Goalie gear is apparently a concern these days, with Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy looking huge in the nets during the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final… perhaps too huge.
From the Ref Mailbag (heyref-at-scoutingtherefs.com):
Are there rules for the size of goaltender equipment? Can Montreal call for a measurement of a goalie’s gear like they can for a stick blade?
Actually, there are, and they’re quite specific.
Before we get to the goalie gear, though, let’s answer your second question.
No, teams cannot challenge a goaltender’s equipment for a measurement. Nor can the referees stop the game to check it on their own. They shouldn’t need to.
Goalie gear is handled by NHL Hockey Operations, specifically former goaltender Kay Whitmore. He signs off – literally – on each piece of gear, all of which must be approved prior to use and checked periodically throughout the season. Those visits, for obvious reasons, are unannounced.
So, no, the teams can’t challenge and the refs can’t measure. The good news is that Kay Whitmore’s already done that.
Goalie Gear Inspections and Penalties
From Rule 11:
The Hockey Operations Department is specifically authorized to make a check of each teams’ equipment (including goalkeepers’ sticks) to ensure the compliance with the rule. It shall report its findings to the Commissioner for his disciplinary action.
11.9 League Inspections – These inspections can take place at any time, before, during, or after any game. A member of the Hockey Operations, Officiating and/or Security departments may obtain equipment from any or all of the four participating goalkeepers. This equipment may be removed to a secure location for measuring.
The penalties for violations are quite harsh. It’s an automatic two-game suspension for a failed equipment inspection. If both goalies fail on the same day, the starter gets suspended for the next two games, with the back-up suspended for the two games after that.
Playing with gear that has not been inspected and approved, or that has been modified after approval, will also result in a two-game suspension, along with a $25,000 fine to the team and a $1000 fine to the equipment manager. Suspensions and fine amounts are doubled for any subsequent violations.
So, what exactly, is Whitmore measuring?
Goaltender Equipment Rules
There are some very specific measurements listed within the rulebook for each piece of equipment. We’ve omitted them here for clarity, but feel free to dig in to the numbers.
11.1 Goalkeeper’s Equipment – With the exception of skates and stick, all the equipment worn by the goalkeeper must be constructed solely for the purpose of protection, and he must not wear any garment or use any contrivance which would give him undue assistance in keeping goal.
11.2 Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches (11”) in extreme width when on the leg of the player. Each goalkeeper must wear pads that are anatomically proportional and size specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper. The Hockey Operations Department will have the complete discretion to determine the maximum height of each goalkeeper’s pads based on measurements obtained by the Hockey Operations Department, which will include the floor to center of knee and center of knee to pelvis measurements. […] Any pads deemed too large for a goalkeeper will be considered illegal equipment for that goalkeeper, regardless of whether or not they would have fallen within previous equipment maximums.
of the pant.
11.3 Chest and Arm Pads – The chest and arm protector worn by each goalkeeper must be anatomically proportional and size specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper. No raised ridges are allowed on the front edges or sides of the chest pad, the inside or outside of the arms, or across the shoulders. On each side, the clavicle floaters shall … not project/extend beyond the lateral edge of the player’s shoulder; … not project/extend vertically above the player’s shoulder more than two inches (2”) when measured at its lateral edge … On each side, the shoulder caps shall … follow the contour of the player’s shoulder without becoming a projection/extension above the shoulder; and not project/extend laterally beyond the player’s shoulder more than one and one-half inches (1 ½”).
The chest and arm pad may not be worn in a manner such that the unit is forced upward or remains above the goalkeeper’s shoulder beyond the limits previously defined in this rule when the goalkeeper drops to a butterfly or kneeling position.
The Hockey Operations Department will determine the maximum size for each goalkeeper’s chest and arm protector based on measurements obtained by the Hockey Operations Department, which will include, but not be limited to, measurements for shoulder width, torso width/length and arm length. Any chest and arm protector deemed by the Hockey Operations Department to be too large for a goalkeeper will be considered illegal equipment for that goalkeeper, regardless of whether or not it would have fallen within previous equipment maximums.
Specific requirements are also laid out for pants (11.4), knee pads (11.5), catching glove (11.6), and blocking glove (11.7), including the detailed procedures on how to measure each.
The requirements are strict and the penalties are harsh, but they’re not the responsibility of the on-ice officials. There’s a former NHL goaltender in Hockey Ops who has goalie gear covered.
That wasn’t always the case, though. In the past, teams could challenge goalie gear, and it was treated much like an illegal stick is today. Let the officials know and send them off with a tape measure to confirm, which is exactly what happened during the 1973 playoff series between the Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres. From the Buffalo News:
The Sabres called for a measurement of [Montreal Canadiens goaltender] Ken Dryden’s equipment. A club employee had discreetly measured Dryden’s goalie pads while the series was in Buffalo, and discovered they were too wide. Coach Joe Crozier saved that piece of information for a crucial time, and this was it.
Referee Bruce Hood measured the pads and called a penalty on the Canadiens, that according to the rules, had to be served at the start of the next period, in this case overtime.