Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Marc-Andre Fleury approaches his locker following the first day of Golden Knights’ training camp.
He pulls his mask off and places it on the shelf at the top of his stall, turns around and sits on the bench. Still wearing his gear, he smiles as reporters converge around him and reaches his hand up to slick his long hair back away from his eyes.
The NHL altered goaltenders’ chest-protectors this offseason, making them smaller in several areas to cover less of the net. With last year’s padding Fleury’s arms weren’t as mobile, and he never could have slicked his hair back while wearing it.
“I guess that’s one of the benefits,” Fleury joked.
But Fleury and many goalies around the NHL aren’t completely satisfied with the new equipment. They are still requesting small tweaks to provide them with the proper protection. Fleury is still awaiting replacement parts with preseason already started and the regular season quickly approaching.
“I think it just feels a little bit rushed,” Fleury said. “There are still come complaints about parts so we’re still waiting for pieces to be signed off on by the league. I’m hoping I get the pieces here in time.It would have been nice to get comfortable, make sure it’s safe and wait for parts before the season started.”
The changes include making the shoulder floaters (small pieces that hang on the shoulders) 1.5 inches narrower, and narrower arm pads around the elbow. They are designed to make the pads fit the shape of the goalie’s body and not protrude.
Fleury said there have been a small amount of shots in practice he thought were going to hit his shoulder, but sailed by and into the net.
“Our focus at the (NHL Players Association) has always been the safety of the players and the fairness in the game. As goalies are just now starting to receive their new gear we are in contact with them to gather their feedback,” NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive director Mathieu Schneider told InGoal magazine in August. “This has been a process that has been ongoing for years and we realize there’s still work to be done to get over the finish line.”
Fleury said he has already felt a few stingers on his arms from shots that normally wouldn’t hurt. It’s why he’s hoping to have different pieces for his elbows before he gets onto the ice for real.
Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh commented on the new pads in a tweet, posting that he’s “talked to several NHL goalies who feel the reduced padding around the neck and shoulders will lead to more injuries.”
On a positive note, goalies agree the pads are much lighter than the previous ones.
“I actually feel like once I break it in it’ll be even better,” Golden Knights goalie Oscar Dansk said. “It’s a little lighter and once it’s broken in I’ll be a little more mobile in it.”
Malcolm Subban said he notices an improvement in his arm mobility as well and doesn’t mind the smaller shoulders too much.
Coach Gerard Gallant said the equipment tweaks don’t change much for him or his staff.
“I’m sure the shooters will see more room so I’m sure they’re talking about it but we haven’t said anything as a coaching staff,” he said. “Twenty minutes ago we were looking at a picture of Bernie Parent when he played and it looked like he had no gear on. It’s amazing how things change.”