Uni Watch reveals new NHL goalie gear
Whenever a league is about to start its new season, Uni Watch puts together a column breaking down all the uniform changes you can expect to see. But the NHL gets two columns. The annual team-by-team breakdown of uni adjustments ran earlier this week. Today we'll look at the goalies.
Let's start with masks. Most goalies will have new designs for the new season, and Uni Watch doesn't pretend to have kept up with all of them. But here's the new headwear for Alex Auld, Niklas Backstrom, Martin Biron, Sergei Bobrovsky, Cedrick Desjardins, Dan Ellis, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mathieu Garon, Jaroslav Halak (he'll be switching back and forth between that mask and a second design), Johan Hedberg, Braden Holtby, Henrik Karlsson, Kari Lehtonen, Michael Leighton, Henrik Lundqvist, Steve Mason, Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymaki, Chet Pickard, Mike Smith, and Marty Turco (he has two masks -- one for home, one for the road).
But when it comes to goalie gear, masks are the low-hanging fruit -- bright, flashy, obvious. If you really want to be a serious netminder aesthete, you need to follow the latest developments in the world of leg pads, gloves and blockers. That scene is so dense and insular, however, that Uni Watch has never been able to keep up with it.
Fortunately, this year Uni Watch is once again privileged to have the assistance of Tyler Hull, who not only comes from a family of hockey royalty but also works for one of the major goalie outfitting companies, so keeping tabs on goalie pads is part of his job. He's undertaken the Herculean task of tracking and assessing the pads being worn by every single NHL goalie this season.
As you'll see, Tyler is no fan of the growing trend toward solid-white leg pads -- the whiteout look. "Most whiteout goalies feel it gives them an advantage, as the ice, boards, net, and pads all tend to blend together in the shooter's line of vision," he explains. "Or at least that's the idea -- whether that really happens is unclear. What's very clear, though, is that the whiteout look is disastrous for fans. With all the great color combinations that are available, going with solid white is like telling us you're either boring or clueless."
With that caveat in mind, here's Tyler's team-by-team breakdown of what you can expect to see in the nets this season:
"Last year Jonas Hiller started the Koho revolution. This year he keeps it going with a new Koho line. The coloring is nice but not as good as his previous graphic. He's also gotten teammate Curtis McElhinney to join the Koho revolution with him. Not a fan off the mostly white design, but it's good to see Koho making a comeback."
in his first season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"Atlanta might win the award for best-looking goalies this year. Ondrej Pavelec is still wearing his great set from last season and new Thrasher Chris Mason is wearing one of the league's best new setups, with great coloring. Everyone else take notes, because this is what goalies are supposed to look like -- colorful and vibrant, not all-white."
"Tuukka Rask has switched to the new Vaughn Velocity 4s but kept the same basic coloring. I've always liked Vaughn's graphics, as they give you tons of coloring options. Meanwhile, Tim Thomas has switched to the newly named Reebok Larceny pads (formerly the Kinetic Fit) and nerfed the colors. Not a fan of these -- Boston has great colors and he isn't using them."
"After trying out for the Reebok Larceny pads for over a year, it appears Ryan Miller will finally be wearing them this season. Unfortunately, his teammate Patrick Lalime is going with the whiteout look."
"Miikka Kiprusoff is wearing the same equipment he wore last year: Re-Flex graphics over old Vapor X:60 pads. His teammate Henrik Karlsson, who just came over from Sweden, has a mix and match of pads and coloring. I like the yellow in the blocker and wish more Calgary goalies used this accent tone in their gear."
"Cam Ward is trying to go back to [2005-06] -- not only in his play, when he won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe, but also with his pads. He's wearing the Vaughn Icebergs, just like he did back then, and in the same coloring too. Teammate Justin Peters is another goalie wearing Vapor X:60 pads with the Re-Flex graphic. Good use of the coloring here, using the full range of Hurricanes colors."
"Another contender for the team with the best-dressed goalies, the Hawks have gone from one extreme to the other. Last year Antti Niemi, now with the Sharks, had the whiteout look, but new Hawk Marty Turco has gone in the opposite direction. Awesome! And Corey Crawford has made a huge improvement since last year, going from mostly white pads to this design."
"Craig Anderson is the first goalie on the list to be wearing the new Sher-Wood pads. Sher-Wood has always made good equipment, but that look is brutal -- no imagination or uniqueness. Simpler-looking pads can be nice but these look like someone was in a rush and just threw something together. Meanwhile, Peter Budaj has come up with a decent effect with the Avs' unusual color scheme."
Columbus Blue Jackets
"Steve Mason is getting close to whiteout status -- sad to see, because he's always had such great pads and style. Teammate Mathieu Garon is keeping it simple -- not bad, but he could look better."
Detroit Red Wings
"Jimmy Howard remains unchanged from last year -- a good look. As for Chris Osgood, he's almost in the whiteout camp. Considering the options Vaughn offers, I wish he did more with them."
