Changes to goaltender equipment will be a big part of the 2016-2017 NHL season. The league’s general managers are meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, and some decisions have been made regarding the size and uniformity of goalie gear.
Senior director of hockey operations Kay Whitmore confirmed that the league and the NHLPA have eyed several prototypes for equipment changes and will be seeking approval from both the competition committee and the NHL’s Board of Governors.
“If it takes a little more skill to play the position so be it,” Whitmore said. “Does this make scoring go up? I don’t know. That’s to be seen and that’s not the reason why we did it. This was (done) because we felt there was inequities within the goalies themselves and the best goalies have come out and said that. And that’s what’s driving the bus here.”
The changes will theoretically include reductions to the upper body of netminder equipment and to the pants. The gear will be more contoured to the body shake of the goalie and players violating the rule changes will be subject to suspension and/or fines as per the NHL’s existing rule regarding pad size.
Among the current NHL goalies in support of the changes are Cory Schneider and Braden Holtby.
“The best goalies in the league don’t want big stuff,” Whitmore said. “They actually want to put this to bed forever and say ‘We’re great no matter what we wear.’”
The league has danced around changes to goalie equipment for years now, with subtle changes (like shorter leg pads) making little to no difference. The changes to the upper body will be the most striking, with a lot of the bulk cut away.
The NHL has constantly sought ways to introduce more scoring to the game, with more rule-fiddling introduced at the general manager meetings to address the issue. Some suggestions have included changes to the way minor penalties are handled, like having the penalized team unable to ice the puck on the penalty kill.
But those more “radical” rule changes are less likely, especially as the league implements the aforementioned equipment changes. If a reliance on skill rather than bulk is achieved through this plan, the NHL might finally have addressed a long-standing issue between the pipes.