"No matter what we do, the goaltenders have to feel that it is fair from one end of the rink to the other and I think that is all that goalies ever asked from Day 1." -- Kay Whitmore, manager of hockey operations for the NHL
While much of Wednesday's session of the NHL General Managers Meeting was focused on keeping skaters safe by addressing blindside hits to the head, there also was a fair amount of time focused on keeping goalies safe despite a desire to reduce the size of their padding.
, manager, hockey operations for the NHL, took center stage at Wednesday's meeting and updated the League's GMs on the status of size-specific goaltending equipment being instituted next season.
"Kay briefed us on the formulas they use when they are sizing the pads and it's a pretty detailed formula," Boston GM Peter Chiarelli told NHL.com. "We are satisfied with what we saw. It's trending in the right way because it takes measurement of specific body parts."
According to Whitmore, the ability to have unified measurements of various body parts for every goalie in the NHL is what finally moved the much-discussed plan of height-specific leg pads from the discussion stage to the action stage. In fact, the plan will be in place for the start of next season.
"We went back and went through the process step-by-step to alleviate any concerns by doing all the measurements by one person -- which is myself," Whitmore, a former NHL goalie, told NHL.com. "I'm (measuring) every goalie in the National Hockey League right now and getting those measurements so they are consistent and accurate. Then we'll apply those to a formula that takes into account the upper leg and the lower leg and that is safe and fair for the goaltenders.
"Once all the measurements are taken, we'll apply the formula to those guys and let the Players' Association know this is where we are going and this is what the players' sizes will be for the following season. That will also give the manufacturers plenty of time to manufacture the product."
Once height-specific padding goes into effect, the landscape will change for many goalies. Presently, there is a maximum height for leg pads of 38 inches, regardless of a goalie's height. That means 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne
from Nashville and 5-11 Tim Thomas
from Boston can both wear the 38-inch pads despite a 6-inch difference in their height. To many, that is an unfair advantage being given to the shorter player. This new plan, takes that perceived advantage away.
"No matter what we do, the goaltenders have to feel that it is fair from one end of the rink to the other and I think that is all that goalies ever asked from Day 1," Whitmore said, stressing that physical safety was as equally important as competitive balance in this process. "That's my mandate so I can look them in the eye and say I did this fairly and you guys are on a level playing field."
Whitmore says he makes sure he does just that as he measures the players for the goalie pad measurement data base presently being built. Whitmore invites the goalies to ask questions as he measures them, encouraging them to be as educated as possible about how this rule will affect them come the 2010-11 season.
"It will give them ample time in the New Year to digest what is coming," Whitmore said.
There is little doubt that the changes in the size of leg pads will impact many goalies -- "a half-inch to a goaltender means a lot," says Whitmore -- as many are forced to go to smaller, more form-fitting pads
"Some will adapt easier than others," Whitmore says. "Some have built their style on being able to use a pad that is probably bigger than we ever imagined anybody could wear. There are going to be some guys that are going to have a hard time adapting and there are going to be some guys that you could give them catalogs (for pads) and they are still going to be the best goalies.
"It's not to single out anybody; it's just from an entertainment standpoint what the fans want to see. It's just another part that could help the game grow. Who knows, maybe down the road, the goalies thank us because they will be faster and realize that maybe less is more."
Wednesday, the GMs seemed excited about the upcoming change.
"There is an appetite (for this) and we all have to have more discussions," New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello told NHL.com.
"I think it is a good thing; we just have to be careful with it," Chiarelli added.