"Nikolai Khabibulin's look is simple and good. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers' regular pads are fine, but the set he wears with Edmonton's throwback uniform makes my eyes hurt -- that is some seriously loud gear. Devan Dubnyk has two sets of gear as well: standard and throwback."
"Tomas Vokoun has a great-looking setup that remains unchanged from last year, while Scott Clemmensen has changed his full-color pads to go retro with the Vaughn V2 graphic. Great use of the colors there -- he's always done a great job of getting the most out of the standard graphic packages."
Los Angeles Kings
"Jonathan Quick is another guy who uses the Vaughn graphics to their fullest potential. His new V4 design for this year is fantastic. As for Jonathan Bernier -- the new backup now that Erik Ersberg has been released -- I'm a fan of the Revokes with the inner half colored and the outer half white, which offers a nice balance and is a good, clean look."
"Niklas Backstrom has switched to the V4s this year. Not bad, but I miss the gold he used in his older sets and wish he had incorporated it into these. Josh Harding would have been his backup, but he blew out his knee the other day, so Minnesota has signed Jose Theodore. He'll probably be wearing his old pads for a few days until he can get a Wild-colored set."
"Carey Price is now firmly in the whiteout camp (adding a touch of blue and red in the knee rolls doesn't change it). Too bad, because he had such awesome pads to start last year. New Canadien Alex Auld, who came from the Rangers, didn't have to change his gear, as his old and new teams' color schemes are almost identical."
"There's a small change for Pekka Rinne's pads: that small yellow stripe (last year it was gray). He should really incorporate both the gray and the yellow, not just one or the other. Still, he's better than Mark Dekanich, who basically wants nothing to do with any color."
New Jersey Devils
"Martin Brodeur has always had great color schemes, but this year he's wearing a lot more white. Then there's Johan Hedberg, who's another guy wearing X:60 pads with Re-Flex graphics."
New York Islanders
"After years of wearing the whiteout look, Rick DiPietro has gone in a different direction this year -- bam! Rick went with this awesome look to honor his father, who served as a chopper pilot in Vietnam. With so many goalies going from color to white, it's great to see someone going in the other direction (and this is much more likely to mess with a shooter's head than the whiteout effect). Unfortunately, teammate Dwayne Roloson didn't get that memo."
New York Rangers
"Henrik Lundqvist is another goalie going in the right direction, with more color on his pads than he had last season. Interestingly, his pads from last year were being worn by backup Martin Biron for the first part of the preseason (very rare to see a goalie wearing someone else's gear, because each pad is customized to the player's size and preferences), but now Biron has his own gear. He's joined the Koho revolution -- the first time he isn't wearing the Vaughn Iceberg pads since his days in Buffalo early in his career."
"Remember those ugly Sher-Wood pads Craig Anderson was wearing? Pascal Leclaire is wearing them too. Such a shame, because his gear last year was so cool and unique. Meanwhile, teammate Brian Elliott is wearing his same setup from last season. I wish both these guys would add more gold to their pads."
"Ilya Bryzgalov has made the change to the V4s without changing his color pattern. He could learn a thing or two from teammate Jason LaBarbera, who's going with awesome solid-colored pads."
"Much like the Islanders' goalies, Pittsburgh's goaltenders present a case of polar opposites. Marc-Andre Fleury is a total whiteout devotee. Meanwhile, the guy on the bench, Brent Johnson, looks amazing. Fleury may be the starter, but Johnson is the man on this team."
San Jose Sharks
"The Sharks have two new goalies this year. Niemi was in the whiteout camp last year with the Blackhawks, and his switch to the Sharks -- and to the new Sher-Wood pads -- hasn't changed that. Antero Niittymaki has worn the Vaughn V2s for many years now, so a new team just means new colors. The orange is a nice touch but some black would have really set these pads off."
Tampa Bay Lightning
"New Lightning goalie Dan Ellis is going with a simple, clean look for his new PS3 pads. I like it -- he has all the team colors in there and everything feels balanced. Mike Smith is wearing more white this year than last, but he still has enough color in there to come up with a good look."
Toronto Maple Leafs
"Both Toronto goalies -- Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson -- are wearing the same pads they wore last year. Both are nice enough, but it would be great if at least one of them went with a predominantly blue design."
"Semyon Varlamov has switched from Vaughn to Reebok. More blue would have looked better -- for proof, just look at what Michal Neuvirth is wearing. Even amid all that white, he's found that perfect balance of red and blue."
And there you have it, people -- 30 teams, 61 goalies, and no shortage of opinions. Major thanks to Tyler for sharing his time and expertise. Now let's drop the puck and play some hockey.
(Special thanks to inGoal Magazine for several of the photos linked within this column.)
Paul Lukas couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a goalie or a fireman when he was growing up (so of course he became a writer instead). If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.