Select Page

Kay Whitmore explains New NHL Goal Pad Regulations

It took two years and a prolonged fight with the Players’ Association for the NHL to finalize proportional pad sizes for its goaltenders. So perhaps it’s not a total shock that some are still struggling to figure out with the new regulations, which use the length of each goalie’s legs to determine their maximum pad height.

The new system, agreed to in principle during the Stanley Cup Finals, is based on a sum of three measurements – a four-inch skate allowance, a measurement from the floor to the middle of their knee, and 55 per cent of the distance from the knee to pelvis – and known as that goalie’s “limiting distance from ice surface.”

It’s a radical departure from the old system, which measured the face of the pad to a maximum of 38 inches. But just by changing angles manufacturers were able to effectively increase height without altering length. And many smaller goalies, whose knees might sit normally in a stock 34- or 35-inch pad, added the extra allowable length to the top, making it easier to seal off their 5-hole when they dropped into the butterfly.

The new height limit will be measured with the pad pushed flat against a new device the league has created (demonstrated by the league’s top goalie cop, Kay Whitmore, in the video below). That will be fixed at the prescribed maximum, no matter what each company’s label says, or how the pad curves afterwards.

“The ground never moves,” said Whitmore, who admits the number of goalies now affected is only 15 per cent, down from 60 per cent. “It’s a whole different way of thinking about it, but moving forward it will eliminate all the various measurements that would have allowed goalies and manufacturers to beat the system other ways.”

The move to proportional pad sizes comes one season after the NHL intended to implement it before running into resistance from the NHL Players’ Association last summer. And while the league has already admitted it won’t affect as many goaltenders as originally thought, it could affect goaltending overall in many ways.

The NHL already has measurements for all its goalies and top prospects, and took them for the top-10 ranked goalies for this year’s draft at the combine, making it even less likely that smaller goalies get picked.

“I can foresee the day when you go to the draft and the biggest test is going to be a leg measurement,” said Boston standout Tim Thomas. “It’s kind of ridiculous if the qualifier for whether they think you are going to turn into a good NHL goalie is based on a measurement the league made up. It’s going to punish some guys and reward some arbitrarily based on what you were born with, not talent level.”

Re-opening some artificially close 5-holes seems to be the goal, with every inch lost from the top of a pad opening up a gap twice that size on some goalies.

“It will definitely force some guys to change how they play,” said Thomas.

Which is ironic, added Buffalo star Ryan Miller, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, lead voice on the Goalie Equipment Working Group, and only goaltending voice on the joint NHL-NHLPA competition committee.

“If we restrict small goalies net coverage we are just encouraging teams to draft large goalies,” Miller told InGoal Magazine in an email this summer. “And then the league’s argument about having an athletic goalie where a shooter will see holes and there is a greater chance to score go right out the window.”

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. old fogey

    This is just so stupid. I don’t know what they are smoking at the general managers’ meeting. So a 6’10” goalie can wear 45′ pads? Kay Shitmore should know better.

  2. Rob

    I find this so frustrating. It makes me angry that Whitmore is making these changes that are hurting goalies. Being a goalie is dangerous enough, but then they take away padding, take away thigh boards (ever been hit on the knee with a slapshot? It’s no fun), and they take away knee stacks. I’ve read stories and quotes from goalies (on InGoal maybe?) who say they’ve developed knee and hip problems specifically due to the stacks being shortened. It’s crazy. Why not make the nets 8 feet long and 6 feet high instead? What will they think of next?

  3. Biscuitstopper

    Just do away with goalies altogether and put in lookup boards. Better yet, make them play posts or crossbar. It’s too bad the NHL thinks it needs to increase scoring to make the game more exciting for fans. I’d prefer a 2-1 game with 30+ shots and 20+ scoring chances for each team than a 7-6 game with 12 shots and 7 scoring chances for each team. Let’s do away with composite sticks, tuuk blades, and the beefed up player equipment and increase the size of the rinks as well. Maybe then we’ll have 18-14 scores…weehaa!

  4. Matt in Montreal

    Cant see the video on iPhone