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NHL Goalies Balk at New Thigh Rise Restrictions

NHL Goalies Balk at New Thigh Rise Restrictions
The NHLPA approved an overall pad height reduction but balked at new, separate restrictions for the amount of pad above the knee, and is still debating smaller knee pads. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

The NHLPA approved an overall pad height reduction but balked at new, separate restrictions for the amount of pad above the knee, and is still debating smaller knee pads. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

It looks like the National Hockey League will have to be satisfied with a generic two-inch average reduction in the height of goalie pads.

According to sources familiar with the ongoing equipment discussions, the NHL Players’ Association has balked at the League’s request to add a separate eight-inch maximum for each goalie’s thigh rise, meaning the already agreed to 10 per cent reduction in knee-to-thigh allowance will remain part of the three-part formula already used to determine the maximum total pad height for each individual goaltender.

As InGoal first reported in mid-July, the Players’ Association  agreed to reduce that maximum knee-to-thigh allowance from 55 to 45 per cent. With the average NHL measurement from the center of the knee to the hip around 20 inches, that effectively means a two-inch reduction in maximum pad size, and as much as a four-inch increase in the 5-hole since most goalies use the tops of their pads to close this area when they drop to the ice.

The NHL, however, also wanted to add a separate maximum for the thigh rise, which is the area of the pad that rises above the top of the knee, or the kneestack that goalies land on when they drop to the butterfly. That’s because some goaltenders and manufacturers have come up with creative ways to more more of the total allowable pad height up the goalie’s leg – and into the 5-hole when they drop – by changing how they strap up the pad and where the kneestack is located.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told InGoal in a July 25 report that the Players’ Association was considering additional goalie equipment changes from the League. And while there is still a chance they will consider an request for narrower, more contoured kneepad restrictions this season – there is another meeting with a group of goalies planned for late August – the attempt to make thigh rises a separate enforceable measurement will have to wait for the 2014-15 season.

That means goalies can finally order pads for this season confident they’ll be legal. Indeed, New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist, who talked to InGoal earlier this summer about the need to get his new sizing by early August, already posted a picture of his new Bauer pads through his Twitter and Instagram accounts:

Lundqvist tweet on pads JPEG


Lundqvist Instagram pads

As for the kneepads, with close to two dozen NHL goalies wearing larger, multi-layered, custom-made models from Switzerland, don’t be surprised is the Players’ Association also balks at a reduction for this season because of the shortage of time to adjust and a fear of more exposed knees with the already shorter pads. But expect the NHL’s push for smaller knees and thigh rises – and reductions in chest-and-arm units – continues next summer.

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. Matt in Montreal

    Pffft. 5-hole goals are annoying. Players should stop being lazy and go glove-high!

  2. Tony in Winnipeg

    Safety first, goals second.

  3. Zack Johnson

    Why doesn’t the NHL just get to the point and eliminate the goalie and just put a sixth player on the ice since it seems thats what they’d really like. How many young goalies are going to work hard and make it to the bigs only to be injured and have thier careers shortened/ended because the NHL cares more about goals then safety? I know safety doesn’t pay the bills, but niether does having your team lose games because the starting goalie is injured all the time?

  4. Gary Morrison

    How on earth is this going to allow more goals? Everyone knows netminders are the best players on the ice, they will adapt and stop the same shots from the same people.

    Some of the hierarchy in Ice hockey need to yank their craniums from their rear ends!

  5. gerry

    just make a goal net size bigger.

    please dont touch goalie pads size !

    • Netminder34

      I agree and have said that for years. Keep the goalie safe and add a few inches to the goal!

      • Paddy

        MAKE THE GOAL NET BIGGER?????? I hope you are not serious…..maybe goalies should wear boots in the net…even better, let’s go back to the old days of hockey when goalies were not allowed to drop to the ice….I think it is time to bring back stand-ups goalies, just like the goalies in table hockey……ban the butterfly!

        Seriously, tweak things here and there but don’t punish some of the best athletes in professional sports.

