Marty Brodeur vs. Henrik Lundqvist: The Pad Size Wars

Greg Wyshynski

The NHL has mandated that goalies reduce their pads by about 10 percent for the 2013-14. On a goalie with a 20-inch upper leg pad, the pads can only go up to nine inches above the knee, which is two inches shorter than the previous limits. Butterfly goalies that used the tops of their pads to keep pucks out might now find a few more trickling by them.

Previously, the NHLPA argued that safety was the major concern to goalies in keeping their equipment large.

“Safety’s not the major issue anymore,” said Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, who took part in meetings that resulted in the rules change. “What we’re trying to attack is this equipment that’s not about safety, but about taking up space. Goalies don’t fear getting hurt by pucks anymore as much as they fear pucks getting through them.”

McPhee said the NHL wanted to honor those goaltenders with skill and agility, and knock those who rely too heavily on their equipment down a notch.

“I was part of the discussions this summer with Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider. They all use smaller equipment because they’re more athletic and mobile. And so we’d like to see more of that,” he said.

“If you’re a fan watching those players on one end of the rink, giving their team a chance to win, and somebody at the other end of the rink making saves they’re not actually making … we want to address some of those things.”

McPhee’s Capitals faced Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers four times in the last five seasons. McPhee’s captain, Alex Ovechkin, infamously chided Lundqvist for the size of his pads back in 2009.

McPhee didn’t specify who these “goalies making saves they’re not actually making” are, but Lundqvist has come under fire before for this size of his gear.

One of the latest jabs came, subtly and indirectly, from Martin Brodeur of the rival New Jersey Devils, who told Fire & Ice:

“There’s goalies - I won’t name names, but they’re not too far – they have different padding that it’s not about protection,” Brodeur said. “There’s a lot of guys that do wear these type of things because the pads are so loose guys feel the need to bulk their knees up for protection, but sometimes it’s overboard a little bit.”

… “When you look on the other side, you want to make sure the guy is playing a certain way and has the equipment that fits his body to at least be fair play to a certain extent.”

The NY Post followed up with Lundqvist, who said:

Lundqvist reluctantly acknowledged on Monday morning that he was aware of the remark. “I know people have thought that I look big out there, but that’s never been an issue with me,” The King told The Post before surrendering one goal on 15 shots in 30:44 against the Devils.

“I know I’m ‘not too far’ but I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

What this all comes down to is the usual “my kung-fu is the stronger kung-fu!” boasting that you hear all the time from goalies, like Luongo’s “it’s a save I would have made” thing with Tim Thomas during the Cup Final. Every goalie thinks their style is best, every goalie thinks they wear the proper gear while the others are cheating.

Go back to 2003 with Brodeur, and he was singing the same tune about the NHL limiting the height on pads 10 years ago. From the Canadian Press:

"I've always preferred less bulky equipment so I could move around easier. Certain goaltenders have really gone too far in the last few years and I can understand why the league wants to stop it."

New York Islanders goalie Garth Snow was thought to have had the tallest pads last season and the chief reason why the league took action. "Garth Snow keeps adding pieces to his pads," said Brodeur. "And his shoulder pads are so big he looks like Goldorak, the robot I watched killing the bad guys on TV when I was a kid."

DANG, a Goldorak reference …

Brodeur also took time to acknowledge that shooters felt Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a butterfly goalie with beneficial padding, was someone targeted for his equipment.

So this is what Marty does, because he’s always had smaller gear – save for his change in equipment two years ago -- and watched the league become populated with those “making saves they aren’t really making” netminders.

It’s not necessarily fair to Lundqvist, who’s a goalie I’ve always felt was masterful in his technique and positioning and not someone that was a product of Stay-Puft Marshmallow pads.

But the world appears separated into two groups: Brodeur, McPhee and those who believe goalie padding should simply protect rather than enhance a goalie's performance, and the large percentage of netminders in the NHL that believes it can do both.