NHL ready to police goalie equipment


Canadian Press


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CP) – The NHL and its 30 general managers emerged from a three and half hour meeting Friday agreeing that something must be done to control the increasing size of goalie equipment in an effort to open up the game.They then got a rousing endorsement from the game’s greatest player.

“Until they change the goaltending equipment we will still have 2-1 games in the NHL,” Wayne Gretzky told a group of reporters Friday. “They really have to look at goalies’ equipment. The good goalies will still make the saves with smaller equipment.”

Gretzky, who had just arrived in Nashville for Saturday’s entry draft, wasn’t present at the GMs’ meeting earlier in the day.

But the managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes hoped the league would indeed follow through with its ideas of cracking down on goalie equipment, a measure Gretzky said that would have a much more dramatic effect on raising goal-scoring than the crackdown on obstruction.

“I think it’s almost impossible to score now,” said Gretzky. “I’m not taking anything away from the goalies, they’re great athletes. But I just don’t think they need all that equipment, I don’t think they need to be that big.

“And I think (making goalie equipment smaller) would open up the game more than anything.”

The NHL put a system in place five years ago that measured goalies’ equipment mostly at training camp. But the system has been easy to cheat, with goalies simply changing their pads and chest protectors when the NHL’s goalie police came through town. Even those who have been caught have never been fined for it in the entire five years.

Colin Campbell, the NHL’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, listened to the GMs’ concerns on Friday and sounded like a man ready to take action.

“We feel it is a real problem – the size of goaltenders,” Campbell said. “The question is, what kind of teeth are we going to put into this? We have the ability to fine and suspend teams and goaltenders and we haven’t.

“But probably at the end of the day that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Whether the NHL will actually follow through with those tough words remains to be seen. Can you imagine J.S. Giguere getting suspended in the middle of playoff series for having too big a chest protector?

While Anaheim’s Giguere and Garth Snow of the New York Islanders are the most-often mentioned culprits, there’s more than a few goalies who have beefed up their equipment over the years.

“It’s all of them, it’s not just one guy,” Gretzky said.

The recently retired Patrick Roy is a great example.

“You look at when Montreal beat Calgary to win the Stanley Cup in 1986 and the pads that Patrick was wearing that year,” Gretzky said. “Those pads got bigger and bigger over the years.”

New Jersey’s seven-game win over Anaheim in the Cup final earlier this month was met with some of the lowest TV ratings in over a decade as two defensive teams battled for the championship.

But Gretzky said it’s as simple as blaming the goalie’s equipment.

“I think the New Jersey-Anaheim series was pretty good skating but you just can’t score (on the goalies),” Gretzky said.

Campbell said the league has a written agreement with the NHL Player’s Association that allows it to get tough on goalies and that includes suspensions.

“We have to go to the NHLPA and the goaltenders and tell them where we’re going to go with this. It’s not going to be easy,” Campbell said. “But if we’re going to be serious, when we find goalies taking this equipment to areas where they shouldn’t, then we’re going to have to do what we have to do as far as fining the teams and the goaltenders.”

One of the areas the league may look at is increasing the number of visits by the NHL’s goalie police.

The league measures the equipment in training camp and once in mid-season and Campbell said there were also measurements taken during the playoffs.

But in between measurements, it remains an easy trick for goalies to change their equipment.

“We have to be more strict in following that because when they change equipment we have to find out what equipment they’ve changed from when they were originally measured,” said Campbell. “This is not an easy process when you have 30 teams across North America.

“We’ve been exercising some sensitivity there and I think that’s our problem. We all know that goaltenders, you don’t want to mess with them, they have their superstitions. When (former NHL V-P) Brian Burke was measuring the pads they hauled them (the goalies) right off the ice at the end of the game.

“We may have to go back to that because presently it’s not working.”