Typically when sports equipment gets an overhaul, we associate it with improving safety in one way or another. But the latest change to NHL goal gear has some goalies feeling unsafe. Why? The issue with the new chest protectors is that the shoulder part has been reduced by about an inch. This makes them more formfitting, while also streamlining the padding around the goaltender’s arm. These changes are mandated by the NHL, in conjunction with the NHLPA for the 2018-2019 season. These changes were part of an ongoing process, which included changing the size of the pad during last season, to make goalies look like their actual size, rather than the gear making them look much larger. So the idea is to make the goalies look smaller, but why?
Back in the early 2000s, it was alleged that goalies were using their equipment to gain an advantage. The bigger you are, the better your chances of stopping a goal. But that’s not the case anymore. Goalies are wearing the equipment for protection. With the smaller sized shoulders, goalies are either going to take it on the shoulder and walk away with quite an injury or they’re not going to try to stop the puck that way. Some are saying that goalies are physically getting larger, which is taking away from their ability to actually stop the puck. Like I said – the bigger you are, the less talent you need to stop a puck. You just have to take up space.
This has been an ongoing battle between the NHL and goalies when it comes to a reduction in equipment size. The league believes with more net to shot at, and without having larger than life goalies, players will score more goals. But goalies are worried that the reduction in equipment size will put their safety at risk. Specifically, around the size of the chest protector. Philadelphia Flyers goalie, Brian Elliott had this to say about the size reduction:
“I’m getting bruised like crazy on my arms. I think that’s the biggest issue, they take away padding in the arms. It seems like every shot that you take that’s not clean on your blocker or in your glove, it’s leaving a mark. They wanted more ‘formfitting,’ but when you have more formfitting there’s no give. There’s no air between you and your pads, so the puck is hitting your pad and at the same time it’s hitting your bones and your flesh so there’s no cushion.”
What seems to be happening is that goalies will end up wearing their old equipment during practice and then wear their new equipment during the games. The old equipment has new padding and a goalie could take up to 400 shots during practice. The number is far less during an actual game. Another issue for the goalies: The new chest protectors were delayed due to the manufacturing process, giving them little time to break them in. With the season just around the corner, this battle seems far from over, but until then, goalies in the NHL are required to wear the new chest protectors.