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NHL Goalie Pads: Size Matters

New NHL rule will challenge the "butterfly" goalies.

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Update, July 23/05 - New rule changes for the 2005-06 NHL season include further reductions in the size of goalie pads and gloves.

Aug. 27/03 -

A new NHL rule is aimed at reducing the overstuffed, Michelin Man look favored by goaltenders. In its latest effort to give shooters a fighting chance, the league has set new limits on the size of leg pads used by NHL goalies.

Beginning with the 2003-04 season, NHL goalie pads are limited to 38-inches (76 centimetres) in length. If a goaltender's pads are found to exceed the limit, his team will be fined $25,000 (US).

Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, says goalies will be monitored throughout the year. "We intend to strictly enforce this new standard by measuring goaltenders' pads on a regular basis during the season," said Campbell, in a statement issued by the league.

The NHL says about one-third of its goalies used pads longer than 38 inches last season. But the new limit will not mean a radical change for most. Those who will be forced to trim their pads include Garth Snow of the New York Islanders and perhaps Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers. Snow, in particular, is known for his super-sized equipment, with leg pads that reach as high as his waist.

Longer leg pads favor goaltenders who play the "butterfly" style. By dropping to his knees and splaying his legs to either side - like a butterfly's wings - a goalie with long pads can cover the entire bottom of the net from post to post.

Advances in recent years have made goaltending equipment much lighter, allowing goalies to bulk up without sacrificing mobility and flexibility. The league has been studying the issue since 1998, setting new NHL rules on the width of leg pads - 12 inches - and the size of catching gloves. But no goaltender has ever been fined for using illegal equipment.

Several other size issues have yet to be addressed: Many goaltenders, regardless of physical stature, are said to use the largest available size in jerseys, pants and chest protectors, and some shoulder pads appear to reach up around the ears.

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