Size Matters

Or does it? I have been reading and thinking a lot lately about the size of the goalie and how much it matters. This started when

They Might Be Giants...

They Might Be Giants… (Photo credit: themarkpike)

I was told that one of my son’s “negatives” during tryouts recently was his smaller size. It took me by surprise because he was a pretty big goalie as a Squirt and suddenly, a mere 6 weeks after that season ended, he tried out for Pee Wee and he somehow shrank.

And he’s not a little kid – just shy of 5 feet and around 90 lbs at 11 years old. According to charts I’ve seen, he is well above average and he is right in there with all of his friends (minus a couple of really short guys and a couple of guys who are on their way to NBA size in the 5th grade).

A friend shared an article with me that talks a bit about how goalie size is not as important as many coaches believe. There are drawbacks to both being really small and really big and there are other factors that play a larger role in the success of any goalie.

I started doing some more research on this size issue and found articles that discuss how NHL goalies have gotten bigger in recent years. But even then, being bigger alone is not the reason most credit these goalies with success. They are larger, yes. But they are larger guys who are quite athletic and can move much more than really big guys years ago. Back then, a big guy took up space but pretty much couldn’t move too fast or really make any other moves. They were good walls. Now, these large guys are quick and agile and flexible. Even at 6’5″.

My search led me to another size issue – that of goalie gear and the net itself. Both are being blamed for the decrease in scoring and, ultimately, to the the demise of any excitement in the game today.

Now, I understand that if your goalie is bigger and they are wearing bigger gear, then the area available to shoot and score may be diminished. However, it can be argued that players are also bigger and much stronger, with shots that can reach speeds over 100 mph. So while bigger pads may fill up more space, they also provide protection for the person who is inside of those pads.

Not having ever stood in the goal nor worn the gear, I cannot speak to what it feels like. I do know, however, how my son described being hit recently by a coach who fired the puck pretty hard during practice. The puck hit his arm pad and he said that his arm went numb for a few seconds and, when he got undressed later, he had a red mark on his arm where he had been hit. Amplify the power of the shot by a ton (and, to be fair, up the amount of padding on the arm, too) and you can imagine that less padding could be a bad thing.

As far as the net size issue – I think that is just stupid. Beyond the secondary issues of asterisks on record books (a scoring record held BNI (before net increase) or ANI (after net increase) would have to somehow be differentiated), there is the bigger issue of where will it stop? So you make nets larger, then the rink itself needs to be tweaked to allow for more room to shoot at the larger target (I’m making this up but whatever), then players get larger still, then nets should increase. And so it goes.

And let’s not forget that a bigger net size impacts more than just the pros. In case you are not aware, there are not smaller nets for younger kids, as you will find in sports like soccer. The 8 year-old goalie in his little pads and barely scraping 4 feet tall is standing in a net the same size as the 6′ plus goalie in the super large pads.

So maybe that is the ultimate argument – that any goalie who has come up through the ranks has served time in a net way larger than they are. And once they get to the “big leagues” they are awarded not only with more money and nicer gear, but finally a net that they have grown into.

Maybe I am the only one, but I have not noticed that the game has become less exciting, even if fewer goals are scored. That sounds to me more like a spectator issue, similar to the complaint I have heard regarding soccer – that there aren’t enough goals to keep folks interested. I find all the quick moves and hits and “almost goals” quite thrilling and I don’t see that things need to change. Of course, I have come to view the position of goalie from a new perspective – that of a mom.

And I don’t want my “kids” (I’ve unofficially adopted any goalie as my own when he or she is being shot upon) messed with! Just like any good goalie mom.




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A goalie mom's perspective on hockey and what happens between games


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