By Evan Tabachnick
The amount of goalie equipment that is worn by a goaltender can seem like overkill, but it’s all there for a reason. When worn properly, a goalie is both well-protected and mobile.
The thing is, many goalies play so infrequently that they are never able to learn how to properly outfit themselves for safety and performance. Take for example our own rec hockey goalies. As a former netminder myself, I am often left shaking my head at some of the goalie equipment blunders I spot in the locker room on a regular basis. In this article, I will go from head to toe and try to cover each of the common equipment errors I have seen over the years.
Let’s begin with the helmet. Widely considered to be the most important piece of equipment, many goalies allow their negligence and lack of maintenance to make this an area for serious concern. You don’t want to let the straps connecting the main piece of your mask to the back plate to become worn and frayed. When this happens, they lose their elasticity and the mask goes flapping in the breeze, practically negating all protective value.
Grouped in with the mask is the hanging plastic throat protector. Many goalies either leave this piece hanging way too low or have it tied up tight to the helmet. Either way, you’re sacrificing protection. It’ll take a few tries, but tie it up so that the protector overlaps the helmet about one quarter of its length right under the chin. You’ll be able to turn your head without it getting stuck and it will cover you right down to the chest protector.
The chest protector is another area of concern for those who are not properly fitted at the time of purchase or if they choose to wear it in a manner that sacrifices protection. I’ve seen too many goalies leave the back strap (the one that runs parallel with the waistline) loose so as to allow the sides to fan out and seemingly cover more net between the arms and the body. We’re not facing paper airplanes here, folks; they’re hockey pucks! Any shot that strikes this padding is going to move it out of the way and likely make its way to the back of the net. Strap yourself up tight on the chest protector and you’ll find you’re able to move more freely while your safety is unimpeded.
Gloves aren’t really a problem, as far as I’ve seen. Just make sure they fit!
Your pants must fit properly. Pants that are slightly on the large side are not a problem (unless the rules change), but those that are too tight will compromise mobility, sacrifice protection, and will look just plain silly. Make sure your pants are not getting in the way of your leg pads by using a belt (or suspenders, but a belt is strongly recommended) to keep them up above your waist. Suspenders can loosen and slip off during a game and the maneuver to move them back into place during play will be frustrating and leave your teammates and fans (if you have them) scratching their heads.
Leg pads are perhaps the most personal aspect of the goalie equipment wardrobe, and will be taken into consideration here. You should be professionally measured for your leg pads to ensure a proper fit. If you play a butterfly style and are the flexible type, consider taking advantage of the “+” feature and adding a few inches to the tops of your pads.
In my day, I was a size 35 and would wear 34+1. Some goalies go crazy with this feature; take Henrik Lundqvist, for example, who wears a 33+5. The sizing is really up to you, but the way you wear your pads can have a profound impact on your performance. You’ll want to strap your pads tight to loose from bottom to top (tighter on the bottom towards your foot, looser up top towards your knee) to allow for good mobility and protection. The large roll on the front face of the pad goes on the outside (running up to your hip, not your groin). You cannot mess this one up.
As for skates, please, please wear goalie skates! You can’t really get the job done with anything else and you’ll have way less protection. Make sure your skates are the right size (about 1-2 sizes smaller than your shoe size) and you should be just fine. For added mobility, you may not want to tie them as tight as you possibly can, but that is also a personal choice.
The number one goal in outfitting yourself is to be protected out there. We play a rough game and forwards don’t shoot with the goalie’s safety in mind. These days, goalie equipment technology basically has got you covered without the need to tweak anything, but there are simple dos and don’ts that should always be followed. In addition to those listed above, watch other goalies (especially the pros) to see how they choose to wear their stuff.
Evan Tabachnick currently plays in two adult rec leagues, and insists that’s not enough.