Select Page

NHL Goalies Swap Sticks as 26″ Paddle Max Enforced

NHL Goalies Swap Sticks as 26″ Paddle Max Enforced
The goaltender stick diagram as it appears in the NHL rulebook. Long ignored, the 26" paddle will be enforced this season, and it's affecting goalies differently.

The goaltender stick diagram as it appears in the NHL rulebook. Long ignored, the 26″ paddle will be enforced this season, and it’s affecting goalies differently.

With most of the focus on smaller pads and shallower nets as the NHL season opened with goals galore Tuesday night, there is another, lesser-known equipment change some goaltenders must adjust to.

It’s not a rule change, but the decision to enforce the 26-inch maximum paddle length on goalie sticks after years of ignoring it has forced a lot of NHL stoppers to swap sticks and adjust their games on short notice.

Estimates vary on the number of goaltenders that were using sticks with paddles longer than 26 inches. One NHL goalie coach pegged the number at “roughly half,” while an industry insider, whose company makes NHL sticks for three different brands, said it was closer to 80 per cent.

So imagine the surprise when the NHL sent a memo to teams September 5 confirming the 26-inch maximum would be enforced this season.

“We had to change my stick because I have used the same stick for five years and all of a sudden it’s too long,” Edmonton Oilers No.1 Devan Dubnyk told InGoal Magazine during the pre-season. “We’ve tried to work with it to make it as little of an adjustment as possible. I need a little bit more grip around it because I narrowed it down, and that’s it.”

At least Dubnyk started tinkering before training camp. There was talk of the NHL enforcing the rule as early as mid-August, but few, including most manufacturers, believed it, saying they’d heard many times it before.

This time, though, it’s actually happening. And just like any other piece of illegal equipment, if a goalie is caught with a long paddle in a post-game inspection, they are subject to an automatic two-game suspension, the equipment manager is fined $1,000, and the team is dinged $25,000.

Unlike a player’s stick, it is not subject to in-game measurement.

Ottawa Senators backup and rising star Robin Lehner  worries that a shorter paddle on his stick forces him to alter his stance. (InGoal photo by SCott Slingsby)

Ottawa Senators backup and rising star Robin Lehner worries that a shorter paddle on his stick forces him to alter his stance. (InGoal photo by SCott Slingsby)

Ottawa Senators backup Robin Lehner is having a tougher time adjusting to a paddle that is two inches shorter. It certainly didn’t help that he didn’t find out about the reduction until midway through training camp, and didn’t get his new, shorter-paddled sticks until two days ago.

“I haven’t even practiced with them yet – and we go on the road to Buffalo tomorrow,” Lehner told InGoal Magazine late Wednesday night.

Lehner wasn’t aware the rule already existed because it was never enforced.

“I had no clue. I had my 28 inch for a very long time,” he said.

Two inches may not seem like much, but goaltenders grip their stick where the shaft intersects the thicker paddle, so changing that point relative to the ice can force an altered stance or blocker position, opening up holes on the blocker side arm, and even causing balance issues in the crease.

Lehner said it was a much bigger adjustment than the new, smaller pads. And with stick usage and discipline expected to become even more important as those trimmed down pads open up the 5-hole, getting comfortable with the shorter paddle will be important.

“You balance a little on your stick,” Lehner said. “When I feel it touch the ice, I know that I am in my right stance. And now all of a sudden I don’t touch the ice, and all of a sudden it throws my balance off. It throws a little bit of everything off. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s different.

Lehner switched to a longer paddle stick when he came to North America and played his first season in the Ontario Hockey League in 2009.

“We develop a posture, a goalie stance, that we are comfortable with, and when I was younger I had big problem with bending over too much and I was getting beat high a lot, and then when I got over here I started changing paddle height and got more upright, a new stance that has just really been working for me,” he said. “And now all of a sudden … when you change the stick, you change your balance and your stance.”

Eddie Lack, who has yet to get his shorter sticks, worries about that too.

“I don’t really know yet,” Lack told InGoal. “The fear for me is that I get a little too low and then you lean forward and it changes your stance.”

