When the NHL’s general managers got together last week in Toronto, one of the issues discussed was implementing new rules to reduce the size of goaltenders’ equipment.
This is nothing new to anyone who remembers former Flyers goaltender and current Islanders general manager Garth Snow propping up his shoulder pads in the mid-to-late 1990s.
“From what I heard he had something that forced his chest protector to push up whenever he went down in the butterfly,” Capitals goaltending instructor Olie Kolzig recalled. “I think he also had some airfoils tucked underneath his jersey. He looked like he just came out of a NASCAR race.”
Ironically, Snow was on one of the GM committees that advocated a crackdown on the rules he helped implement.
“Yeah, but when I did it there weren’t any rules,” Snow said with a wry smile during the Caps’ 3-2 loss to the Isles Tuesday night. “I know we have a goalie [Evgeni Nabokov] who we need to talk into wearing extra equipment and padding.”
The big concern among GMs is that shooters simply aren’t seeing enough net at which to shoot.
“Look at a goalie in the ‘80s and today and there’s a big difference in net coverage,” Snow said. “I think the protection has gotten so good there’s no net to shoot at. Goalies aren’t afraid to get hurt; they can play the game on their knees and not have to worry about breaking a collar bone or fracturing a knee cap.”
Ron Hextall, another former NHL goaltender now serving as an assistant general manager for the Los Angles Kings, said he agrees the cheating needs to stop.
“Shooters have to see more net, we all know that,” he said. “We need to make goaltenders make more saves instead of just blocking shots.
“There are a lot of little tricks they are doing, putting things on their knees so they’re taller when they are kneeling.”
Hextall estimates goalie equipment is 25 percent larger than is was 20 years ago and that the NHL needs to establish stricter guidelines for shoulder and chest padding, catching gloves, blockers, legs pads and the padding inside goalie pants.
Kolzig agrees, to an extent.
“If there are guys out there trying to use the extra padding as an advantage, certainly they need to crack down on it,” Kolzig said, “but you can’t take away the protection of the goaltenders, especially the way the players shoot nowadays.”
Said Snow: “I don’t think there are any issues with decreasing the size of equipment and increasing the risk of injury.”
Before new guidelines are implemented the NHLPA would need to approve any equipment changes and the league would need to come up with ways to enforce them.
“You’ve got to fine and start suspending guys,” Hextall said. “After a game you take them right off the ice, right into a room and make sure they comply. And you’ve got to stay on it. You’ve got to have a couple [officials] go around and measure. You’ve got to be diligent about it and stick with it.”