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Time Running Short for NHL Goalie Gear Reductions

Time Running Short for NHL Goalie Gear Reductions

Henrik Lundqvist Stance Glove UP

Rangers Star Henrik Lundqvist would like to know what size pads he can wear in time to try them in early August. (InGoal photo by Scott Slingsby)

Henrik Lundqvist isn’t worried about the impending changes to goaltending equipment in the NHL – as long the New York Rangers’ star gets enough time to adjust to them.

“If they change it, as long as I have the new gear early August it should be fine,” Lundqvist wrote in an email to InGoal Magazine from his native Sweden.

It’s no longer a question of “if” when it comes to goalie equipment changes.

According to several sources close to the ongoing equipment talks, the NHL Players’ Association informally approved a reduction in the overall height of goalie pads at its meetings last week after an internal survey showed strong support for change. Unfortunately, that polling – and therefore the approval – wasn’t specific enough for the NHL, leaving questions about interpretation and implementation of the new pad height restrictions, while also failing to address the League’s request for smaller kneepads.

It set up a potentially contentious meeting between the two sides in New York late this week. Meanwhile equipment manufacturers, many with goalies already wanting new gear for summer skates, await final measurements so they can start producing next year’s equipment.

The NHLPA voted to lower the maximum allowance for the knee-to-hip measurement – it was introduced before the 2010-11 season as part of the new sizing charts for all goaltenders – from 55 per cent to 45 per cent. With the average NHL measurement around 20 inches that 10 per cent reduction would equate to two lost inches in pad height, and given most goalies use the top of their pads to close the 5-hole when they are down on the ice, it could mean an additional four-inch opening in the butterfly.

Victor Fasth does not run his bootstrap through the skate - which allows his pads to rise higher on his leg

Victor Fasth, like Lundqvist, does not run his bootstrap through the skate – which allows his pads to rise higher on his leg. (InGoal photo by Kasey Spatz).

It is not an insignificant change, but it did not address a proposal to make that a separate enforceable measurement rather than just one part of the overall formula for each goalie’s pad height. And without specifically limiting the amount of pad above the knee – known commonly as the thigh rise – the NHL fears more goalies will simply follow a recent trend that has seen some adjust how they wear and build their pads in order to push more of their maximum up the leg and into the 5-hole when they drop into the butterfly.

The League also wants a maximum thigh rise of eight inches above the knee stack – the area a goalie lands on when they drop – but that wasn’t addressed. Neither was a proposal to further shrink and contour the kneepads goalies wear behind their leg pads, and again the fear is more goaltenders will simply adopt the larger padding that many already wear to help close any openings in the 5-hole.

There was also talk of eliminating straight pads and forcing a curve above the knee, though how much was unclear.

At this point, it appears the NHLPA intends to make kneepads part of a larger discussion about equipment – for goalies and players – that will be undertaken by a subcommittee formed by the joint competition committee. But that group is still a couple of weeks away from meeting, and even if they came to a quick decision, manufacturers already believe it is too late to make changes for this season.

Stars like Lundqvist may get gear in early August, but goalies further down the depth chart could be waiting until training camp.

“The time line is very tight,” said Mike Vaughn, owner and president of Vaughn equipment, which outfitted almost 30 NHL goalies last season – and many more in the AHL. “We really do need more time and the players need more time so they can practice and get use to any changes, plus if it goes beyond just size of gear such as thickness or shape of a product we need time to test to make sure protection is not compromised.”

Some goalies worry about injury if all the changes are made immediately – either from puck impact to less protected knee or adjusting stance and style to close the 5-hole.

“I don’t have a problem with change, as long as the safety is the main focus,” Lundqvist wrote. “You might be able to cut a few things but we are getting close to how much you can push it. Now because of the changes I’m getting hit in places where in the past I was protected. You have to remember that the game is so much faster now, and the players shoot the puck harder and with a quicker release because of the new sticks.”

AHL veteran Mike McKenna conceded most goalies could probably lose an inch or two off the top of their pads, pointing to how many overlap when they drop. But McKenna, who recently signed a free agent contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, worried about opening up the 5-hole while also reducing the knee protection behind, adding that a lot of lower profile goalies don’t even get the option from their teams to buy the popular model of oversized kneepads, a carbon-fiber product from Switzerland that costs around $900.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is one of dozens of goalies that wears a brand of custom swiss-made kneepads the NHL wants to ban (InGoal file photo)

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is one of dozens of goalies that wears a brand of custom swiss-made kneepads the NHL wants to ban (InGoal file photo)

“Ask any goalie and they’ll tell you: taking a shot off the knee – and the subsequent damage it does – is crippling,” McKenna said. “On top of the pain, it reduces the knee’s natural range of motion. Basically, if you get hit hard, you’re going to be out at least a week, and maybe up to a month depending if there’s any structural damage.”

Amidst those concerns, it was interesting to note a suggestion from Lundqvist’s backup in New York, Martin Biron, to implement the equipment changes mid season.