Lehner stopped several times to make it clear he didn’t want to complain, saying he was “very new to the league too, so it’s really not my spot to say too much.” But he admitted it was a little frustrating, especially since goalies that are 6-foot-6 are allowed to use a longer paddle.

At 6-foot-5 Lehner is limited to the same paddle as a goalie under 6-feet tall.

“That’s a little frustrating because I just don’t see the logic,” he said. “A goalie under 6-foot can have 26 inches and I can only have 26 inches at 6-foot-5. But if you are one inch taller, you can have two inches longer. Of course I am frustrated because it changes my game but it’s not my spot to complain about it. I can just say it will affect my game and it will.”

Complicating matters further are the inconsistent measurements from one company to the next, with a stick stamped as a 28” paddle in one brand stacking up the same as a 26” paddle from another manufacturer. Even the measurements outlined in the NHL rule book rely on determining where the paddle starts above the heel of the stick, which can vary depending on the lie of the blade and the curve as it transitions up to the paddle.

Of course that wasn’t an issue when the rule first came into being because goal sticks were still squared off at the corner, so establishing a standard on curved heels will be important now that the NHL is enforcing it. Unless the goalies get their way next summer, and make the rule as antiquated as those old square sticks.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.


  1. Ian Bernard

    Why should I at six foot three Inches have th use a stick three inches shorter? This is just going to make people mad

    • Steve Rollins

      Are you in the NHL? No? Then your league isn’t going to care/check.

      • Ian Bernard

        But still

    • Bernard lahey

      These rules are also enforced in minor hockey – at least in Montreal – they care and they check – if you were a goalie you would know this matters – also, this will make longer paddles impossible to find.

  2. bob

    this is nonsense. if the league wants more goals scored they should hold clinics to teach players how to hit the god damn net.

  3. B

    This is absurd. Any goaltender who has ever used too short of a paddle knows how much your balance and stance is thrown off. I’m around 6 foot on skates and tried switching to a 25 inch Warrior stick, after using a 26 and 27 inch paddle, and boy did it throw my balance off with my blocker hand way to low. It did a nice job though of sealing the 5 hole and leaving less room 6 hole when i went into butterfly, but like I said my balance and stance were way off. I can’t imagine a goalie like Lehner using a 26 inch paddle! I’m ok with the new pad regulations, but this is just foolish.

    • Ian Bernard

      I know right

    • Jesse

      yeah this is dumb. who cares what size it is. i’m 5’11” and use a 27”. otherwise I feel my blocker is way to low and i’m leaving the whole top side open

      • Ian Bernard

        Yep me too.

        • BrodyGoalie

          Have to assume Bauer will disc. 28.5 sticks??

  4. Tony in Winnipeg

    This makes about as much sense as telling all golfers they have to use the same length of club. Why not make everyone wear the same size skate too?

  5. Walks

    This is ridiculous. Honestly I can understand the issue with pads but this is a pretty dramatic change that isn’t letting goalies “cheat” like the pads debate was suggesting. I’ve used a 26″ shaft myself but with my adjustment to the new Xtreme Step Steels I want to try going up to a longer shaft. I can’t imagine being one of Dubnyk or Lehner and being that tall and having to use the short staff. Give me a break NHL, you want goals but goalies aren’t like they were in the early standup ages anymore.

  6. Ian Wotherspoon

    Other than the “GD” word I like what Bob said.

    Since all of these regulations for goalies began in the summer it’s obvious that the NHL governors or whoever is enforcing all these new regulations for goalies, want to see more goals. So, as Bob said why don’t they run shooting clinics for the players on how to shoot more accurately (try counting the number of pucks that miss the net during a game, you will be amazed). Do the people making these stupid rules realize that the equipment a goalie wears is there to protect him from injury as he tries to stop the puck from going into the net. The manufacturers of goalie equipment have been developing some amazing equipment and the puck rarely finds a spot where the goalies feels the shot or gets injured due to the puck hitting an area with no protection. If a goalie is reading this you will know very well how much a puck hurts when it hits an area of your body that is unprotected. A puck travelling at 75 mph can cause a lot of pain to the human body unless it is well protected. I know this because I was a goalie in the fifties & sixties and with the padding we had back then you felt just about every shot that hit you. Btw, a puck hitting your face hurts BIG TIME; they better not change this piece of equipment.
    Having played the position for over 20 years plus spending 40 years coaching goalies I know how important the paddle length is to a goalie and shortening it by one or two inches is a lot and it throws everything off. To enforce this rule without much warning is insane. If they are going to put this rule into effect then at least give the goalies until Christmas to get used to it, don’t tell them just before the season begins that if you use an illegal paddle length stick it will cost you 2 games as well as fining the equipment mgr and the team. All of these rule changes are making me very angry and I’m not a part of the game anymore but I gave my life to hockey for so many years and so I guess it will always be a part of me

