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Goalies caught off guard as NHL enforces dormant stick length rule

Oct 3, 2013, 1:26 PM EDT

Devan Dubnyk

The NHL is cracking down on the length of goalie sticks this season after “years of ignoring” the rule, according to Kevin Woodley of In Goal Magazine.

The rule — a 26-inch maximum paddle length — was addressed in a Sept. 5 memo informing teams the league would be cracking down this season.

Here’s more, from In Goal:

Just like any other piece of illegal equipment, if a goalie is caught with a long paddle in a post-game inspection, they are subject to an automatic two-game suspension, the equipment manager is fined $1,000, and the team is dinged $25,000.

Unlike a player’s stick, it is not subject to in-game measurement.

That news came as a shock to “roughly half” of NHL netminders that, according to one goalie coach, used sticks with paddles longer than 26 inches.

(According to Woodley’s “industry insider” that makes NHL sticks for three different brands, that number actually closer to 80 percent than 50.)

“We had to change my stick because I have used the same stick for five years and all of a sudden it’s too long,” Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk explained. “We’ve tried to work with it to make it as little of an adjustment as possible.

“I need a little bit more grip around it because I narrowed it down, and that’s it.”

(In a *possibly* related story, Dubnyk was shelled for five goals on 28 shots in an opening night loss to Winnipeg.)

Ottawa backup Robin Lehner, who made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season, told Woodley he wasn’t even aware the 26-inch rule existed.

“I had no clue,” he explained. “I had my 28 inch for a very long time.”

Stick size is just one of several changes NHL goalies had to adjust to for this season. There was the reduction in leg pad size and shallower nets — and it may have made an early difference in goals allowed.

Though the sample size is small, goals have been aplenty over the first two days of the regular season. Toronto and Montreal combined for seven, Winnipeg and Edmonton tallied nine and Chicago-Washington went for 10 on opening night; on Wednesday, Anaheim and Colorado combined for seven.

  1. Anoesis - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Sounds like a lot of teams either didn’t pass the memo along or some of these guys were hoping it still wouldn’t be enforced. I’m also wondering why goalie stick length can’t be measured during a game just like any other player’s on the ice.

    • dcfan4life - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      Ya, if the goalies are required to have a specific length on their sticks like everyone else, why can’t they be challenged in game as well. Makes no sense, the NHL needs to reexamine that rule. The crackdown though appears to be another way to increase scoring but limiting the benefits of goalies. At this rate, if the NHL had their way, a shutout would be like as rare as a no hitter in baseball…

    • krebsy34 - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      I think it’s that everyone is subject to inspection post game where the opposing team cannot be penalized if they are wrong, but if the opposing team challenges during the game and are wrong, they are assessed a penalty. At least I believe how that works.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:23 PM

        brings up a good point. I wonder if proximity of benches to nets has anything to do with why you can challenge one and not the other. making a coach challenge the size of something that’s 75′ away from him for most of the game seems kinda dumb.

  2. ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    i think that’s more of a game-changer than the pad height change. you’re making every goalie that used a 28 hunch over almost two extra inches in their stance. that’s not an easy thing to do…. especially since they’ve probably played their entire lives standing straighter. wow. I bet we see some pretty bad numbers from some of these guys for a bit….. I wouldn’t underestimate this rule change.

    • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      newly enforced rule* instead of “rule change.”

    • noisetheorem - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      I’d bet the taller goalies have the most problems with this. It seems odd to suddenly start enforcing a rule like this.

      …unless you think goalies have just gotten too good. There is some truth to that, I guess. I’d bet we see at least a few months of adjustments and by the playoffs it will settle down again.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        I’d kinda like to know who’s got the most adjusting to do….. so I won’t be as harsh on them during the first month or two for poor play lol. But yeah I’d assume guys like Smith, Lindback, Rinne would have the longest paddles currently, but there might be some other shorter guys who just prefer the longer paddle.

