The stand-up stance for goalies is nearly extinct in today’s game. Because of this, leg pads are all designed to easily move from a standing position to lock down to the ice for the butterfly position. New pads are lighter, more durable, and designed for the goalie who employs a variety of positions while still allowing for athletic, reactive saves.
Leg pads are all constructed to be flat at the top so the tops of both pads conform together while down in the butterfly position. It is safe to say this is a standard in all modern leg pads because all goalies use butterfly position.
Some leg pads come with thigh boards, which are illegal at the professional levels of hockey. Thigh boards are often referred to as “five-hole cheaters” because they serve as a backup in case your legs do not close in time to save the puck. For this reason, thigh boards are not allowed in the NHL.
Leg pads have knee support, often called knee cradles. This helps the pad stay stable on the goalie’s leg, beginning at the knee. Goalies tend to wear looser pads in order to make quick butterfly saves. Proper knee support helps ensure the pads stay in place while maintaining sufficient support for the goaltender.
Some leg pads, such as Vaughn, do not come with thigh boards and come with thigh wraps instead. A thigh wrap protects the kneecap from pucks and is not considered a five-hole cheater because they tuck underneath the goalie pant. Goalies have three options for knee protection:
- Thigh wrap that connects the knee protector to the leg pad itself
- Built-in knee protector that connects to the goalie pants
- Separate knee pads that are not connected to the pad or the pants
Regardless of which form of protection you prefer, it is important to choose one of these three options in order to avoid painful bruising and possible breakage while making a save.
All new goalie equipment designs and concepts come directly from the pros. This holds true for the new “plus-sizing system,” which resulted from the NHL goalies’ desire to feature an extra inch at the top of the leg pad for additional five-hole coverage. Plus-sizing is now the standard on all top-of-the-line goalie leg pads. Pads are now measured in length using inches, plus one inch (for example, 32” +1, 33” +1, 34” +1, 35” +1).
Fitting Leg Pads
Leg pads should extend from the toe of the skate to 4 to 5 inches above the knee. To select a size:
- Bend your leg slightly and measure the length of your shin from the center of your kneecap to your ankle.
- Measure the length from the center of your kneecap to your mid-thigh.
- Add these two measures together, along with your skate size, and you should have a good idea of what size leg pad to purchase.
For example, if your shin measures 17 inches, your mid-thigh measures 7 inches, and your skate size is 10, you should consider 34 inch +1 leg pads. The +1 sizing system is standard for leg pads, meaning that +1 is an extra inch added to the top of the leg pad. This addition helps goalies with their butterfly position as well as with their five-hole coverage. Some leg pads come with a +2 sizing system, which is more common with high-level, experienced goalies.
Note the goalie’s stance in the picture at right—this is how the knee should be aligned with the knee cradle.
How to Put on Leg Pads
It can be difficult to figure out proper fitting for goalie leg pads without some instruction. They come with a variety of straps, clips, and laces, and it’s important to wear them properly in order to allow proper movement and protection.
First, know that the straps are meant to be worn loose, especially on the top half of the pad. With the exception of the knee cradle/knee strap, it is important for the straps to be worn loosely. Otherwise, you will not be able to butterfly properly. The leg pad needs to fit loosely enough on the leg so it can rotate when going down to the ice to butterfly.
The image above shows how lose goalies wear their straps. Some wear them looser than others, but this will give you a better idea.
These are the strings at the toes of the pad, and they are meant to keep the skate and pad in sync. First, make a ¾”–1” knot from the toe bridge of the pad as in the image. This allows you to tie the laces tight and still allows the pad to shift enough when using inside edges for lateral movement. Without this knot, the pad will be too snug and may grip the ice instead of the skate blade, causing the foot to slip out from underneath.
Lacing Toe Ties
There are multiple ways to lace toe ties. The pictures on the next page depict the most common and easiest tying method. Align the toe of the pad to the toe of the goalie skate. Take both laces and loop them through the first hole on the bottom of the skate near the toe. Do the same through the second middle hole. Finally, bring the laces up over the top of the skate and tie tightly.
Lacing Toe Ties Steps
- Align the knot of the toe tie to the toe of the skate. Take one lace to the right side of the skate and the other to the left; then loop both through the first hole of the skate holder.
- Pull tightly and repeat step 1 through the second hole of the skate holder.
- Pull tightly and bring both laces to the top of the skate and tie.