SUN Hockey Pool

Goalies want no part of it

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The National Hockey League unveiled some of its prototype equipment yesterday, and the men who are the most affected -- the league's goalies -- were not overly impressed.

They say they don't have a problem with smaller equipment. But they do have a problem with equipment that could cause them injury.

About 15 goalies, along with forwards Trevor Linden and Brendan Shanahan, were given a preview of the equipment on the eve of today's meeting of NHL general managers.

Today, seven players -- Linden, Shanahan, Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco, Steve Yzerman, Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer -- will take part in the discussions as the GMs try to revamp the rules in the hope of winning back fans.

Also in the room yesterday were four nets -- one standard, the other three variations on the theme. One was rectangular but larger than the regulation four feet high and six feet wide. Another was the bowed variety with standard height and width at the corners but with arched pipes. The third was also six feet wide at the base but the pipes moved out at a 45-degree angle before becoming vertical.

Whatever the league might decide to do with regard to net size -- probably nothing -- is acceptable to the goalies. If it's standard throughout the league, it's fine.

But the proposed 10-inch pads caused much concern. To the layman, it might seem that the goalies were just being difficult. Pads go from 12 inches to 10 inches. So what?

The problem is that goalies have different styles, and what might not affect one goalie could be dangerous to another.

A lot of goalies, for instance, wear their pad straps loose. That way, when they're standing, the pads are perpendicular to the direction of the shot. But when they drop into the butterfly position, they still want those pads to be vertical and in order to do so, the pads have to slide around the leg.

So far, so good. But when that pad slides around, if it's only 10 inches deep, it leaves an area of the goalie's leg exposed. Given the speed of today's shots, no goalie wants to be in that position.

Tighten the pads? If the goalies who use this style do that, then they are uncomfortable. Discomfort negatively affects their game. More importantly, they must now over-rotate their hips in order to get the pads into the required position.

Already, butterfly goalies are suffering hip problems so severe that they require surgery. With 10-inch pads, the problem would be worsened considerably.

Over the years, NHL goalies have developed distinctive styles and customized their equipment. Now, the league is asking them to standardize, and the complaint is that some would be more affected than others.

Brodeur, for instance, is a stand-up goalie. He would be less affected by a smaller pad than someone like Turco.

CHEATING

There's also the matter of the "cheater flap." This is a flap of solid material, roughly six inches deep, that is attached to the inside of the goalie pad near the top.

These flaps allow the butterfly goalie to block the net without closing the five hole. He can keep his knees apart but the flaps will cover the open space, allowing him to seal off the entire bottom quarter of the net -- post to post for the 12-inch height of the pads.

When hockey returns, the cheater pads probably won't.

What about the blockers? They seem innocuous enough, just a covered, rectangular piece of solid plastic covering the non-catching hand.

But some goalies have blockers that are not flat. In the upper part, above the wrist, they flare out. That allows the goalie to take shots off the blocker and redirect them into the seats. If the blocker were flat, the puck would be more likely to drop somewhere in front of him.

Years ago, when goalies started to alter their equipment, the league did nothing. Getting the situation under control now is going to be like getting toothpaste back into the tube.


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