During the off-season, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association worked together on rules changes that they anticipate will enhance the game, with increased scoring the intent for one.
Foremost among the modifications is a change in the rules governing the length of a goaltender's leg pads. For the 2013-14 season, the pads will be shorter, primarily so they don't block as much of the “five-hole,” the nickname for the space between a goalie's legs.
To get technical, prior to the 2010-11 season, a rule was instituted that the 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. So if a goalie's upper-leg measurement was 20 inches, roughly the average in the league, the pad could not go higher than 11 inches above the center of his knee.
This season the number will be reduced to 45 percent, which translates to a league average pad that goes no higher than nine inches above his knee.
Since most goalies use the top of the pads when down on the ice to close the “five-hole,” a loss of two inches off each leg pad would result in four inches less coverage, all depending on the style employed by the goalie.
Former NHL goalie Kay Whitmore, who is now the NHL’s Senior Manager of Hockey Operations and Goaltending Equipment, told NHL.com, “To get something in place, we went with that for a couple of seasons and decided we would look at it again. We deemed that there was still a lot of pad that was infringing on the “five-hole,” taking away a lot of space, which wasn’t really there for protection.”
The size of a goaltender’s pads will be directly proportionate to the goalie’s size. This will prevent, for example, Jonathan Quick (6-1) from having the same sized leg pads as a Pekka Rinne (6-5).
It looks like, in terms of style, the “butterfly” (where the goalie guards the lower portion of the net by dropping to his knees to protect and block) will be most negatively impacted.
Also, on the surface it looks like the change should affect the larger and taller NHL goalies the most.
Rinne is one of the league’s larger goaltenders and he employs a classic “butterfly” style. You wonder how he will react to the new rules.
The NHL's reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-2), is a “butterfly” goalie that drops and covers from post to post. Will he equal last year’s success with the smaller pads?
The (6-3) Roberto Luongo is an old-school “butterfly” netminder. His size and style just might make him vulnerable to the change.
One would presume that the Kings’ Quick might not be as affected by the new rules like many of the others. His size and creative hybrid goalie style might give him the edge over many of the taller, old-school style goalies.
The NHL’s Whitmore anticipates he will be attending more games than usual this season to ensure that goalies are adhering to the new rules. If Whitmore catches anyone using something illegal, that goalie will be subject to a two-game suspension and his team will also possibly be fined.
With change in place, the NHL, its players and its fans will all be monitoring the new rules. Will it impact scoring, goaltending and the overall game? Stay tuned.