Changes to Goalie Gear Far From Simple
Former NHL goaltender turned media analyst Corey Hirsch re-opened the goalie gear debate last night, with a neatly produced segment during the second intermission of Colorado’s game with Montreal:
Undoubtedly a hot button topic across the NHL right now, the handwringing continues over what is to be done about declining scoring numbers across the league.
The reality is, there is no simple solution, and changing goalie gear is only a tiny piece of the puzzle – but one which could have safety repercussions for the league’s crease commanders.
Dive in to the issue and you’ll find goaltenders are not opposed to changing their equipment. Many acknowledge that there are loopholes which can be exploited (bigger pants/shorts for example) and that sensible changes can be made.
You’ll also find that the ‘cheater’ does have legitimate safety benefits – as well as one of the most ill advised names in sports. If we’re frank, the only thing it is cheating anyone out of is a serious thumb injury, so negligible are it’s actual puck stopping benefits when stacked up over the course of a season.
But there in lies the problem. Many treat the issue in broad strokes.
Hirsch’s segment makes some good arguments, but there are areas which could and should be strongly refuted by the goaltending community (the puck stopping qualities of knee pads for example).
The ‘gloss’ of the piece – more down to clever production than anything – is enough to sway those with only a surface view of the situation though. Those who see scoring decline and believe it is purely down to equipment size that modern goaltenders save percentages are so much better than their predecessors.
Simply proclaiming gear should get smaller is almost sloppy. Lazy.
But effective change is hard to bring about.
Technological improvements and proper examination of current equipment can identify what can be tweaked, slimmed and adjusted. But it needs to be done with safety in mind, and an understanding that it will not radically change things.
Changes in technique, combined with the advent of physically larger goaltenders, cannot be so easily dealt with. The position has moved on. The flailing goaltenders of the 1980s are long gone and any slimming of gear will only provide a temporary solution.
Make no mistake, goaltenders will adapt to the new sizing, and defences will adapt in turn to aid their cage men.
It might be popular to take aim at the goalies, and particularly their gear. But that ignores the more fundamental changes the position has undergone. Changes that cannot be undone.
Likewise it does not account for the greatly improved defensive play of modern teams – who are better drilled and organised than ever before.
But then, saying such thing doesn’t make for a very good intermission segment…