      • edwelsh8 - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        Either getting too good or getting too big. The nets haven’t changed their 4×6 opening, but the goalies that block the shots have become significantly larger. Even if the goaltending talent were equal to that of the 80s, the shooters would have less room to score. Combine the bigger goalie with a better goalie, and it becomes substantially more difficult.

      • janiesmom - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        My understanding is that guys over 6’6″ can use a 28″ paddle. If that’s true, it’s going to most effect players who are 6’4″ or 6’5″ or shorter players who use longer paddles to be more upright. So Lindback isn’t affected but Rinne is.

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      Guys, guys. The rule has nothing to do with the length of the stick itself in whole. Think of how big 28 inches is, thats so tiny, no goalie in the world would use one unless he was playing knee hockey in his kitchen.

      This pertains to the paddle of the stick. The angled portion at the bottom.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        ……no s*** dude.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        oh, that last part just set in with me. if you think this is about the bottom half of the paddle, the part on the ice when goalies are standing, you’re mistaken. it’s the measurement from the vertex of the lower stick to the top of the paddle, not the length of the piece that sits on the ice. this is essentially lowering where the goalie holds the stick by 2 inches.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:53 PM

        clearer than I can explain it.

  3. chicagobtech - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    To be fair, with the last goal scored in the Chicago-Washington tilt it wouldn’t have mattered if the stick paddle was 26″, 28″, or 40″. It was half of a Hossa in the net for that goal.

  4. avfanforlife - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Ignoring the obvious here… Why would any stick manufacturer supply a goalie with an illegal stick in the first place? Measure the dang thing before it’s delivered!

    • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      They’re there to sell sticks, not enforce rules.

      • avfanforlife - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        It’s the NHL, not street hockey. MLB bats are manufactured not to exceed league specs.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        yeah because they apparently enforce their rules. when the NHL has allowed it to happen for years….. there’s demand. and you know what they say about supply when there’s demand.

  5. mathieug79 - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Why wouldn’t a goalie just tape the piece where they hold onto the stick for an inch or 2

    • ibieiniid - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      what would that do?

      • mathieug79 - Oct 4, 2013 at 7:40 AM

        extend the stick towards the ice

    • krebsy34 - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      because goalie sticks are balanced a certain way. Adding excessive amounts of tape can throw off the balance. And if you add 2 inches of tape I’m sure there would be control issues with the stick.

    • hockeyflow33 - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:54 PM


  6. hockeyflow33 - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    This is far more impactful than the new pad height restriction.

    Looks like there will be a surplus for anyone who uses pro stocks over 26.5″!

  7. earpaniac - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    I believe there is a rule about having tape on the end of the stick. I’m remembering about half of this, but I thought it was because a certain goalie would basically put a “knob” of tape on the end of his stick, and then would sometimes use it on players.

  8. goalieguy37 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:24 PM

  9. matt14gg - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    I would bet anything this rule will be amended. Most of the taller goalies in the league use sticks as long as 27.5″ or even 28″. The problem is this will tangibly affect a goalie’s posture in the net and it will force guys to stand in an awkward position they are not used to. The league already allows a special exception for taller players like Zdeno Chara to use a longer stick than the rules allow, because using a shorter stick would dramatically alter the way he would have to skate and handle the puck.

    Look for this rule to be adjusted in the near future. The goalies will be giving a lot back in equipment size in the next few years, and I’m guessing the league will give in a little bit on this one.

    BTW, if you are not a goalie you may not be aware, but a 26″ paddle is pretty small and I’d bet the league is going to find a lot of goalies’ custom sticks are not in compliance.

  10. nj666 - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Does the NHL have anymore pointless rules they’d like to enforce? How about we go back to Oakland Seals rules and make every player paint their skates white!

  11. joeyg97 - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    Wow I can’t believe they are trying to do this to goalies. I’m 5’10” and use 26/26.5 paddle, I have used 27 but found it easier to handle a 26. But guys over 6 ft (entire nhl) It really makes it hard on them. Hope they don’t enforce this stupid rule.

  12. joeyg97 - Oct 4, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    Haha are you serious?

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