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Sabres' Lehner a big fan of smaller equipment for goalies

Too many nights, Robin Lehner looks down the ice and feels he’s staring into a mirror. The problem with that is he’s a 6-foot-5, 245-pound goaltender and his counterpart might be 6-2, 160. With all the equipment on, they look the same.

Not for long.

The NHL is finally moving ahead with a plan to shrink and streamline goalie equipment, specifically pants and chest protectors. Kay Whitmore, the league’s senior director of hockey operations who handles goalie issues, said prototypes will be available in June and rule changes will be implemented next season.

“That’s perfect,” Lehner said Wednesday. “The discussion I had with Kay Whitmore when I was in Toronto was fairly simple. When I go and buy clothes, I buy clothes that fit me, you know? It should be the same thing here. If you have a 34 waist or whatever you have around your thighs, you shouldn’t have stuff that’s double that size. It should be a little more tailor-made, and it should be fitted to how big you are.

“Same with the arms. You shouldn’t be able to fit two, three arms in there.”

NHL general managers proposed the changes this week during their three-day meeting in Florida. The new rules will need approval from the competition committee and board of governors. The league is looking to increase scoring and goalies have been kept abreast of the changes, so approval is expected.

“The difference is going to be it’s more of a fair game,” Lehner said in First Niagara Center. “Right now there’s just too many layers and layers of padding on top of each other just covering more net. We can get away from that.”

The goalie guild has long been opposed to smaller equipment for safety purposes. Technological advancements have eased that concern.

“There’s things that can stop a bullet out there,” Lehner said. “There’s so many good technologies out there for padding that takes away the bruises and stuff, but at the end of the day we’re hockey goaltenders. We’re going to have some bruises.

“The players get bruises. They block shots. They don’t have our equipment. We can’t just keep having excuses that we’re going to get injured. It’s part of the sport. It’s a contact sport. We were dumb enough to make the choice to stand in front of pucks. To complain about it, I think there’s no point to do it.”

While Lehner likes the changes from a fairness standpoint, he doesn’t think smaller equipment will mean more goals.

“I might be wrong, but it might even go the other way,” he said. “Goaltenders are going to move better. They’re going to have less weight and padding on them. Goaltenders find ways to adjust all the time.”

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