        • Paul

          Bring back stand up goalies and ban the butterfly??!! Seriously? You want to go back to seeing goalies letting in crap shots along the ice? Why don’t they ban slap shots and any shot above the knees. Come on. The NHL, like many guys said already, needs to protect the players first. Goalies need as much protection as they can get. I think the way it is now is good.

          • Michael

            Paul I think you need to take a class on understanding the beautiful art of sarcasm.

  6. Craig MacDonald

    So goaltending has evolved to the point where the equipment designed to suit the way they play the game has to be modified even further to put the advantage back into the shooters hands. Hmmm…. I guess the athleticism, skill and pure talent that pro goalies have has nothing to do with the reduction in goals being scored.

  7. Paul Ipolito

    Are the fans clamoring for more goals? The crowds are still pretty good at most NHL games. Once again, the home office has answered a question that nobody asked.

  8. Rene Lavoie

    I have to agree with the above comments. One would think that with Ryan Miller representing the NHL goalies, that his opinion would matter on the goalies safety. I know that he’s in favor for the reduction of the height of the pads, but the reduction of the knee pads and then the possibility of the chest/arm protector, come on, where does it end? Perhaps the next item on the agenda will be the size of goalie masks. They’re narrowing the gap between goals and safety first. Leave the game alone, there’s nothing wrong with it. There are games that finish in a nail biting fashion with only 1 or 2 goals scored, to some games that are blow outs. If they really want to take away from the goalies, take away the 3 1/2 inch average width of the goalie paddle and give the goalies a players’ stick. The NHL needs to give their head a shake!

    • Royce

      Well in most Sports the Leagues like to mostly protect or make it more easy easy to the Majority, Popular, And highly paid positions. Like in football if you do something dirty (Hit from behind secounds after whistle and other players stopped, Dirty Hit, injure on purposely, ETC) Against a lineman you might suspended a few games but if you do it against a Quarterback (Even not as bad and or by accident) like against RG3 the Mannings The Famous/Highly paid ones ETC, You probably would get suspended for rest of the season. Also in Soccer you get bigger penalties if you commit one against star players than a Normal one. Even on the Radio, and most fans surport the player’s intrests rather than the goalies.

  9. ronny heckstall

    just make the goalie drink a venti frappuccino like Cory Schneider did before game 1 of the playoffs. that is guaranteed to slow them down = more goals against

  10. mjs

    Eh. I get the reduction. I mean, a lot of, if not all, of the NHL’s goalies sport anywhere between a +2 to +4 measurement on their pads. Reducing the thigh rise probably won’t be too big a deal for either safety or creating offense, really. I mean, +2s will overlap like +4s will, just not as much, and they two inches goalies lose might show while they’re moving laterally going post to post on the ice. The thing I don’t get is the reduction in knee pads. I mean, the league outlawed thigh boards to get rid of the extra 5 hole coverage, and I guess some of the large knee pads may add a little extra cover. But, the likelyhood that a goalie’s knee pads will stop any significant number of goals is super slim. Maybe just make a rule that they can’t get any bigger, but making them smaller is asking for a rise in knee injuries.

  11. Steve McKichan

    Any anecdotal evidence of shattered knee caps, career ending thigh contusions back in the 80’s when goalies used small or minus thigh rises?

    Al Mcinnis and the like could clearly shoot as fast as the modern players yet it seems the injury argument may fail.

    Anyone remember the injury arguement when they originally reduced glove and pad sizes.

    Everyone waxed on about how every goalie was in dire career ending danger. Did it come to be ?

    If you get down to it the reason goalies “have” to have 5 hole coverage with thigh rises is because it allows a full flare butterfly while still closing the 5 hole.

    If you eliminate big thigh rises the 5 hole has to be closed making your upper legs seal and pinch our knees, which dramatically reduces pad flare.

    Injury arguement, although loud and vociferous is actually spurious……..

    • Brad

      You can’t say composite sticks haven’t greatly affected how hard people shoot. Watching 80’s nhl is like watching a 18+ drop in most those shots weren’t that hard by today’s standards.

