How do Current Goalies Feel About Rule Changes to Goaltending Equipment?
By Matt Ouellette and Brian Daccord
Despite the myriad of rule changes in the NHL to increase scoring, goalies continue to adapt and come out on top. Therefore shrinking goalie equipment is once more a hot topic and will continue to be throughout the season. The Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education surveyed 68 current goalies of all age and skill level about their thoughts on the matter. Our results may surprise you.
The first question asked in our survey was whether or not you think that as a whole, goaltending equipment is too big right now. Only 15% of goalies said that they believed goalie gear is too big. 90% of those who answered yes were younger than 25 years old.
The next question asked was whether or not the current style of goaltending is “boring” to watch. While 15% answered that goalie gear was too big, not one person surveyed said that today’s style should be considered boring.
The 3rd question was what piece or pieces of equipment would you like to see shrunk down. The respondents were allowed to chose all that applied. The most obvious answer at 47% was none, which comes as no surprise as this survey was answered by goalies only. The next option was the chest and arms at 38%.
This is the most commonly talked about piece of equipment at the moment. While some believe that slimming the C/A down would trigger more scoring, it could come at a cost of more injuries for goalies. “I don’t want something that fits so tightly there’s no air gap (to) suppress the impact,” Ryan Miller of the Canucks told the Vancouver Sun. “I don’t want to get hit in the ribs or the collarbone. I don’t really want to get hit anywhere where it’s going to do some major damage. These are pretty extreme changes to important parts of the body (Feschuk, Downsizing NHL Goalie Equipment).” Garret Sparks, Goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs said “You can’t take too much away from the gear as it is and expect guys not to get hurt, Safety is the number one concern… I get dinged up every day. I can’t imagine, if things were a little tighter fitting, how much more it would hurt. When people ask me what it feels like to get hit by a puck, I equate it to getting sucker-punched in the arm by one of your buddies. You’re not going to the hospital because of it, but it doesn’t feel good (Feschuk, Downsizing NHL Goalie Equipment).”
The next highest option was the pants which is another common area that being looked at to reduce. Robin Lehner of the Buffalo Sabres said “It’s just not consistent through the league. A lot of goalies have way-too-big equipment on. They can fit four sets of arms in one sleeve of the chest protector. I know guys in this league who wear player pants underneath their goalie pants. That’s how big their pants are. You see guys look like absolute monsters on the ice. It’s nuts. You can have guys weigh 175 and they look like a 300-pound sumo wrestler out there.” (Traikos, Guys Look Like Absolute Monsters)
The leg pads were only chosen by 12% of those who answered our survey. Leg pads were reduced again in the 2013-2014 season and scoring did not increase. In fact, scoring decreased again.
The Following question asked what pieces of equipment should be off limits to reduction. Again, respondents were allowed to chose more than one option. The stick was the highest option at 58%. The goalie stick has largely not changed over the years except for the curved blade we see on almost every stick today. Why change something that has been the same for so long? Interestingly, leg pads were the next highest option at 57%. This suggests that leg pads have been targeted enough in the past. The next highest options were the glove with 50% and the blocker with 47%. These are more pieces of equipment that have been reduced over the years and have only made goalies faster.
The next question was whether your mental approach would change when making saves due to smaller equipment. 70% answered yes with the majority saying that smaller equipment makes it more likely to get hurt so they would be more timid in net. A few also said that they would have to play more aggressively to compensate for the extra openings in the net.
When asked if smaller goaltending equipment would deter future goalies from playing the position, 53% said no and and 47% said yes. Youth organizations are having enough trouble as it is to get goalies to try it out. With smaller equipment kids may be less likely to try it out of fear of getting hurt.
The reason the league is trying to reduce goalie equipment again is to increase average scoring. Reducing the size of goaltending equipment might be one way to do that but as we’ve seen before, it is unlikely. Other options have been thrown around including bigger nets, a larger ice surface, an increase in penalties called, and a decrease in shot blocking. Our survey found that 30% beleive that a larger ice surface would increase scoring followed by 15% believes that a decrease in shot blocking would help. Only 11% said that larger nets will increase scoring the best. “The smaller equipment might make a minimal difference. But I just don’t see it. The net’s too small for the size of the guys that are playing in it, and they’re too good. In the old days you used to get to look at the net. Now the net’s gone. You can’t even see the net.” -MIke Babcock (Feschuk, Downsizing NHL Goalie Equipment)
The final question was if more goals were scored during a game, would that make it a more fun and exciting game to watch? Only 8% said yes. Soccer, which is the most popular sport in the world usually ends in tight, low scoring games. Maybe there is a reason why the sport is so popular. The games are always close and gives more value when a goal is scored.
As the debate rages on, are NHL goalies finally on board with shrinking goalie gear for what is hopefully the last time? “The best goalies in the league don’t want big stuff,” Whitmore told reporters at league meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “They actually want to put this to bed forever and say, ‘We’re great no matter what we wear.’ ” (Feschuk, Downsizing NHL Goalie Equipment)
~ Brian Daccord is a former goalie coach of the Boston Bruins and currently the goaltending coach of Adler Mannheim in the German DEL. He is a co-founder of the Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education and founder of Stop It Goaltending. Matt Ouellette is a former goaltender and an Endicott College graduate.
Feschuk, Dave. “Downsizing NHL Goalie Equipment worth a Shot: Feschuk | Toronto Star.” Thestar.com. N.p., 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Traikos, Micheal. “‘Guys Look like Absolute Monsters’: Goalies Finally on Board as NHL Tackles Growing Problem of Equipment Size.”National Post. N.p., 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.