As the last line of defense, it is the goalie’s job to do anything and everything to keep the opposition from putting that puck past the goal line. In today’s fast-paced game, goalie equipment must be as protective as possible, while still allowing for quick and athletic movements. Below are some key things to consider when making purchases for new goalie equipment.
In today's game, the right protection is what prevents broken or jammed fingers and unnecessary bruises. When choosing a blocker, it is important to consider if it provides the proper protection for your inner wrist/thumb as well as your fingers.
Finger protection: Blockers vary in the amount of finger protection they provide. When looking at the glove part of the blocker, it is important to make sure it provides enough protection. Furthermore, the index finger is the most vulnerable because of the way goalies hold their sticks (with the index finger pointing straight down the paddle as the other fingers are locked around the shaft of the handle) Because of this, the finger padding is designed to protect the fingers while holding the stick.
Inside wrist protection: While in the butterfly position, the blocker is often angled to deflect pucks to the corner, thus leaving your wrist open to pucks. Because of this, most blockers feature an inner padded portion that protects the inside of the wrist as well as creates an additional blocking surface.
Curve: Many blockers vary in the degree of curve. There is a curve at the top of the blocker that helps deflect pucks forward, rather than backwards into the goal. Some goalies prefer larger curves as opposed to smaller ones. However, with the NHL’s new size limitations, most blocker curves are fairly similar.
Break The style and break of a catch glove varies among brands and models. The “break” is the part of the catch glove that folds closed in order to trap the puck inside. Some goalies prefer a higher break vs. a lower break. Break ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Curves: Like blockers, Gloves often have curves for the same purpose as the blocker: to deflect pucks and ramp them away from you and the goal net. The location of the curve varies on catch gloves. Some curves are found at the bottom of the glove (by your forearm) and others are found at the side (by your thumb). Some gloves have curves at both of these locations. There are a variety of curve options because different goalies hold their gloves in different ways depending on their stance. The type of curve for a catch glove comes down to personal preference.
Pocket: Most goalies prefer a deep pocket, which is the webbing between the thumb and index finger where the goalie catches pucks. A deeper pocket allows for easier catching control and now comes standard in new catch gloves. Most gloves have a “T-pocket” or a “single” pocket.
Additionally, gloves also come with inside straps for extra support on the glove hand. It is important to have an adjustable strap for your wrist inside the glove. Some goalies wear these straps tight while others wear them loose, but this extra support not only helps keep the glove on your hand but also allows better control when catching and shooting the puck.
The stand-up stance for goalies is nearly extinct in today's game. Because of this, leg pads are all designed to easily move from a standing position to lock down to the ice for the butterfly position. New pads are lighter, more durable and designed for the goalie who utilizes a variety of positions, while still allowing for athletic, reactive saves.
Five-hole coverage: Leg Pads are all constructed to be flat at the top so that the tops of both pads conform together while down in the butterfly position. It is safe to say, that this is a standard in all modern leg pads since all goalies butterfly.
Some leg pads come with “thigh boards,” which are illegal at the professional levels of hockey. “Thigh boards” are often referred to as “five-hole cheaters” because they serve as a backup in case your legs do not close in time to save the puck. For this reason, “thigh boards” are not allowed in the NHL.
Knee support/protection: Leg pads have knee support, often called “knee cradles.” This helps the pad stay stable on the goalie’s leg beginning at the knee. Goalies tend to wear looser pads in order to make quick butterfly saves. Proper knee support helps ensure the pads stay in the place while maintaining sufficient support for the goaltender.
Some leg pads, like Vaughn for example, do not come with “thigh boards” and come with “thigh wraps” instead. A thigh wrap protects the kneecap from pucks and it is not considered a five-hole cheater since they tuck underneath the goalie pant. Goalies have three options for knee protection:
- Thigh-wrap that connects knee protector to the leg pad itself
- Built-in knee protector that connects to the goalie pants
- Separate knee pads that are not connected to the pad or the pants
Regardless of which form of protection you prefer, it is important to choose one of these three options in order to avoid painful bruising and possible breakage while making a save.
Plus sizing: All new goalie equipment designs and concepts come directly from the pros. This holds true for the new “plus sizing” system, which resulted from the NHL goalies’ desire to feature an extra inch at the top of the leg pad for additional five-hole coverage. Plus sizing is now the standard on all top-of-the-line goalie leg pads. Pads are now measured in length using inches, plus one inch (Example sizes: 32” + 1, 33” +1, 34” + 1, 35” +1)
More than any other piece of goalie equipment, the chest and arm protector is solely for protection. When considering a new purchase, the goalie should not factor in style, design or color. Comfort is key. The perfect chest and arm protector provides maximum protection as well as the greatest mobility and flexibility, allowing the goalie to easily react to shots.
Highly skilled goalies should look for top-of-the-line chest and arm protection to ensure that the most innovative protective materials are used in its construction. This guarantees that the most technologically advanced materials are used in the protection aspect as well as in the weight of the pad. Lighter pads provide the goalie with more agility. However, a high-end chest and arm protector will not serve its purpose if it is not fitted properly. Chest and arm pads that are too small do not provide enough protection to the goalie's body, while pads that are too large hinder the goalie's movement and overall mobility.