Cam Cole: Ex-NHLer Hirsch says it’s time to trim bulky goalie gear

 

 
 
 
 
Ryan Miller #30 of the Vancouver Canucks gets ready to make a save against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
 
 

Ryan Miller #30 of the Vancouver Canucks gets ready to make a save against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.

Photograph by: Norm Hall, NHLI via Getty Images

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Corey Hirsch hasn’t been this famous since Sweden issued a stamp depicting Peter Forsberg scoring that shootout goal on him in the gold-medal game of the Lillehammer Olympics.

And all it took was a video recorded at the Sportsnet studios — Hirsch, a set of NHL-approved goalie equipment, and an animation of a full-sized goalie being pared down to size, piece by piece — so that a shooter might actually be able to see some net behind him.

It was eye-opening. It was great TV.

It was also, judging by the reaction of many an upset custodian of the cord cottage, the work of a dirty, rotten traitor to The Family. Hirsch doesn’t admit to having got the stink eye from any NHL goalies, but we can probably assume they weren’t toasting his courage.

“I would say (the reaction) has been 75 to 80 per cent positive. The other 20 per cent, people have called me names I’ve never heard before,” Hirsch chuckled Friday.

The dissenters …

“It’s a lot of goalies,” he said. “And you know what’s funny? You can still wear your stuff in the beer league. NHL security, Kay Whitmore’s not going to drop in and measure your stuff. This is for the NHL. This is pro.”

Hirsch’s idea is that if there’s a way to shrink the goalie rather than expand the net, the NHL ought to leap at it.

And the league has been trying to, one drop of blood at a time, against tremendous resistance. Perhaps a demonstration like Hirsch’s video will give the movement, if you can call it that, a little cattle-prod in the hindquarters.

What makes the Sportsnet video different is that this is a former Olympic team and NHL goaltender, sworn to uphold the secrets of the trade, lobbying for shorter, narrower leg pads … pants that aren’t 10 sizes larger than the goalie’s waist … the removal of the “cheater” from the catching glove and the side-flap from the chest protector … slimming the arm padding … flattening the shoulder-pad flaps that make average-sized ’keepers look like XXXL coat-hangers, shortening the shaft and blade of the goal stick.

To those of us who have been reporting on the latest dead-puck era, it is candy for the eyes, music to the ears.

Could this actually be a catalyst to get the NHL off its overpadded arse and effect some meaningful changes, as opposed to the microscopic trimming it has done since the size of goalie equipment first arose as an issue … what, 20 years ago?

It seems, anyway, to have been that long since the size of Patrick Roy’s sweater and the comical shoulders of Garth Snow first got the attention of the keen-eyed observers.

“Goalies have been finding ways for years. Tony Esposito used to do stuff in the ’70s. Someone added the cheater, I don’t know who. But they didn’t really do anything wrong. There were no rules,” Hirsch said.

“I got a lot of comments like, ‘Hey, you never faced …’ You know what? I played against Al MacInnis, I played against Al Iafrate. I practised every day against Donald Brashear. These guys all shot the puck over 100 miles an hour. So don’t tell me I’ve never experienced guys who shoot the puck hard.”

The counter-argument that always seems to win the day — that smaller equipment will lead to more injuries — is a total red herring, Hirsch said.

“Guess what? You’re a goalie. Whoever promised you weren’t going to get some bruises? You play a contact sport. You’re not guaranteed not to get injured,” he said.

“That’s not to say we’re looking for broken bones. And I didn’t touch any of the chest stuff, because anything that protects the organs, the chest, the ribs, the heart, that’s got to stay the way it is.

“My point is that we have the technology to make the goalies look like they did in the ’70s and ’80s and keep them as protected as they are today. We have the foams, we have the (Kevlar), the materials. It can be done.”

The real issue may no longer be that the goalies’ union is 100 per cent opposed. Lots of NHL ’keepers — Cory Schneider, Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick — have come out in favour of significant reductions in equipment size. The league sounds determined, this time.

But the cost to manufacturers of changing patterns, designs, moulds at their plants; these are multimillion-dollar propositions, and it may be that the NHL has to invest real dollars in the project to help the manufacturers come up with new models.

Hirsch says he understands why there are those among the NHL goaltending fraternity who hate the idea of shrinking their gear.

“They don’t want to get scored on. It has nothing to do with injuries,” he said.

“I would be scared of not being as good a goalie wearing smaller equipment. That’s what it boils down to. Who knows, it might even make goalies better, I don’t know. But the point is, the athlete makes the save, not the equipment.”

ccole@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Ryan Miller #30 of the Vancouver Canucks gets ready to make a save against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
 

Ryan Miller #30 of the Vancouver Canucks gets ready to make a save against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.

Photograph by: Norm Hall, NHLI via Getty Images

 
Ryan Miller #30 of the Vancouver Canucks gets ready to make a save against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
Bernie Parent #1 of the Philadelphia Flyers tends goal in game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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