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Ken Dryden: Equipment Has Changed Everything

There’s a good chance you saw Ben Scrivens’ piece in the Player’s Tribune yesterday. It spoke to so many of us about what the term athleticism means for a goaltender, much like our own Clare Austin said so well, recently.  Scrivens talked about pre-shot movement, another topic Eli Rassi has delved into here, about pushing hard and stopping hard to give yourself that extra fraction of a second to be prepared for a shot, and how the hard save made to look easy is so much more an indication of goaltending greatness that the highlight-reel windmill glove save (which to be honest, we all still love).

The man who is known as “The Professor” actually followed the most-intellectual of all goaltenders at Cornell University, Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. Yesterday, as legions of goalies were clicking thru to read Scrivens’ words, the original professor was talking goaltending and the ’72 Summit Series on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 Radio.

Dryden often shies away from hockey-related interviews in recent years, preferring to focus on his many other endeavors, not the least of which was serving as a Canadian Member of Parliament until 2011.

When he does speak, as he has a number of times for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, it is well worth paying attention. His words are thoughtful, backed by the experience of a career that included six Stanley Cup Championships and five Vezina Trophys in just over seven full seasons – and a Law Degree earned in the midst of that career.

“What has changed everything is the equipment … and it started really, with the mask.”

In the lengthy interview Dyden discusses the ’72 Series in his usual depth ,sharing experiences and his thoughts on team-building, as well as the two biggest moments in the evolution of our game (listen for what they are). The real meat of the interview for goaltenders concerned equipment.

Dryden doesn’t weigh in on changes to the current rules but makes the important point that “what has changed everything, is the equipment.” The style of his time evolved (approx. 16:28 in the interview) to handle both poor equipment and the “North-South” play popular in the NHL of the time.

The hybrid cage/fiberglass mask, which Dryden did not mention was first developed by his brother Dave, also an NHL goaltender, was “basically a perfect mask” that allowed goalies to play differently.

“So suddenly a goalie can play where he doesn’t have to think about his head at all” with our heads below the crossbar, where previously we held them higher in an upright stance that evolved as “a compromise of performance and safety.” Playing lower allowed a wider stance that covered a greater portion of the net and then combined with the growing equipment size,  permitted net coverage and “East-West” movement so that “now you can basically play on the goal line … and the shooter sees almost nothing.”

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. Tim H

    Tremendously insightful. Thanks for posting this

  2. JOHN Everdon

    Tretiak was ahead of his time. I remember people laughing at his “birdcage” mask – the helmet/cage-combo – but he was smarter than the average goalie…the cage wasn’t flush on the face like the fiberglass masks. It’s stunning to look back now at how primitive those things were. Some of them were downright bizarre and frightening, too – Gilles Villemure’s mask, and Murray Bannerman’s, to name just two.

  3. M.Paluch

    Thanks for sharing! Ken is truly intelligent
    and a class act. I’ll never forget the times
    I met him while the Habs were here playing against the Blackhawks @the “Original
    Madhouse on Madison.” He was always very approachable, kind, and signed anything I brought to the game. He would even answer any questions I had from life to hockey.
    I really enjoyed walking next to him from gate 3 1/2 to the team bus.

  4. Mike Matheson

    Dryden is incorrect about standup being a compromise between safety and performance. Even in the maskless era, you’d never make it as a goaltender if your style of play was based (even in part) on self-protection. He also didn’t get into the fact that goalie equipment of today is not simply bigger, it also performs differently.

  5. Dan dan

    A goalie on the redline is going to get burned, a lot.