The NHL will have at least one new goaltending equipment restriction this season: slimmer hockey pants. 2016-17 was supposed to usher in a new era of streamlined goaltending equipment, but manufacturer delays pushed those changes back until further notice. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated on SiriusXM Radio, however, that the new pants regulation may be implemented as early as Opening Night.
For years smaller or slimmer goalies got away with wearing bigger pants because the NHL set a maximum size that accommodated its biggest goalies. That meant that smaller goalies could wear bigger pants than necessary to cover more space. It was not uncommon for the upper part of the pant to extend half a foot above normal height, or the lower portion to sag and block off part of the five hole. Because today’s goaltending butterfly style depends on covering as much of the net as possible, goalies looking for any edge turned to oversized equipment.
Now, the pants are streamlined to be smaller and tighter. The point is to maximize protection as efficiently as possible without adding unnecessary net-hiding bulk. The NHL walks a fine line between protecting goalies in a league where technology allows players to shoot harder than ever, and increasing scoring without changing the game. The league does not want to put its goalies in any danger, but at the same time wants to reduce any unnecessary equipment that gives goalies a slight edge.
This may only be the first of a few changes this season. Daly stated that the process is ongoing, and the NHL hopes to implement further changes as soon as possible. Those changes could include slimmer chest protectors and smaller pads. Whether these new changes find their way into the league will depend on how cooperative the goalies and manufacturers are with the league.