WASHINGTON, DC – Every inch counts when it comes to goalie equipment and increasing goal-scoring (at least in theory). A little off the pads. A more constricting chest protector. Or, as NHL fans will see this beginning in the 2016-17 season, snugger pants.
“They’re going to be tighter. More like skinny pants. I don’t know. Slim-fit,” said Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
While a slew of others goalie equipment changes have been delayed – due to a stalemate between the NHL and the NHLPA, as well as expected manufacturing delays – it appears the League will lessen the size of the netminders’ tricky trousers by the start of the season.
“We’re going to get reduced pants size early in the season, as early as opening night,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly last week.
Basically, the aim for the NHL’s new restrictions on pants size is to get goalies to wear gear that actually fits their body type.
For example, Vancouver Canucks goalie Jakob Markstrom has been known to wear loose-fitting pants that were within regulations, but only because those regulations encompass a spectrum of different goalie sizes. Now, the pants will fit the goalie. “If you have a skinny waist, you should have skinnier pants. I think it’s pretty reasonable,” said Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils, an influential voice on the equipment changes.
Another trick that’s assumed to be taken out of the goalies’ bag is leaving the laces in front of the pants untied – no more laces on these new pants. Also, the “skinny pants” materials will be tighter to the body. InGoal Magazine editor Kevin Woodley estimated that “as much as six inches” at the waist could be shaved off a goalie like Markstrom with the new regulations.
“They seem to think it will make a difference. I don’t know. It might affect some guys more than others,” said Schneider
While goalies might be down for changing their pants, what about the other equipment changes? Some could be made in-season, according to Bill Daly.
“We hope to be able to implement, over the course of the season, some changes to the goaltending equipment. Shrinking the equipment. We’ve had some delays related to the manufactures,” he said.
That includes changes to the chest protector for goalies, with the aim again to slim them down and make it tighter to the body.
The idea that goalies would agree to these changes coming in-season is hard to fathom, especially when they’re been working to delay the changes behind the scenes, according to Mark Spector of Sportsnet:
Self-preservation has caused a cadre of goalies to bog down the process of deciding how form fitting equipment can get while remaining safe, constantly changing the parameters and slowing the manufacturing process to a crawl. Also, some goalies are asking for comprehensive safety testing to take place before they are forced to use the gear, something that can not take place until the standards and measurements are agreed upon by the NHL and the NHLPA, and the equipment manufactured.
Said Schneider to ESPN last month: “I think once the season gets going and you’re in it, you have so much to worry about anyways [that] I don’t think guys are going to want to try to break something new in.”
What’s clear is that the NHL and the NHLPA are working toward streamlining goalie gear despite these protests. But that doesn’t mean the protests won’t continue from goalies who’d rather not have their gear tinkered with.
“They keep trying to make changes,” said Bishop. “Maybe the goalies are too good, I guess.”
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.