A goalie’s equipment is a somewhat personal matter. We all take pride on some sort of level with the gear that we own. It’s ours, we wear it constantly, and so much of it can reflect how we play as well as our personality. Some pads may be outgoing and flashy, while others conservative and utility based, but the decision between these two choices can all be reflected in the choice of colours for your pads.
The colouring and design of a goalkeepers equipment is something that has changed in many ways over the years and has almost seen trends in many spans of time. One might argue it’s even “goalie fashion”. The colourization of goalie pads began with Billie Smith, whom sported a pair of blue and orange pads for the New York Islanders in the 1974-75 season. (Billie Smith was a successful goalie for the Islanders, winning four cups with them over many successful years, he is also credited with the first ever goal as a goaltender.) It wasn’t until the 1980’s however that the colourization fad really caught on. Goalies such as Corrado Micalef, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, and Dan Bouchard all sported some of the earlier coloured pads; however, this wasn’t the earliest of Dan Bouchard wearing all white pads, he so for Quebec in the 81-82 season. This is a somewhat important note, as all white pads wouldn’t really make a comeback until many years later.
By about 1988 arguably all goalies at the NHL level were wearing colourized pads, typically matching the team colours. No reason is really said for goalies to have coloured pads, except perhaps for personal reasons, and later it sort of became part of the uniform for a goalie to match his team. Some goalies liked to have a touch of personality to their pads with some custom colouring, but this never strayed too far from some white or black. My personal favorite is Patrick Roy’s red and blue set from 1993, so much so I had a set of my own! I always found these pads pleasing to the eyes, and aside from some goalie sets, I always enjoyed this era of pads.
Today’s goalie pads are a little different, mostly in functionality, with newer parts designed practically to reduce weight and increase protection for the goaltender. It seems that today’s goalies keep with this trend even with their own personal choices and custom designs. The colourization of pads these days is quite the opposite of when everything first started; rather than having pads that completely match the team in terms of colour, we now see goalies having minimal colour and sporting almost all white pads. The idea is to “blur” the lines between the goalies pads and the ice, or the netting, boards, etc. It almost acts as a sort of camouflage or optical illusion to make it more difficult to discern between the goalie and the back of the net. Does it work? Hard to say. Goalies today aside from some true legends tend to put up good numbers averagely since starting to wear the more minimalistic approach to pads. One of the first to don the all-white was previously mentioned Dan Bouchard, whom wore all white for Quebec. A company named “Aeroflex” began making goalie pads in 1985 and were credited as being one of the first “synthetic” pads, being made with foam rather than horse hair and leather. These pads were also typically a majority white design, and many goalies had tried them out in their earlier years. Patrick Roy is credited with starting the true “white” trend when he had a white triangle added to the inner area of his pads in the late 90’s when he switched to Colorado.
The idea was to give the appearance that his 5 hole was much larger than it actually was, and encouraged shots. Many companies began manufacturing these white pads with colouring, and not until the mid 2000’s did we see full colour make a very brief comeback, as designs got more and more intricate. Eventually these designs covered the whole pad and once again, we had full colourization. These designs didn’t last too long as many took it too far and looked….awful. Carey Price donned a full black set for the World Juniors which wasn’t too bad, and also wore full red before switching to white. Many goalies seemed to abruptly switch to white, perhaps they saw some goalies don yellow or gold pads and decided that was enough!
Unfortunately there has been way too many changes to the functionality of the gear, the way goalies play and the way hockey is played to really get an idea if it makes a huge impact, however one could argue that it does indeed make an impact, so much so that the NHL occasionally discusses regulating the colourization of goalie pads every few years. My opinion is that very simply it blends the goalie in with the all-white boards, netting and ice, as well as jerseys etc. It may not seem like much but in a split second it makes it that much harder for a shooter to score. I personally use a completely white set these days, but what about yourselves? If you were a goalie would you wear a crisp white set, or perhaps go with something a little flashier? Maybe you have a favorite set or an ugliest set you have in mind? I welcome all to share as so much about the goalie pad design is personal!
Cover Photo Credit: @detroitredwings on twitter