    If they are going to enforce a paddle length then they must be reasonable. My suggestion would be to enforce goalies up to six feet to use a goalie stick with a maximum of 26″ paddle. 6’1″ to 6′ 5″ can use a goalie stick up to a 27″ paddle and goalies over 6′ 6″ can use up to a 28″ or possibly 29” paddle. These are just a suggestion but it might solve some of the problems that are arising over this new paddle length.

    I just wish they would leave the goalies alone. Goalies today play the game different and I feel better than those of years gone by and they are making incredible saves that 20 years ago a goalie wasn’t making. The way I see it is that the average goalie in the NHL today has become far better goalie and are now making too many saves and the goals against are becoming fewer. That shows me that goalies everywhere are working harder to improve their game (skills) so maybe, it’s time the players did the same.

  7. DSM

    This is the clear result of a Canadian league — used to nanny-state borderline-socialist governments at home and to the south of them — seeking to interfere with everything. Explain to me how a shorter paddle does anything but throw off balance. It’s not even a coverage issue. You select paddle length based upon your height and preferred stance. Now they’re interfering directly with mechanics, and that’s too much. Next what? No more dropping to your knees?

    • B

      Nope! There going to outlaw sticks and make you balance on one skate, while making the nets larger of course!

    • Greg

      While I get your point, this really isn’t the time to be making fun of the Canadian political system.

      • Tony

        I don’t know about that. If the current U.S. Government ran the NHL, a rule change like this would never go through because there would be so much disagreement around it. Maybe this is EXACTLY the time to make fun of the Canadian government and their ridiculous ability to agree on things.

  8. FinFan

    Maybe they should put a rule in place only allowing goalies to be 5 foot tall 😉

    This is becoming more and more rediculous with every season. They think everyone wants to see more goals. Well I’m sure some fans like to see the opponents goalie getting scored upon often but would they want to see the same on their guy (team) ???

    Every coin has two sides. Someday a d-man will win the Vezina because he will have a better S% than his goalie.

  9. paul szabo

    I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments (except DSM’s, which is utterly ridiculous- imagine calling Harper a borderline socialist). How unfair it be that Zdeno Chara can have a longer stick than anyone else but Ben Bishop cannot.

    Once again we see clear consensus among goalies on a point that seems rather obvious- the height of the paddle has more to do with stance and where you place your hands than stopping more pucks with that massive 5 square inches of paddle.

    I have a hard time imagining Kay Whitmore being in support of this, or furthermore trying to support the idea that it does not create an unusual and unfair situation for taller goalies.

    I do not understand how the NHL makes one standard for pads (i.e. height calculated on body dimensions) and a totally different and contradictory one for sticks (paddle length as an absolute, no matter how tall you are)

  10. paul szabo

    By the way, can you imagine all the sticks that will be thrown away, since every NHLer has already ordered 12 of of the old ones that are now too long..

  11. Richard St-Onge

    What I want to know is, WHEN will the goalies say “enough is enough” and put a stop to this nonsense.

    Forwards are getting tons of slack while netminders are getting stripped down to bare nothings.

    Its becoming absurd!!

  12. g

    what are a bunch of cry babies? the rule has been around for a long time, just not enforced. NHL goalies are not what they were 20-25 yrs ago, they actually have to be athletic to play, not just reflexes. the nets are the same size between the 3 posts, its the depth of it is less.

    these stick rules can and do apply outside of the NHL as well, check your locations standardized rule book.

