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  • Nolan Ballinger

The Truth About NHL Goalie Equipment

If you’ve been active on hockey focused social media within the last few years there’s a good chance you’ve seen some discussion surrounding the equipment size of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, especially following this picture of him with Carey Price where he appears to be much larger in size despite being of similar height and weight.

It seemed unlikely that a goalie would be able to use equipment that is much larger than what would be deemed “fair” however it also became evident that fans probably don’t actually understand how the whole equipment fitting process works, so I looked into it.

The NHL released a statement through in 2018 stating the purpose of goalie equipment is to protect the goaltenders while still forcing them to make saves because of athletic ability and not because the equipment is blocking the puck. They summarize this by saying a 200-pound goaltender should not look like a 250-pound goaltender.

The NHL has outlined all the rules and regulations surrounding the proper use and sizing of goaltending equipment within Rule 11 of the NHL’s Official Rule Book. Along with the sizing rules, Rule 11 also states that all new equipment needs to be sent to the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department to ensure the gear is up to code and that the gear can also be checked at any point in the year.

The person at the head of this process is Kay Whitmore, a former professional goaltender who is now the Goaltending Supervisor for the NHL where he specializes as a consultant for goalie equipment. Although he is employed by the NHL, he checks the equipment of all goaltenders between the NHL, AHL, and ECHL. This means Kay assesses close to 6,000 pieces of equipment every season!

When equipment is made and ready for a goalie it is first sent to a third party, put on a mannequin, and sent through a 3D scanner to try to ensure it is up to code. The equipment is then sent to Whitmore who personally inspects it and can use his own 3D scanner before it is finally sent to the athlete.

I talked to former NHL goaltender Jamie McLennan about the process to see if there was anything the average hockey fan might not know.

It was interesting to note that McLennan also mentioned there are random checks throughout the season, “when you’re walking off the ice they will take you into a room and measure your equipment”. This would definitely deter goalies from making any alterations once the initial inspection is complete.

Through our conversation he made it clear that it would be pretty much impossible for a goalie to be able to use illegal gear in any type of professional competition.

So if there’s no real possibility of a goaltender using unfair equipment, how does that explain why there is so much controversy surrounding Andrei Vasilevskiy?

To see if I could find out any more about this situation I spoke with two-time Stanley Cup champion Curtis McElhinney who served as the backup goaltender to Vasilevskiy during the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup victories.

McElhinney began by stating it can be difficult to make gear that is meant to fit all goalies the same despite differences in body size and structure. When comparing himself to his partner McElhinney said, “I could fit an XL torso for the upper body just like the Big Cat (Vasilevskiy) but the only difference is that he has twenty pounds on me and is jacked so it’s going to look bigger on him naturally.”

The average hockey fan might not understand the difference 20 pounds can make when being used to fill out goalie gear and fill up a hockey net. It can be quite significant.

McElhinney provided some more interesting insight into the world of goaltending equipment when he said certain goalies wear their pants and chest protector in a different way that can give the illusion of looking a lot bigger than they actually are. “Some guys are great at giving the illusion that it’s bigger than it really is. Even Ryan Miller used to look fairly big with gear on [and] there’s not much to him”, said McElhinney.

He continued by elaborating specifically on Vasilevskiy “Vasy is also a specimen so he doesn’t have your typical goalie body in that regard.”

Rule 11.3 in the NHL Rulebook states “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”. This really seems to fit what McElhinney is saying about Vasilevskiy being built differently than other goalies meaning it has nothing to do with oversized equipment.

McElhinney finished by basically restating what we had already learned from Jamie McLennan when he said, “they are always watching and if someone says something or they see it, they’ll reach out to you. I had that happen in Carolina”.

Realistically, the Vasilevskiy complaints are likely just the result of jealousy from opposing fans because of how good he is.

If you look at the two pictures used to try to prove this case (Vasilevskiy with Price and Vasilevskiy with Campbell) the size difference is likely caused simply by the angle the pictures were taken at. In the Price picture, Vasilevskiy is standing in a way where much more of his chest is exposed to the camera, therefore he seems bigger. In the Campbell picture, Vasilevskiy is standing closer to the camera than Campbell is therefore making him appear larger in the picture despite the two being of similar height and weight.

So to anyone looking to further discredit Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning for their Stanley Cup wins, you will have to look farther than the excuse that Vasilevskiy is cheating.

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