Kukla's Korner


It’s Proportional, But Is It Really Fair?

Yesterday, Paul posted an NHL.com article about the changes that have happened to goalie equipment, and the changes still to come, such as the ability to customize goalie pads. The biggest target on the list: proportional sizing.

Is it a good idea? Maybe. But the discussion seems fairly one-sided, as if goalies are nothing but abusers, and the rest of the players, the League even, is being robbed. Sounds like a very nice side of the pool for swimming, I believe I’ll dive right in.

On the other side of the pool, though.

First, in case you’ve missed it before, here is the NHL.com video which explains the latest equipment changes. Watch for highlights of goals that may have been stopped by old equipment, and goals that may have been allowed by the new rules. Sens fans, be warned: There’s a very nice example of the latter on Gerber.

The key thing to take away from this is that the change affects all equipment in the same way. Whether you’re 5’10 Legace, or 6’5 Auld, whatever equipment you choose will have the inner knee-area flaps thinner, the inner calf flaps sewn down and streamlined, and the chest protector rounded and made less blocky, in both senses.

What sets the proportional equipment apart is that the changes impact different goalies in different ways.

Proportional equipment means that, while 6’5 Auld gets to wear very long pads, and a 250lbs goaltender can wear pants and chest protectors to fit his extra body size into, 5’10, 200lbs Manny Legace cannot.

Didn’t we already go down this road? Rule changes came into effect to get rid of clutch and grab hockey, and to more stringently punish slashing and hits from behind. Without these and other changes, the game would revolve a lot more around size, and you wouldn’t see many players in the League today. Rafalski might be too battered to be as useful as he was, Alfie himself thought that pre-lockout hockey would force him into early retirement, and he almost certainly would not have announced (generously listed at) 5’11 defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Those rules changed, and opened up hockey to a much wider range of players. Instead of being up near basketball and football in terms of height and weight exclusivity, respectively, it came down close to baseball, soccer, and racing, where size can play certain roles but virtually always finds itself in the backseat to skill.

Does it look weird to see Legace in pads meant for a player five inches taller, or 30lbs heavier? Maybe, but even the other players on the ice can change their equipment to degrees, including their most important tool: sticks. Children are told to pick a stick that lines up between their chin and their nose while on skates, but many will opt for longer sticks, to help keep their dekes further away from opponents, or to give them that extra inch they need to make their poke check.

Allowing a full range helps keep it even among goalies. Legace may not cover as much of the net as other goalies while standing up, and he certainly won’t compare to Auld’s height while pulling off a butterfly save, but at least right now he can cover the same amount of the net, and somehow that’s un-fair.

In some ways, it even puts him and his brethren at a disadvantage. The bigger equipment may cover more net, but think about the last time you wore shoes an inch too big, pants 50lbs too wide, or a shirt with a few more ‘X’s than you needed. Most likely, it made you feel a bit awkward and you weren’t able to move around or control it as easily.

The goalies will undoubtedly train for this, but there are some losses of maneuverability and speed that can never be fully regained. The goalie might cover that extra inch while in butterfly position, but that won’t save him from having to whip around those overly large pads to go cross-crease for a save, and even the extra large jersey, without the 50lbs. behind it, could well whiff away when confronted with a puck, whilst the goalie who filled out that jersey would have found his body had little trouble in bouncing the puck away. Unfair nonsensical advantages, like the extra pad landing gear and spring loaded shoulder pads, those make no sense and have no place in our League if it wants to be able to look itself in the mirror, just as the League should be shamed to see its reflection if it truly starts putting up meaningful barriers to entry, to exclude players with nothing other than a scale or a theme park you-must-be-this-tall-to-ride sign.

I can’t say that my opinion is the undisputed truth, only that it is a point of view, a consideration, one that deserves to be heard. How much extra scoring do we really need? We’ll never be basketball, with a 100-goal game, and should never seek to diminish the value of that achievement to such a low standard. Even in football, six points on the board is still just a single touchdown, three a single successful kick, and the extra points would be the hockey equivalent of allowing a team a shootout attempt after the full-on battle they wage to score the initial goal.

Do we want to change the game so much that every rookie can eclipse Selanne’s rookie goal scoring record, or lay waste to all of Gretzky’s achievements before being seen as having peaked? That’s not hockey, not what we should want for its future. Give a man a fish, (or a player a wider open net and discriminating crease), and you will feed him for a day (or gift wrap for him duller goals). Teach a man to fish (or work further to open up the game for players, get rid of the truly unfair to all equipment tactics, and continue letting them play a fast, hard-hitting, speed, strength, and skill game), and you feed

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day — give a player a wider open net or more discriminating crease, and you will giftwrap him more and duller goals.

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life — keep the game fast, furious, and indiscriminately fair, and you help build a quality game for the future.

Filed in: NHL General, NHL Rules, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net