the NHL already shrunk the size of the goalie gloves to smaller than 1970s levels and they are still complaining about the size of goal equipment!
      (ie- blockers were 8 x 16 in the 1970s; now they are 8 x 15″. Catch gloves are like “kiddie-gloves” compared to the Cooper trappers that we wore in the 70s.)
      Leave the goalie gloves alone!

    • Larry Nearing

      Take a look at a picture of Johnny Bower and check out the size of his blocker. It looks to be about 10″ X 20″, and it must have weighed a ton. Blockers are small enough, and the extra protection on the side to protect the thumb is just that: protection, not an extra blocking surface. Catching gloves are also just fine the way they are!

  26. Allan

    We have a watered down leage with 30 teams, and adding more; players shots miss the net 50% of the time;

    Goalies fault…for sure.

    The NHL is run by money hungry imbeciles…

  27. Zigzag

    I’m a 5’6 female so I’ve played in intermediate-pro gear and senior-pro gear. I prefer playing in the smaller intermediate gear because I move faster in it and it’s not so bulky but unfortunately because I play men’s it does not offer me the protection that I require so I’m forced to use the big bulky senior-pro. I can’t imagine being asked to wear the equivalent of intermediate gear while playing in the NHL since I take stingers in beer leagues wearing that. But I’d personally love it if they could make the chesty’ especially less bulky and more protective so I can fully take advantage of my athleticism without being impeded by bulky oversized gear.

  28. jesse

    Bring back wooden sticks.

    ban shot blocking and defensive diving to break up plays.

    Eliminate the trapezoid.

    Trim some teams and bring in better shooters.

  29. Steve

    Instead of targeting the goal tenders equipment or the size of the nets. Let’s look at the playing surface as a whole. If you want to increase scoring, let’s move to the international size playing surface. The larger surface helps to neutralize the increase in player size. This allows the most skilled players more room to utilize those skills.

  30. Larry Nearing

    I would love to see larger ice surfaces, but that isn’t going to happen because municipal and private rink owners can’t afford to enlarge current rinks or build new, larger ones. Any of the NHL or minor pro rinks would be eliminating seats to go to larger rinks, and that too would cost them big bucks. Bigger ice surfaces are a non-starter!

  31. Zigzag

    I think most people appreciate a good save as much as a goal. It is teams that score 1 or 2 goals and then play the trap that make games less exciting. Taking out the red line was a good start in making the game more exciting by nuteralizing this aspect a little. Honestly, with the size and athleticism of goalies today, tapering their gear some more isn’t going to make that much difference and certainly won’t eliminate the trap.