    I play both goalie and forward, im 6’5 and the size of the paddle means nothing at all, i square myself up to the shooter and prepare for the shot, my stance dont happen till then.

    seriously, do any of you actually play hockey or just think you do

  13. JB

    To the PRO GOALIES…..So you want as big pads as you can fit, IE 6 foot net and pads that are in some cases 6 inches bigger than the net. Seeing what 80% of goals are scored on the ice you get 6 inches of slop? Then you want a stick that you get 2 more inches so you can rest your hand in a shooting spot. How about you learn to stop pucks without needing gear to make up for your inabilities.

    If the league allowed 4×6 as a max width and height in all gear goalies would want 5×7 just to be save… in case they sneezed and enough space opened to allow a puck in. I mean most would whine about that “million dollar or a free car ” shooting board where a puck sized hole is in the five hole area. They would whine that the league is taking away something

  14. Gary the Goalie

    If the NHL is so concerned with upping the score, then why doesn’t the Board of Governors take the next logical step and ban “professional” goalies and replace them with washed up beer leaguers?

    • Richard St-Onge

      Gary!! Don’t play with our emotions like that ;p

  15. Jocelyn C.

    Once again, NHL ponding on goalies for upping the score with another totally stupid rule !! Honestly; what real difference does the paddle’s lenght makes I’m asking you. The paddle’s usually just at the right lenght for the goalie’s height. I’m 5’11” and I use 26 inches, so I would normally guess that a taller goalie would need a longer paddle; just makes sense to me. And that doesn’t give any advantage at all. If the goalie is taller and bigger, well good for him, but his stick won’t make any difference !! The only thing that will happen is that it will take some time for goalies to adjust to a new lower stance, and that WON’T affect the score on the long run. Come on guys and what-so-called big thinkers of NHL, there guys keep changin the gear and other things to restrict the goalie’s impact on the game, but eventually, the good goalies will adapt fast enough. That stick rule is just as stupid as the one preventing goalies from handeling the puck in the corners behind the net. NHL is making a laughingstock of itself once again…

  16. Ben

    Just to clarify, a goalie over 6’6″ can have up to a 28″ paddle?

  17. Steve McKichan

    The paddle height issue is a non issue……

    No goalie today makes stick saves while standing…..

    The paddle should fit you primarily in your butterfly. Ollie kolizig used a miniscule paddle and seemed fine.

    Do you really think a pro goalie needs to stick to “help” balance?

    If that were the case, when they lost their stick they would fall over……

    The 26″ paddle height may actually reduce scoring as goalies will have smaller 6 holes in their butterfly and will have a more vertical stick in the butterfly which will prevent the ridiculous ramping of pucks up into their own bodies off their stick.

    • David Hutchison


      Very interesting point on the butterfly – like so many equipment changes this could well turn out to be an unintended consequence that helps goaltenders.

      That said, nobody is suggesting they need a stick to balance, and I’m sure you don’t teach goaltenders when standing to NOT have their stick on the ice. So goaltenders will be forced to adapt to a slightly different set position with a slightly different balance point. After years in one position it could be strange for many and with almost no chance to adapt before the season it’s not unreasonable to think there will be some unexpected goals as a result.

      But like so many changes it may well turn out to be a non-issue as you say – we are all very adaptable and the guys at the height of the profession certainly will be more than any.

      • Steve McKichan

        True if it was a new rule. Old rule that has been ignored by goalies. Like in law, ignorance of a rule is not a defense.

        Knowing how the NHL,has put out a full on assault on goalies for a while now, it would be wise for goalies to know the current rules.

        3 stance depths – fully fleshed out with NHL photo support, free download, goaltending essentials……

        1) relaxed concentration – no stick on ice.

        2) movement ready stance – toe on ice or flush a la Fleury

        3) razor ready stance flush on ice.

        • Richard St-Onge

          Do you think these changes might once again favor the shorter goalies in the game?

