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Unmasked

For goaltenders, more protection, the better

When it comes to cups, one just isn't enough

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

From personalized painted masks to brightly patterned pads and custom-fitting everything, equipment has always been a big part of goaltending in the NHL. But there is one piece of protection that is especially important when tasked with getting in the way of frozen pucks shot upward of 100 miles an hour. In fact, most goalies have more than one.

So just how many cups do you think the average NHL goaltender wears these days?

Would you believe most wear two, and many wear three?

If you want to know why, check out the Twitter account of Calgary Flames goalie Brian Elliott (@KidElls1), who posted a picture of his cup after it was cracked open by a shot in 2014 while with the St. Louis Blues, adding hashtags like #goalieproblems.

Tweet from @KidElls1: #goaliesacrifice #goalieproblems#igot99problems#highpitchvoice#ballsofsteal#XLcup pic.twitter.com/4nYa7CSN8l

"That was a one-piece, I think, and then I switched," said Elliott, who now wears what goalies refer to as a double-cup. "One inside the other. I like a tight fit - this is really personal - but sometimes it's hard to find a tight fit with a two-cup. I found one."

The double-cup Elliott referenced has become a minimum standard for most NHL goalies.

They are typically made up of what most people think of as a standard jock protector in any sport: a protective cup built into a holder and attached to a waistband. But in addition to a lot more padding around that holder and a padded section that extends up to cover the lower abdominal area, a goalie double cup has a second protective layer that sits in front of that standard cup. In some cases, this second cup is made of hard plastic; in others it's carbon fiber.

It's a lot of protection, but for many NHL goaltenders, it still isn't enough.

Count Vancouver Canucks veteran Ryan Miller among those who also wears a traditional player cup snugly underneath a goalie double cup, effectively giving him three.

"I wore just a goalie cup until I got to my first pro training camp and my trainers in Buffalo looked at me like I was insane," said Miller, who began his career with the Buffalo Sabres in 2002-03 and quickly learned he needed another layer of protection. "It took one time. Coming from college, you think, 'Oh, I have time to get my legs together,' and yeah, you can't. The trainers wanted to know how I liked it after those few skates and they had some options for me."

Video: BOS@VAN: Miller makes big saves on Bergeron, Marchand

Miller may have gotten off easy. Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk also wears three after he learned in junior that even a goalie double cup is sometimes not enough protection.

"I took one in training camp and I thought I was going to die," said Dubnyk, who also wears a tight fitting "girdle" under the player cup to keep everything in place. "I'll never forget that day. A guy just walked into a slap shot and I as went down, the cup flipped up and it hit me straight on. I remember watching the rebound go out and then the pain kicked in, and it was gloves off and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I should get up, if I should stay down, if I needed to get off the ice, if I should just not move. I just didn't know what to do. For the next three days I had to walk around with my hands in my pockets to hold my pants out and away from me."

Dubnyk glances over at his playing partner, Darcy Kuemper, when asked what he thinks about goalies who don't bother with the extra layer underneath a goalie cup, but Minnesota's 26-year-old backup at least wears a double cup - "a big one," he said - and insists it fits well. Like Dubnyk, Kuemper learned the hard way in junior that one cup isn't enough.

"I was on crutches for three days because I couldn't walk," Kuemper said. "I couldn't get off the couch for three days. I couldn't even stand up."

Despite stories like that, there are still a few NHL goalies wearing an older model goalie cup that has plenty of extra padding, but just one plastic cup.

Two of them played for the Detroit Red Wings, much to the chagrin of goalie coach Jeff Salajko.

"Sal thought I was crazy for only wearing one cup," Jared Coreau said. "A few guys have told me that."

Video: DET@BOS: Coreau extends the pad to deny Marchand

At least he wasn't alone in the Red Wings locker room.

"I've only worn one all my life," said Jimmy Howard. "My dad warned me. He bought me one of those ones that are double and I tried wearing it and I felt like there is just too much going on down there to move. I don't know how guys with three do it."

Most of them feel the same way about guys like Howard that only wear one.

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