BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After years and years and years of talking about tackling the size of goaltending equipment, general managers on Tuesday felt they finally got that eureka moment when NHL goalie equipment guru Kay Whitmore made his presentation.
"This morning when we talked about goalie equipment, I think that was really the big thing of the day," Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. "Kay Whitmore said he's getting great support from the players and the players' association, which I think is a huge step moving forward."
Whitmore's update to GMs was very positive; his work in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association and equipment manufacturers over the past year should see more streamlined, contoured chest protectors and goalie pants introduced starting next season.
"It looked better," Armstrong said of the new equipment.
"It might just be optics, but the optics for the shooter is that there's going to be more net and hopefully that'll produce, I'm not saying more goals, but the athletic goalies will be more rewarded than the shot-blockers."
Whitmore credited the NHLPA and the goalies involved for helping this finally become a reality.
"This started last year after competition committee when we and the union agreed that things needed to be done with the pants and the upper body, and we've been working behind the scenes nonstop," Whitmore said Tuesday. "You've seen the goalies involved, Cory (Schneider), Devan (Dubnyk), Braden (Holtby), these guys have spoken out after All-Star [weekend]. It's a joint venture between us and them. The cooperation has been there and that is something that has been lacking. I'm not going to lie, there was a lot of skepticism in the room by the managers because it has been Groundhog Day on this topic. The question was asked today, 'Well, what's different this time around?' Well, we are attacking it together. You are hearing from some of the best goalies in the game and they think this is what is right. They want a level playing field within their ranks. They want to look at the other end of the rink and feel that the guy down there looks appropriate for his size so that if a guy is 6-4, 250, he should look that big, and if you are 6-1, 170, there should be a difference between those kind of guys. That's what we are going after. We have different measurements of guys."
The new streamlined equipment should be in the hands of NHL goalies by the summer.
"A lot is going to fall on the manufacturers, and they understand what is ahead of them and they have been working at it," Whitmore said. "They are refining their prototypes to the point where we are going to sign off on it. We are not going to sign off on it until us, the players and the union are happy with it. They have to have it ready for next season. We are doing this and it is incumbent upon them to have it right and ready. If it's not right, you are not going to be in the league. Goalies are going to have options as to what they wear so it's to their benefit for everyone to make it the way we want."
Along with the new equipment will come a willingness, more than ever, to use the current rules in place to suspend the goalies who cheat on equipment. The current rule says it's a two-game suspension and a $25,000 fine for a first-time offender getting caught with illegal equipment.
"We've never done it, so we have to use the tool that is in place," NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell said.
"When Kay makes a decision on the goaltending equipment now in place and suspends a guy, don't holler and scream. Believe in the process."
"The rules are the rules," Bergevin said. "If you cheat, you pay the price. If we all agree now, all 30 of us, and it happens in October, none of us should be crying about it. ... If you live by the rules you should be fine."
RULE 48 STAYS UNTOUCHED
"Basically I got crushed," Kekalainen told ESPN.com after Day 2 of the general managers meetings.
And he's OK with it; he got his chance to speak in his 10-person breakout group, which examined Rule 48, but his opinion did not win the day.
"I always try to be where we discuss things and people can agree to disagree," Kekalainen said. "When we leave the room, we all agree. The rule is good. The only thing I wanted to see changing is that I wanted to see the player always be able to protect themselves."
Specifically, Kekalainen wanted to tweak the definition of the rule for illegal checks to the head to include the banning of blindside hits, like the one that felled his captain, Nick Foligno, earlier this season, a hit that did not receive any supplemental discipline.
"And when you're in an act of shooting like Nick Foligno was, I think he was unable to protect himself," Kekalainen said. "Those are the type of hits I'd like to see come out of the game. But of course we need physicality, we need hits in the game. Sometimes you're going to see someone hit clean and the head is going to snap back or there's going to be head contact on a good hit. I'm fine with that."
Kekalainen was in a group Tuesday with fellow GMs Don Sweeney (Boston Bruins), Garth Snow (New York Islanders), Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers), Bob Murray (Anaheim Ducks), Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lighnting), Kevin Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg Jets), Ken Holland (Detroit Red Wings), Lou Lamoriello (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota Wild).
Needless to say, the hawks outmusled the doves on Rule 48. The final verdict is that it will stay the same.
"We watched a lot of video and unanimously felt the rule is working," Lamoriello said. "And they're doing an excellent job of just the way it's being policed."
Added Yzerman: "It's fine the way it is. We clarified it, everybody understands what the rule is. Everybody has a question why was this one a penalty and why not this? Why is this a suspension? We showed some of the differences so everyone just has a clearer understanding. We talked a lot about should we change the rule and we decided we're fine with the way the rule is now."
The concern with enlarging the score of Rule 48 is that hitting would be completely taken out of the game.
"I understand the argument that's coming against me, but still, if there was some way to have players protect themselves always, that's what I want to see," Kekelainen said.
IDEAS TO ADD OFFENSE
One of Tuesday's GM breakout groups was charged with, as David Poile said, "throwing spaghetti at the wall" as far as ideas to create more offense in the game.
The group consisted of Poile (Nashville Predators), Bergevin (Montreal Canadiens), Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles Kings), Don Maloney (Arizona Coyotes), Doug Wilson (San Jose Sharks), Tim Murray (Buffalo Sabres), Brad Treliving (Calgary Flames), Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Ray Shero (New Jersey Devils).
Some of the ideas discussed included Bergevin's suggestion that a two-minute penalty should be fully served even if a goal is scored on the power play; Bowman's idea of not allowing short-handed teams to ice the puck; and Poile's proposal to start a period with an offensive zone faceoff if a power play is carrying over.
All kinds of ideas were bounced around and will be brought up to the larger group Wednesday.
But one thing is clear: Those ideas take a back seat to wanting to see how the reduced goalie equipment will have an impact next season.
"Before we have to talk about getting radical in anything else (to create more offense), if we can shore that position up, I think that will give us some clarity on some other things," Armstrong said.
Added Poile: "To me, the goalie equipment trumps everything else we talked about (including ideas to improve offense). Kay Whitmore has done a fantastic job and getting great cooperation from the players' association. Cory Schneider is the key guy in that and Cory has a great head on his shoulders and is very supportive of this. It seems like most of the top goalies are buying into the level playing field if you will. If we get this done, I think a lot of other things (like ideas to create offense) we won't have to talk about."