          • Ian Wotherspoon

            Having watched Steve McKichan play and reading about his goalie school over the past few years I know that he knows a lot about coaching goalies on how to play the position of goalie. After I wrote my comment a couple of days ago and then reading what Steve had to say I tend to agree with him with regards to the smaller (shorter) Paddle being more of an advantage for a goalie as compared to the longer paddle. I tend to agree with Steve when he said that: “The 26? paddle height may actually reduce scoring as goalies will have smaller 6 holes in their butterfly and will have a more vertical stick in the butterfly which will prevent the ridiculous ramping of pucks up into their own bodies off their stick.” Playing “Old-School” stand-up and having the blade of the goalie stick becoming a ramp for the puck sometimes took young goalies a long time to learn how to play the puck when it was shot along the ice. I actually didn’t like teaching that but if all goalie coaches taught their way a goalie could get confused in a BIG hurry. If this Goalie Coach Program ever gets off the couch and becomes a reality then one thing that must be stressed is that some aspects of teaching certain skills have to be (pretty much) the same as not to confuse goalies.

            The one comment that Steve made I don’t agree with and that is when he said:
            “No goalie today makes stick saves while standing…..” That is not entirely true because some do but only on certain situations. In some instance I wish they would stay on their feet as the cover more of the net, but then again, I’m from the “old school.”

            Steve McKichan says:

          • Richard St-Onge

            IMO, today’s goalie rarely has stick involvement other than clearing it or passing.

            How often do you see the poke check or paddle down, or even using it to cut off an anticipated pass. Goalies rather just track the puck and butterfly everywhere.

    • Steve McKichan


      I see this also, but I Strive to correct this incorrect lack of stick use everyday….

      • Richard St-Onge

        It does amaze me. So many goals would be prevented if the goalie was simply a step ahead of the play in his mind. It’s not that complicated, and it would be expected from pro level goalies. Few of them understand that the stick is an extension of the body that can really mess up a play or scoring chance.

        I’m not making myself to be special but, if an amateur goalie/instructor like I can see this, why isn’t it more common in the big leagues?

  18. Mark Selbert

    Choosing paddle length has nothing to do with your height. Its all about your stance. I am more of a stand up goalie-do not like to crouch way down. I use a Bauer 28.5 inch stick. 26 inch is way to short based on the way I play/stand. I have to assume I will have to buy a dozen 28 inch before they become not available?

  19. BeninLondon

    I changed over from a 27″ paddle to a 26″ paddle about 3 years ago when they stopped making the pattern I preferred. It sucked at first to get used to it but after a half dozen games it was second nature and really a non-issue. If a 6’1″ beer league goalie like myself can get used to a 26 inch paddle I am sure the pros can as well.

    • paul szabo

      tell that to guys who are 3 or 4 inches taller than you…

  20. Bobby O

    this rule makes no sense the NHL might just as well tell all the skaters that they have to use the same stick with the same curve and we would see the STARS struggle and complain that it would affect their game i dont see how paddle length gives you an advantage

  21. David

    As of next year goalies will no longer be able to wear any equipment, and a rock will be used now instead of a puck..

    Anything to increase scoring, yet the players don’t lose anything in all of this.

    • paul szabo

      This topic has not yet run our of steam, so I would add this comment: a couple of years ago Bob Gainey made the crazy sounding suggestion that scoring could be increased if a rule was made to penalize players that blocked shots (i.e. not allowing players to drop to the ice or touch a knee). Crazy maybe, but think about the modern game and how many scoring chances actually reach the net vs. how many are stopped by shot blockers clogging the lanes. It is one of the primary features of some teams and coaches (think of John Tortorella: get a star goalie and collapse down around him in the defensive zone, blocking all you can). In basketball there is a goaltending rule. Couldn’t a similar rule be made in hockey to stop players from being goalies?

      • Steve McKichan

        I like this idea as will all the forwards…….

  22. Marty Seto

    For us regular goalies you can’t buy a 28 inch stick anymore in the stores. I put a tape knob on the stick 2 inches higher to hold to and it works plus a better grip. I can then switch to the lower position when I am in butterfly mode.

    • BrodyGoalie

      Bauer is still is making their 28.5 inch paddle for 2014

    • paul szabo

      Passau Hockey will make any size of shaft and any size of paddle no problem