“I think we are going deep in the summer which doesn’t leave much time to work on gear especially knee pads,” Biron told InGoal. “Would they be willing to put in the new changes in-season? Let’s say by New Year all goalies would have to be in legal gear? That would give us time to work on gear and practice with it on an every day basis.”

The NHL would counter by pointing out their equipment change proposal was submitted when the competition committee first met way back in the first week of June, which should have provided plenty of time to test over the summer. More than six weeks later, none of that testing has taken place and there is growing concern the full list of changes may go the way of the original sizing chart, which after a summer of squabbling was delayed by one season over concerns there wasn’t enough time for goalies to adjust.

As for how the goalies will adjust, it’s too soon to tell, but most suspect well.

“I’m not sure how it will effect my game,” Lundqvist wrote. “I would say that the last change they did in 2005 probably helped me. It was easier to move. I felt quicker. First few weeks were tough, but as soon as I got used to it I think it was actually better.”

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

    I know that the NHL’s main focus with a reduction of the thigh rise is to allow more five-hole goals, but how often do you actually see an NHL goalie make a save with the thigh rise? Almost all of their saves are done with other areas of the pad, the stick, or possibly the knee pads/stacks. Just look at where all the puck marks are located; the mid and bottom of the pad and on the stick. Reducing the thigh rise may allow more goals in some cases, but I doubt all games will be blowouts from now on.

    • Andrew

      I agree. Watch any game throughout an NHL season, and I’m guessing you’ll see a goal go through the wickets at least once usually, and sometimes more. It happens really frequently even with guys that have huge thigh rises. A lot of people seem to overlook that.

    • Al Maio

      Guys, the goalies in the league and almost every pro is at least 6’0 and over what is the real reason this was brought up?. From what I see goals are up. Pro hockey is strong, there is less room because the athlete is bigger, taller and stronger. The modification really means nothing because its not going to facilitate anything except get your goaltender hurt. The equipment was already modified to everyone and to the NHL. Goaltenders are letting in more pucks and the shooters look like they are shooting pucks out of a gun. If this train of thought continues NHL stars and future prospects probably feel the hell with it go to Europe and play without the equipment micromanagement. If I may be so bold the stars like Lundquist and luongo will probably want to leave a league that forces goals with algebraic modifications. It’s a JOKE!!!!!!

      • DSM

        You have to remember the league is run by a lawyer. Lawyers parse very small details and think they all mean the world. Outside of the legal rulebook, this is rarely true.

        If anyone thinks that reducing equipment size is going to create this massive upshot in goals, they’re wrong long-term. The only thing you’ll see is a possible uptick as goalies adjust, but just like last time, they will — and then the league will have to find another excuse. Let’s just eliminate goalie coaches since clearly modern shooters are so helpless.

        This actually hurts goalies in lower leagues that have to adopt these new changes and shell out for new gear that’s utterly unrelated to the level they play in.

    • Michael Leppert

      The size of leg pads is one thing to consider, but the increased ability of goalies to stop shots has a lot to do with the weight of the pads. Esposito and Dryden had to contend with heavy, stiff pads that were like wearing a couch on each leg. Today’s pads are a fraction of the weight, allowing an athletic goalie the ability to move his legs more quickly. If the league really wants to see more scoring, simply make it illegal for anyone but defensemen to block shots. Keep forwards out of the lanes and voila! more scoring. Real simple.

  2. Michal

    So with less protection on the goalies I hope they plan on reducing the quality of the players stick so the puck doesn’t travel as fast. Always messing with the goalies. They really don’t realize that if a player comes in closer to shoot, that there is a great, not just greater, chance to score. So if they want more goals they should make the NHL more like INLINE HOCKEY, which I do not support, but just saying.

  3. dan

    I think they need to decide either one or the other. I have pads with only a +1 thighrise which I wear lower. I have RBK P2 kneepads, which are a bit bigger. But seriously….without them, I’m sure I’d have no knee caps left from puck impacts. This is the NHL, where shots are MUCH faster, harder and quicker than any top tier beer league teams. They should at least give the option of which one to implement, given that to skimp knee protection on both fronts would mean a lot of injuries.

  4. Alba

    Change goalie gear all you want. That is not the reason for a goal droughts. Go back to when obstruction was first enforced a few years back. Clutching and grabbing has crept back into the game. .Keep hitting, but allow movement in the offensive zone as it should be allowed. Scoring will be up. 2″ of goalie pads will make little difference in either circumstance. Yes goalies are bigger and better. BUt shooters are bigger and better and have plastic sticks that the puck leaps off of. Let the offensive players play and there will be plenty of goals.

  5. Matt in Montreal

    You know what I wanna see?

    I wanna see Hank play when the Rangers come to town. Biron always gets the net, but at least it’s always a Habs win! 😉

  6. John B

    I personally think that with the pads smaller..there could be more room for injury..Make the gloves smaller..they don’t call the catching glove a “cheater” for nothing.. Maybe make the pads an inch narrower..

