Bigger's definitely not better

DAN TOTH

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

Goalies will go to great measures to protect their nets. As for their equipment, the NHL's best puck stoppers are willing to give an inch or two for the betterment of the game.

Martin Brodeur, expected to backstop Canada to a gold medal at the upcoming world hockey championship in Austria, has become a leading proponent of streamlining equipment, providing NHL nets remain untouched.

"It's a drastic change to alter the nets. You're touching a lot of things in terms of records and things like that and the way the game is played," Brodeur said yesterday after Team Canada's workout at Father David Bauer Arena.

"The goalies will be part of the puzzle to make the game better."

The New Jersey Devils' two-time Vezina Trophy winner with three Stanley Cup rings is considered the NHL's leading goaltender.

He has also taken a prominent stance on changes facing the game if and when the revamped league returns to the ice.

Brodeur has been involved in meetings with NHL executives pondering changes intended to increase goals and scoring chances, while also looking at streamlining goalie equipment and possibly enlarging nets, which Brodeur calls a last resort.

"We're able to work with them but we have to make some changes to open up the game," said Brodeur, part of a goaltending fraternity that has protected a 6-ft.-by-4-ft. cage, standardized since 1926.

"Because I have smaller equipment on, it doesn't mean I'll get more shots on net and more chances against me. We're part of the puzzle but they need to take care of other things as far as rules to open up the game but we're a big part of it.

"It's not just the pads -- the length, the width, the gloves, too -- but it's other things like the barrel effect with the pants with oversized equipment. We need to taper down the size of the equipment, customized to each of the goalies, and not just make a rule for the league so a guy who's 6-foot-6 is penalized because a guy who's 5-foot-6 is wearing huge equipment."

Brodeur and a dozen other NHL netminders recently attended meetings with league GMs.

Although the focus is on reducing the size of goalie equipment while maintaining safety concerns, Brodeur said if goalies and the NHLPA don't get on board, the nets will eventually grow.

"The new nets were in the meeting rooms and nobody wants that. It could be Plan B which nobody wants, not even the GMs, but it could be if we don't co-operate," Brodeur said.

Dallas Stars netminder Marty Turco, also sweating through drills in Team Canada's camp, sees NHL goalies earning an assist in transforming the game.

"My personal stance is two words: Fair and safe," said the Sault Ste. Marie product.

"Marty and I and other goalies who attended the meetings believe our involvement will help right the process and get the equipment issue resolved. We're using the equipment and we understand what's protection and what's not.

"We also believe it will help the integrity of policing it. We want it to be fair so there's no advantage or disadvantage either way."

As for larger or even odd-shaped prototype cages recently under discussion, Turco suggests they are unacceptable.

"I don't think the nets are an option," Turco insisted.

"Just from a practical standpoint, the nets are the only ones we've ever played with, along with every other goaltender anywhere in the world who's played with the same nets, not those stupid prototypes we saw on TV."


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