  12. bob eglinton

    i have the solution. learn how to hit the freakin net.!!!!!

  13. Jason

    There is no reason to worry. These are the best athletes in the world. If you reduce the size of the pads, so what, that just means they will be 10% faster and stop even more shots.

    Take THAT NHL.

  14. Matt

    Just make goalies better.

  15. Jim Dorman

    Goalie pads have become cartoonish in size. The thigh rise has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with closing the five hole and allowing today’s goalie to set up a nearly impenetrable wall when they butterfly.

  16. Avenger2614

    While playing goal in college, I switched from the larger, older equipment to NHL-legal equipment (11″ wide leg pads, smaller blocker, and smaller glove) and what I found was that it made me faster and better. I agree with the comments about injuries, in that changing the equipment won’t cause any, as I’ve had none since adopting the smaller equipment seven years ago. I only have a +2″ on my thigh rise, too. This only means that goalies are going to tweak their games to compensate for the equipment, and they are still going to make the save. The NHL can keep changing the equipment all they want, but the incredibly athletic goalie will continue to adapt.

  17. eric wright

    This makes no sense to me. Why lower the pad size and risk more injuries. Jim, the thigh guard’s are made exactly for that not an impenetrable wall we goalies use. I don’t know if uve ever played goalie but without those thigh guards a goalie can seriously get hurt. Its very dangerous to mess with the protection of the game… players gets stronger and get more stuff to shoot harder or quicker and goalies get less and less protection. I see broken knee caps in the future.

    • Jim Dorman

      I played goalie for thirty years with old style pads. I was never hurt in the thigh area and never knew anyone that was. The larger pads in our goalie pants took care of that. But, mostly we didn’t get hit there. The puck would have to get through our gloves on straight on shots. Also, we stood up longer. Anyway, it was rare to get hit in the thigh with a hard shot.

      • Jim Dorman

        I’m all for extra protection in the knee area though. That was always a problem. I made an awkward move in warm ups once and got one right off the knee cap. I still don’t know how I did it. But, I ended up having to sit out the game.

  18. Josh

    I’ve been using +1 length pads since I started playing and I have never had any knee injuries. Granted i let in a few goals in the 5-hole but I am also a hybrid more towards stand-up goalie. I could understand having larger pads that protect the knee but who are we kidding when in the butterfly those thigh flaps cover the 5-hole. Plain and simple. Its not for protection. Most goalies wear extra knee protection anyway. When it comes to things like the thickness of pads or chest protectors that is for safety. Goalies use every little thing they can to gain a little extra edge over the shooters. I would much rather see a shutout than a big goal game. Last thing, Lundquist plays really deep in his net so that pad flair is vital to his success, but he is unique

  19. Mr.Bean

    Me I wear pad 32+1 with thigh wrap for protection without injurie I know I played only in a beer ligue but for me when you have a good position when you go in butterfly you can’t show your knees to the puck I think some goalie have preferred a thigh rise higher because with a short pad they have a narrow butterfly when he put knee togetter for close the 5th hole

  20. Rodger Harris

    I think these pad are ridicules.
    When you can spread your legs out in a V with your knees together and rest each leg out on the pad in an L and the two L’ on each pad together cover the entire width of the net. Something is lost.
    I agree Goalies are the best always have been – but the equipment now days compared with what I played with back in the 60′ is crazy. I see goalies slide back and forth on their pads and cover the entire bottom of the net. Now the bottoms of the pads go parallel with the ice so they cannot get pucks between the skate and underneath the pad any more. How big is too big something has to give.

  21. Jamaal James

    The difference in scoring, will be negligible. Goalies will adapt and overcome, and team defensive systems, will still stifle quality scoring chances. Offside rules, will still result in borderline calls that kill offensive rushes, and lax enforcement of interference rules, will stop skilled players from using speed and skill to get past a defenceman and get a quality scoring chance. Equipment isn’t limiting scoring…the game itself is.

  22. Steff

    It would be interesting to know how many if any games were missed by NHL goalies due to injuries caused by puck impact.
    I would guess the majority of injuries are not caused by an impact of the puck but caused by collisions or strains.
    No matter how much smaller they make the gear, they will find ways to cover the exposed areas for protection.