  7. Tony in Winnipeg

    How much faster are the pucks traveling since the 80’s? Number one consideration must be safety otherwise if the NHL wants to see more goals then why not just eliminate the goaltenders altogether?

  8. steve

    Enough with reducing the goal equipment already! This was done after the last lock-out without much difference… If you want to increase scoring, do something that gives the shooters the edge, like increasing the diameter of the stick curve like the old WHA did. This makes the shots take off and fly much faster, which makes it more challenging for us goaltenders.

    • Nick H.

      ^^^ This…

  9. Nick

    Common guys these goalies need all the protection they can get. I get the thigh rise some almost look so large and redicilious that they don’t even fit? But knee guards come on!! I took a short shot to the knee and it was a 8 inch bruise and a cut, 9 plus years later my knee still hurts! 11 inch width is fine any shorter why even have a goalie at all? I feel the NHL is almost punishing goalies for getting so good that’s really bum. Wanna see more goals, I don’t get it? It’s hockey not basketball

  10. Quick

    They are taking things to far with the knee pads, honestly no one should mess with protection at a professional level, if they really want more goals they should go back to making the nets larger. With these changes they’re increasing injuries, not goals

  11. Jay

    Not sure what the emphasis on thigh rise is about… I have watched more pucks go in from thigh rises overlapping than I have from them being too small. by the time I’m in the butterfly my knees are tight together. it might help in a screen situation but thats pretty much all. It’s a yearly coloumnist topic that is highly overrated. I didn’t even notice the difference when the gloves were reduced last time.. its not gunna help.

  12. Paul

    Either shorten the thigh rise and leave the knee pads alone, or the other way around, not both. How about looking at the goalie pad size shin guards that the defenseman wear and all the shots they block. Not just the size of goalie gear needs to be looked at. A blocked shot has no chance of becoming a goal.

  13. Concerned Keeper

    Are you kidding me? No knee pads? Are they trying to maim their tenders?? You know, it’s ludicrous. Goalies spend their whole lives training with the best of the best in order to become the best. And, once they finally do become incredible, they’re forced by the league to step down? That makes no sense! Goalies let in sufficient amounts of goals, even our NHL star tenders. We see games go up to 9-10 goals fairly often, is that not enough? Why compromise the safety (and life-time of effort+performance) of our favorite athletes, for an extra one to two goals, IF that?
    Wake up, NHLPA. Goalies already stand little chance versus pucks traveling 100+mph. Why injure them?

  14. Jamaal James

    If they want to increase scoring, all they have to do is get rid of the offside rule altogether, call interference more tightly, and stop players from blocking shots. If ever there was incentive to stop them from doing so, it was Gregory Campbell’s broken leg during the playoffs. Keepers are there to stop the puck, so let them do their job. When you look at the stats in games these days, there are a lot of times where the number of blocked shots is close to, and even sometimes exceeds, the number of shots on goal. That’s where your trouble scoring comes from…not the goalie’s equipment.

  15. Paddy

    It would be nice to finally see Corey Crawford wear pads that fit! LOL

  16. Shoomi

    Yup, don’t mess with a Goalies protection. It’s a big part of keeping those crazy guys between the pipes comfortable and confident. My guess is if too many knee injuries start to occur, less kids may want to be goalies or their parents may not let them….

  17. Ed

    If this is the only issue that the NHL has to improve the game, it is time for a league wide enema! Stop doing make work projects and pay attention to what goes on during a season. Goalies are not the reason behind complaints about the game.
    WAKE UP, people!

  18. Larry

    I run a training center that specializes in the off-ice training and development of goalies and I completely understand why they want to take an inch or two of the goalie pads, but taking away any protection from the knee & thigh area from underneath the goalie pads and goalie pants is going to end someone’s career. I had a junior aged goalie get hit in the knee this summer during his on-ice training session and the injury he sustained took him off the ice and kept him out of his off-ice training program for five weeks. And he was wearing top of the line knee & thigh guards. Does the NHL really believe that putting the fear of getting hurt in an NHL goalie is really the best way to achieve there goals of increasing scoring! WHAT A JOKE!!!!!

  19. paulszabo

    More than one goalie posting a reponse has stated the obvious: the obstruction and shot blocking has more impact on goal scoring than tinkering with equipment. Why do we goalies underatand this but not the NHL brass??

  20. Joe

    I say limit the height of the goalies themselves! LOL Go back and look at the short goalies from back in the day. No goalies over 5′ 10″, goals will increase! Given the sheer size of today’s goalies it’s a miracle that any goals are scored.

  21. Some_goalie

    I love people saying that blocked shots should not be allowed. Because that’s possible to enforce. Smaller leg pads = fine. Messing with knee protection = no, with the possible exception of five-hole flaps (those have saved me goals that I had no business saving). At least in terms of direct knee protection, goalies should be afforded anything they can play with, flexibility-wise. I don’t really see that being unfair/making saves – any save I’ve ever made with a knee pad would have hit my knee anyway.

  22. John

    What is the brand name of the knee pads used by many profesionals mentioned in the article? ($900) Are cheaper alternatives available?