Corey Crawford has seen the tapes from the 1980s when goalies such as the Blackhawks’ Murray Bannerman wore those narrow leg pads, had flimsy trappers and chest protectors Yogi Berra might have used.
“Practice must have been (heck) for them,” Crawford joked. “Games not so bad, but practice must have been just murder.”
Now the NHL, concerned about low goal scoring, wants to make goaltenders reduce the size of their equipment, particularly the pads.
General managers voted unanimously last week at their meeting in Toronto to recommend to the competition committee to reduce the size of goalie equipment.
The issue isn’t the space the pads take up when the goaltender is upright; it’s how that padding above the knee makes the five-hole disappear when the goalie goes into the butterfly position.
Goaltenders right now are permitted to wear a pad that extends above the knee 55 percent of the distance between his knee and pelvis. The NHL wants that number to be closer to 45 percent.
It’s either that or make the nets bigger, which is what Red Wings Mike Babcock has suggested.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s how many goals are scored that makes a game exciting,” Crawford said. “I think it’s the speed and skill and passing. I think as long as a team is fast it will be exciting. Just because we get 10-8 hockey games doesn’t mean it’s exciting.
“I don’t think the size of the equipment really matters. Teams are going to find a way to score. Having 8-7 games every night is not the solution. If they do make a change, I don’t see it being too drastic.”
Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer told reporters in Toronto he will be all for shrinking the equipment of goalies if players go back to using Titan wooden sticks.
Crawford thinks part of the reason goaltenders have bigger and better equipment is to protect them from pucks that come off the blades of composite sticks at such a high rate of speed.
“Shots keep getting harder and for some reason goalie equipment has to go down,” Crawford said. “Whatever. I think people in general have gotten bigger. If they do make a change I hope it’s something that makes sense and isn’t too drastic.”
The competition committee will either pass the issue on to the board of governors for them to vote on or kill it.
“It’s always a topic since I took this job,” said Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations.
“When we’ve done it in the past, you’ve got to make sure we don’t expose goaltenders to injury. They play now to their equipment and how their equipment is fitted. That’s what we want to attack.”
The NHLPA’s Mathieu Schneider, who sat in on last week’s GM meetings, said the PA is willing to address the issue.
“The first thing is you want to make sure goalies are safe,” Schneider said. “The second thing that you want to look at is how has the goalie size changed the way the game is played? Does the equipment make a player better? I think players should have to rely on their own athletic ability.
“If the equipment is there and makes them a better player, gives them an advantage, cheating in a sense, then that’s what we want to get rid of.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville sees it as an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Goalies equipment is something everybody talks about over time,” Quenneville said. “Some guys do look like they are getting bigger and bigger, and that’s what we tried to stop a few years ago.
“Hopefully they’re going to keep on that track in that area.”
The GMs also discussed making visors mandatory. Those currently playing now without visors would be grandfathered into the rule and could continue to play without one.
“I think visors are probably a good idea,” Quenneville said. “When you see the pucks flying around, even in practice, things can happen in so many ways.”
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