Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Robin Lehner is already big − 6-foot-5. He’s already wide – 240 pounds. And when outfitted in goaltending equipment, he looks like Godzilla’s body double, capable of devastating cities with a butterfly drop. Goaltenders of comparable size are everywhere in the NHL as part of a natural evolution. And each of them is protected by expansive equipment that could smother dynamite with no harm to the wearer. That’s an evolution most unnatural.
Three of the four major professional sports leagues have taken steps to enhance offense. The NFL put force fields around quarterbacks and receivers. MLB lowered the mound and drew in the fences. The NBA introduced the three-point shot and killed zone defenses. The NHL has gone the other way. A little more than 20 years ago, two players had 76 goal seasons and 15 teams scored at least 300. Last year, the individual points leader had 87 and no team scored more than 262.
There’s more to this than goaltending equipment that has sprouted like a Chia Pet. But reexamining its purpose is a good place to start.