NHL goalies give league-mandated slimmer pants mixed reviews

Original Source: ERIC DUHATSCHEK - The Globe and Mail

Posted on: Feb 07, 2017

Like any fraternity that finds itself under constant fire, NHL goaltenders tend to close ranks. For most of the past 40 years, goalies have been fiercely protective of the equipment they wear to fend off pucks, often fired at them at more than 100 miles per hour.

Nothing better illustrates the way that equipment has evolved than when one of the goalie greats passes away; photos and televised highlights of the start of his career show him in the skinniest of gear, looking like a scarecrow.

Now, no matter how small he is off the ice, every NHL goalie has ballooned in size to Michelin Man proportions.

That’s because goalie equipment underwent a metamorphosis. Instead of just protecting the netminders – its original purpose – it was redesigned over the years for another reason: to help them stop the puck.

Pads became lighter. Pants became wider. Shoulder pads grew and were sometimes designed to be worn with one pair affixed atop the other.

All that innovation coincided with a time when NHL scoring was sinking fast. It was easy to see a direct correlation – and to recognize that the simplest way to get a scoring uptick was to rein in the size of goalie equipment.

But simple is probably not the best way to describe the process. It has been anything but. There has been foot-dragging every step of the way – mostly by goalies, of course, who didn’t want to lose the competitive advantage that their bloated gear provided.

Finally, on Saturday night, a small but potentially game-changing initiative, years in the making, took its first tentative step.

Goaltenders were obliged to wear new, slimmed-down pants. The rounder pant leg has been contoured to fit individual goalies and, among other things, does not flare out the way previous versions did. Some goalies had been trying out the design for weeks; others waited until the 11th hour to adopt the new pants.

Most seemed to find the new, form-fitting pants a bit snug. Over all, the reviews were mixed, with much of the support coming from the goalies who advocated for the changes – the likes of Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils) and Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals).

Shrinking the pants is supposed to be just the first part of a comprehensive equipment overhaul; the rest of the changes will be rolled out this fall for the start of the 2017-18 NHL season.

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