When I heard the rumblings of change surrounding the concept of “streamlining” goalie pants in the NHL my first thought came selfishly right back to the size of my own pants. “I’m going to get sniped now, I sure make a lot of hip saves… This may be catastrophic” seemed to be the sentiments in my head, half joking, half fearing for my job. I have only ever used standard XL goalie pants from CCM or Bauer, and at 6’3 215 I figured rightfully so. There were guys shorter & thinner than me using the same sized gear, that I knew for sure, so I figured I couldn’t be part of the problem they were trying to address. But at the same time I wasn’t exactly leading the charge on streamlined gear.
Last year I wore a pair of XL Bauer 1s pants that I got midseason. The pants were the lightest pair I had ever received and I was in love with them initially. I remember coming to practice and walking in the room to see them sitting there, covering my entire stall. I had to chuckle to myself, “oh man, you’re gonna be a house in these things”. They were by far the largest pants I had ever worn. A stock XL Bauer 1s pant had thighs that were about 9” wide and much flatter than any human leg I’ve ever seen. If I would have tried to wear them without suspenders they would’ve fallen to my ankles as I’m not sure a single part of my leg actually touched anything in the pants. The padding on thighs was hefty and square, the outside edges of the pant were heavily padded and jut out a considerable amount. The hip/lovehandle padding extended all the way up to my lowest rib which made tucking my chesty almost a necessity. These things were absolute tanks, a modern achievement in protection no doubt, but to an extent in hindsight it did feel a bit excessive.
The first red flag I noticed was there was too much padding between my legs to seal my five hole. For how solid of a pant they were they made tasks as simple as closing my legs a challenge. For my first 5 practices I had to make sure to close my legs as tightly as possible because if I didn’t sifters from the point would drift through this now permanent puck-sized hole directly below my crotch. But they were light, protective, not overly cumbersome, great to tuck my chest into, and I didn’t know any better. How could I complain?
Secretly though, deep down, I have always had a bit of an issue with the way I look in net. I guess I’d equate it to someone being unhappy with what they see when they look in a mirror wearing their underwear. I just didn’t have the figure I wanted in net. I didn’t look athletic, I looked like the Michelin man or Vladikov, the Labatt Blue goalie that wedged his entire frame in the 4x6. I didn’t like that image. It wasn’t the type of goalie I wanted to be. But what was I supposed to do? I was wearing the gear that was advised for someone my size, it’s just the way I looked. Enter the new Bauer 1s “streamlined” pant.
When Frederik Andersen got his first pair late this summer from Bauer he called me over in the room just to show me. Our initial reaction was a shared one, in which we just couldn’t really believe how small they were. We kind of chuckled, looked at each other, and realized we were stuck with what they were. His concern was protection, as I think is every goalie in the NHL’s primary concern when it comes to the reduction of gear size. I remember sliding them on and feeling like I was in a player’s girdle. The mobility was crazy, they weighed a fraction of the pants I was currently wearing and the pants I was currently wearing weighed a fraction of what I was wearing prior. Based on that comparison alone I knew that these pants would go a long way toward making the athletic freaks that mind NHL nets even freakier, precisely what the NHL was trying to avoid.
The changes that Bauer made to these pants to make them more form-fitting ended up curing any of the mechanical issues that the original 1s pants had & trimmed all unnecessary fat. Whether that was intentional or just a coincidence due to the consolidating the padding to only what is necessary, there is no arguing that this “streamline” spec of the 1s
is a vast improvement. The thighs are no wider than 7” now, with adequate padding wrapping around the leg in a form-fitting manner. The inseam is well protected and closes much more flush now. The cut of the pants is significantly lower at the hips which I initially fretted would be an issue for protection, but the benefits of this lower cut are my favorite part of this new pant.
For the last little while I have had a really difficult time moving around my crease & tracking down on pucks. Even getting into the reverse VH, something I used to live in comfortably, was becoming a pain to get into and was no longer a position I used with 100% confidence. My game hadn’t been where I wanted it to be, despite doing everything I could to reinforce good technique in my game every rep in practice. For whatever reason it just felt like I had lost some serious range. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the injuries I have struggled with for the past few years or what exactly it could be attributed, but about a week ago I had a moment of true clarity, the kind that gives validation to the efforts you put in even when the results aren’t apparent immediately.
The first time I skated with these new pants can only be described as a blessing from the Goalie Gods themselves. I have been working very hard lately at my game to get my conditioning to a level I haven’t attained before rather than being content with where I am as an athlete. Just wearing these pants over my old ones made the work I’ve done feel like it had been twice as effective. I was moving completely fluidly and effortlessly around the crease, low and strong with nothing holding me back on my pushes. I was getting to my spots in plenty of time and expending less energy to get there. I was making saves on good low shots that I hadn’t been making in a long, long time just due to a restored range of motion I had been missing. The strain I had felt on my stance disappeared as I didn’t have to structurally support gear too large for me any longer. My groin no longer had to work overtime to try and keep my legs together inspite of the naturally spread gait of the original 1s. The holes in my RVH closed themselves & my chest and pants now interact seamlessly rather than constantly battling each other to be the one that stops the puck. Even absorbing shots to the gut and chest has become automatic, a simple skill I couldn’t for the life of me execute, as the original 1s pants made it near impossible to fold over on pucks fluidly. It was the first time I have truly felt like myself in a long time.
I happened to be watching a short clip of Andrei Vasilevskiy playing against Philadelphia this weekend when I walked into our locker room prior to our game Saturday. I marveled at the ease and control he was moving around his crease with, completely in control of his game and everything that was going on in front of him. It was the closest I had a seen a goalie to mimicking the fluidity of Carey Price. When I heard the next morning that he credited his recent good play to the new spec 1s pants that had been sent to him that week I was hardly surprised. The NHL sought to eliminate goalies from the league that they feel take advantage of the current gear regulations to make themselves as big as possible. What they did in response was give a bunch of highly skilled athletes that were being limited by their cumbersome equipment a form-fitting a futuristic goal pant that is capable of keeping up with the movement demands of a modern NHL goalie. Conventionally sized pants were just way too damn big and nobody wearing them had any clue about that fact. Unfortunately for the NHL goals will continue to go down & goalies will continue to get better as gear continues to become increasingly mobile. Fortunately for goalies we will be seeing and making a lot more saves that we know have no business being made. Welcome to the future goalies, form fitting is a good thing.