  23. Shoomi

    Put the suits of the NHL in the new sized equipment, let the Pros take some slap shots on them. Maybe then they will see the situation differently…

    • Sherwood5030

      I concur. People making these equipment-reduction decisions are clueless.

  24. Sherwood5030

    I have played as a goaltender for about 8 years at the higher-end non-pro level and have received numerous puck-related contusions to my knees despite wearing pro-level knee protection. I recently had an MRI that revealed cysts on the outside of the lower femur on both knees. Cysts appear for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is repeated trauma. Gee, I wonder where they came from?

    And they want to make pads shorter and make it easier for the puck to hit the knees?

    It’s madness.

  25. Gord

    I tended nets from the mid 70’s till about 1990, and in all that time I think I saw 1 knee injury due to a puck strike. I agree that protecting the goalie is of paramount importance (as my son is now tending the nets as well), BUT! I have also seen goalie gear grow to monstrous proportions. Having worked at an NHL rink for 17 years, I had many opportunities to see many of the leagues best both in street clothes as well as in full equipment and I can safely say a slight reduction in the size of goalie gear will not make a bit of difference to the safety of today’s goalie. Don’t kid yourselves, today it’s all about size. i doubt there a single goalie in the NHL under 6′. when was the last time there was a Rogie Vachon, Andy Moog or Darren Pang sized goalie in the NHL? Both sides need to find some middle ground on this issue. Goalies need to be Goalies not brick walls!

    • Sherwood5030

      I agree that chest protection is bigger than in prior years, but there is a reason for that.There were no composite sticks in the 90s, so the shots were not as hard or as accurate as they are today. A composite stick, properly utilized, will turn what used to be a savable wrist shot into a bullet. I have faced teens who have faster snap shots than some older players’ slap shots; consequently, it is important to a goaltender to wear more protective equipment. Or have goaltenders become an expendable commodity in the dubious pursuit of higher goal scores?

  26. Jarrad Bruessel

    I have been goaltending for over 10 years now. My number one injury is shots to the knee. Granted some goalies butterflies are extremely wide and they don’t need the extra thigh rise, but me as a goalie who’s butterfly is basically like taking two pads and sitting them back to back, the extra height reduction is going to cause more injuries to me. I didn’t wear a pad with an extra inch in the thigh until I was 17. I had to try anything and everything to protect my knees. I finally moved up to a +1 which has reduced the amount of injuries by a minimum but I still get hit there almost 1 every 2-3 weeks. And it has caused me to now wear knee braces constantly due to the bone damage it has done. Now that pads are being made smaller again I am basically done for. The league should consider it by a goalies need rather than forcing it on everyone. I have tried the double knee breaks and that has done nothing to help. The pad was sized by my goalie coach who has several goalies he coached now drafted into the NHL and I have not grown a bit since I got them. Players know that a goalies five hole isn’t really open so why keep going there? Players need to start aiming at other areas than just our 5-hole and our stomachs. I have more puck marks on the chest and stomach of my jersey than my blocker!

  27. Joe boutette

    I’ve been hit in the knee with +1 pad I’ve been hit in the knee with a +4 pad, but hardly ever while dropping into my butterfly, knee shots always seem to come from funny scrambles where you pick one leg up then a puck comes flying in a funny angle. I’ve gotten a hematoma with pro level knee guards on, bottom line is that getting hit in the knees is gonna happen regardless of what your thigh rise is. And most kids that I coach don’t even think about knee pads until about bantam. I’m not sure where this whole your gonna have an injury epidemic going on with gear reduction. It’s still the same padding and hd foams going in, it’s just little narrower or shorter. If there really worried about getting hurt they’ll make it thicker. And I thought us goalies were smarter than the rest of them

  28. Ian Beermann

    I think they should just make the nets bigger

  29. Ian Beermann

    looks like bauer is going to release some new pads I’ve never seen the ones in Hendik’s picture

  30. Royce

    Remember the last Goalie equipment change? We Goalies just got faster and stopped more pucks! In the 80’s a good game would be 3-4 goals now a good game is 1-2 goals (Unless you had barley any shots) Whats next? Only player equipment is allowed?

