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Goalies must "adapt or die" to new equipment rules

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

For the second time in three years, NHL goaltenders are dealing with a change and/or reduction in the size of their gear - in particular, the leg pads.

It has been a topic of conversation around the sport since the new rules for 2013-14 were implemented over the summer. Goalies are seeing the average maximum height of their leg pads decrease by an average of two inches, a number that may vary depending on the player's height. Some goalies are losing nearly three inches and others are losing an inch (give or take), but the song and dance is nothing new for them.

Blue Jackets goaltender Mike McKenna stands at 6-foot-3, making him the tallest goalie in the organization and the player who has seen the most significant change in his equipment. He only recently received his new equipment back from the NHL, and used it for the first time during the team's morning skate on Tuesday prior to facing Buffalo at Nationwide Arena.

They know the drill: it's "adapt or die," as McKenna likes to say. The rules are out of his control, but it's his job to adjust and make the most of what he's allotted.

For the 2013-14 season, he's allowed pads that are three inches shorter than they were a year ago. In other words, this is no small change.

"I’m definitely facing a challenge as far as how to adapt," McKenna told "It’s interesting how some guys lose a half inch and others lose three; it shows how proportionately different we all are. For me, it’s about trying to figure out the right way to close holes and potentially playing the game a little bit different.

"It’s nothing drastic, but you definitely have to play a little bit more narrow (with the equipment change) in order to get your knees together – you can’t rely on as wide a butterfly now as you could before with the extra coverage."

Here's more detail on the exact parameters outlined for NHL goaltenders from

The previous rule, instituted prior to the 2010-11 season, was that a goalie's leg pads could not go higher on his leg than 55 percent of the distance between the center of his knee and his pelvis. If a goalie's upper-leg measurement was 20 inches, roughly the average number in the NHL, the pad could not go higher than 11 inches above the center of his knee.

That number is now be 45 percent, so the same goalie will be able to wear a pad that goes no higher than 9 inches above his knee.

McKenna said one of his most pressing issues this week in practice was to get used to the new equipment and become comfortable with it; the Blue Jackets played on back-to-back nights and McKenna saw action in both contests, and thus put the new gear to the test right away.

He's using the same make and model of leg pads as he did a year ago, and that has helped McKenna feel more and more confident with each practice session. With three more exhibition games on tap this week, he's likely going to get more opportunities to become familiar with the changes.

"The first game (Buffalo) was really tough because I got the pads literally before the morning skate," McKenna said. "It’s kind of a tightrope: you have to use legal equipment and you have to get used to it as soon as you can. Now I’m starting to get more used to it, and it’s not as foreign as it was at first.

"The good news is that the pads – the construction itself – are the same pads I had last year, so it’s really just the height of it that feels different."

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