Roberto Luongo mockingly threatened to retire if the NHL were to enlarge the size of the goals. In fact, Luongo is indirectly the reason the league is even considering the move.
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The league is seeking ways to increase scoring. There are many reasons for the decline in scoring compared to the '70s and '80s. When it comes to goalies, today's netminders benefit from better coaching, conditioning and equipment. That is a natural evolution of the sport.
Furthermore, goalies have simply gotten bigger. When a shooter skates in on goal, there is often about as much open space as an elephant would find in a phone booth.
Luongo is an excellent example of the growth in the crease. The Vancouver goalie is listed as 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds.
The top 10 NHL goalies last season, based on goals against average, averaged 6-foot and 195 pounds. Of the top 20, the shortest ones were Vesa Toskala, now with Toronto, and St. Louis' Manny Legace, both 5-foot-10.
To compare that to the goalies of yesteryear, look at the NHL's list of career shutout leaders (minus active goalies), a list populated by the game's best goalies such as Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, and Tony Esposito. Those top 10 averaged 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds.
The growth evolution shows no signs of stopping. Ben Bishop, a St. Louis Blues prospect, stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 210 pounds. If Bishop were to lay prone on the ice across the goalmouth, the only way to stickhandle around him would be to skate to the sideboards.
If Bishop becomes the norm then the NHL would have to enlarge the nets again to such proportions that it would prompt Luongo to retire faster than Don Cherry can spit out his praise for his beloved dog, Blue.
Here's a thought to maintain continuity in goaltending while the league gets bigger and bigger. Reduce the size of goalie equipment to yesteryear standards and then leave them restricted at fixed dimensions no matter how big goalies become.
Goalie pads, for example, could shrink by nearly half in width and height by using the old dimensions. Today's standards for goalie equipment are too big, thus allowing goalies to impersonate knights with oversized armor.
The modern goalie equipment is lighter and better, so asking the goalies to go back to the equipment dimensions used back in the '70s and '80s would not compromise safety or performance for average-sized goalies.
However, taller and bigger players would be discouraged from becoming goalies because the equipment dimensions might not provide adequate protection. Those players would be welcome to line up on the blue line alongside the likes of 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara, or play up front alongside the likes of 6-foot-5 Michal Handzus.
This concept is analogical to horse racing where the weight limit on horses makes the sport predisposed to jockeys who are short in height, thus light in weight. This is not to suggest the NHL adopt this extreme standard in order to populate the net with small people, but to point out that the horse racing industry's steadfast adherence to the weight limit helps maintain a consistent frame of reference in the performance (i.e. race times) through the decades.
The NHL has stood by its rink dimensions of 200 feet by 85 feet. The same should go for the dimensions of the net. If the league tries to rationalize a change in net size, it is opening the door for another enlargement in, say, 50 years, to accommodate further evolution in the size of goalies.
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