  31. nightfly

    In general, most goalie knee injuries have nothing to do with puck/stick impact. It’s almost always the cumulative effect of the unnatural motion that the position requires, and especially in the butterfly. The whole reason you need a pad with some rotation is so your knees can bend normally with a minimum of side-to-side stress on the meniscus and ligaments. The knee stacks have to be thick to minimize damage from striking the knee on the ice surface. But neither should they visibly bulge outward from the rest of the pad when in a goalie’s natural stance.

    The rulebook has pretty consistently read that a goalie’s gear is to protect from shots, not to give extra net coverage or undue help in making saves. And truth be told, we goalies get a break as it is: whose leg is honestly 11 inches wide at the shin? How is the paddle and blade for anything other than net coverage? As a goalie myself, I don’t have a problem with the new rules. The gear will improve in protection to keep up, the same way that it has evolved from the 1930’s to today, providing far better protection while being lighter and more flexible than anything before it. And goalies’ technique will evolve as well, if we want to stop those shots. We’d better have more tools in the box than just flaring out in the V and waiting for a puck to find us.

  32. Brandon

    This is ridiculous, next thing you know they will argue goalies are too good with these new regulations and will create even more pad regulations. I am only 5’10” and I wear 35″+2″ vaughn v5s and they fit my style perfectly. Why should shorter goalies like myself be made to use even smaller equipment then the bigger goalies when they already have there height advantage. But besides that point there is no lack of scoring in the NHL. We are getting 50 goal scorers quite regularly now along with 100 point totalers every year. If the NHL wants to get rid of the real game of hockey to put fans in the stands and make lacrosse scoring the average, then shame on them for getting rid of the game.

    • Johnny

      You’ve gotta be kidding me. I am 6’2″, and played with MAX 33″ pads before these new style pads care out. Now I use 35 +2s. I think you need to fix your *style* and learn to actually stop the puck and not let your pads do it for you bud. I have 5″ height on you with the same size pads… really??? Hahaha

  33. Scott

    If the NHL feels this will increase revenue, try avoiding the strikes.

  34. nygoalie

    What bother’s me about the reduction is the logic behind it. I think it is fair to say that a good amount of fans either play hockey or are parents of children who play. The pad reduction “supposedly” comes from fans wanting to see more goals. Well, last time I checked the pad reduction was not only for opposing goalies. Wait until the same fans who want to see more goals see them scored against their own team.
    Elite goalies will be fine. The true people who will suffer are the parents/fans who have kids that play in leagues that will adopt the new rules. Equipment is pricey enough (i donate all of my used gear to youth programs) and new rules only come back to hurt the fans in the long run.

    Who are we going to scapegoat for the “unhappy” fans then, Bettman?

  35. Mike

    If the knee stacks are brought to 4 inches high, a full thigh board, the width of the pad, the strap on knee
    pads under the pads and only a max of + 2 on the thigh rise, this should provide the correct protection
    for the goaltender and hopefully shut up the lovers of five hole goals. The higher knee stacks should help
    reduce the MCL and meniscus injuries. Also if the knee sits higher on the stack and the thigh board edge
    sits closer to the ice overlapping the knee stack, pucks should be much less likely to penetrate. The reason I say this is because I’ve had a piece of my femur removed from a puck, just because of the thinner knee stacks. Any less protection should be unacceptable.

  36. Rodger Harris

    I played goalie for a high level traveling team back in the 60’s – I think the equipment has gotten way out of hand of protecting the goalie and beyond that. Today they can sit on top of their pads that go flush with the ice and cover the entire bottom of the net. (Extended to the sides with inside of pads flush on the ice and knees together) Butterfly. The can glide from post to post. That’s not hockey the pads have gotten way too big. Equipment was suppose to be for protection. We need smaller pads. Also get rid of the shoot out it really takes away from the excitement of the game.