Serve & Protect

Goalie, Equipment, Performance

The proper fit of goal equipment is extremely important to ensure maximum product performance and protection. Equipment that is too large is heavier than the ideal weight for the user, is off balance and the bend or flex points will be in the wrong locations anatomically for the goaltender’s body. Equipment that is too large simply slows a goalie down and prevents precise movement, control and equipment positioning, which will result in hurting the goaltenders performance.

Equipment also needs to be chosen according to each individual’s level of play. There are many performance levels of products that overlap in sizing to allow a goaltender to select the appropriate level of protection for their level of play.


The blocker glove size needs to be selected based on hand size in the palm and how it overlaps with the arm and chest protector.

Each size model has a different size blocking board. The fingers need to be fully extended into the palm and the fingers need to be no more than a quarter inch from the ends of the fingertips of the palm. The thickness of the goaltender's hand needs to fill out the body of the palm as well.

If the blocker is too large the goaltender will find it difficult to deflect pucks to the corners with any control as the glove will twist on the hand. The palm will tend to wear out faster if the glove is too large, as the material in the palm will bunch up causing wear spots. This also degrades stick grip and control.

Arm & Chest Protector

Arm and chest protectors are often over looked because it is not an exposed product that parents and coaches see. A properly fitted unit will have the forearm within one inch of the wrist, but not past it. The chest pad should extend 3 to 4 inches past the belly button and have coverage extending over the lower rib cage area. The shoulders should be wide enough to give good coverage over the collarbone and outer shoulder area.

The unit should be adjusted so it sits and stays near the neckline. The goaltender should be able to cross his arms in front of his body and raise his arms over his head freely. When in a crouched position the chest pad should not shift upward or bulge out. If it does, it is too large. If the arms are too long, the bend points are not located properly and the padding bunches up reducing arm movement and pushes against the gloves causing poor performance.

Typically in smaller goaltenders, a unit will last about two seasons of growth. The arm and chest pad is the core of the goaltenders equipment and proper fit is essential for smooth, fluid athletic motion and body protection and gives the goaltender confidence in not being afraid of body impacts.


Goal mask fit is imperative to achieve maximum protection and sight lines.  All the certification testing is done on a head form in the prescribed size of the mask. Trying to wear a mask that is too large or has gotten too small really negates all these test results.

Another issue is head coverage. Many masks are very shallow so the rear skull plate extends too far back exposing the back of the head. Make sure that the full head is covered to ensure protection.

At 2 years of age a child’s head is usually within 75 percent of full size, so masks or helmets will tend to last several years but should be checked often for any damage to the shell or cage area. Make sure all padding is secure and screws and clips are intact and there are no broken, bent or damaged bars on the cage.

A goal mask that is too large moves and twists on the head; not only is protection compromised but visibility is usually poor as the bars are not aligned with the field of vision. When the mask is too large the chin will hit the chest area limiting head motion and also impact the side shoulder areas limiting head rotation as well.

Many young goalies simply are not large enough yet to handle a goal mask. A helmet and cage is a more appropriate selection. You can only tell this by trying on a mask with the arm and chest pad on and looking for good head motion with no interference. At the younger ages puck velocity is not enough to worry about the protection difference.

Catching Glove

Catching glove size needs to be selected based on the individual goaltenders hand size. The fingers need to extend up far enough so they have leverage to close the glove properly. The tip of the thumb and fingers are far enough into the glove so it is not sloppy or loose on the hand.

If a glove is too large it is difficult to close to retain pucks. Shots around the perimeter will twist the glove on the hand and be difficult to maneuver precisely and quickly to maximize performance.

Too often young goalies jump from a junior youth size right to a full adult size causing them to struggle. The proper selection would have been an intermediate size.

You can’t just rely on tightening all the straps to hold a glove on. The glove has to be the right size to ensure proper fit.

Leg Pads

Leg pads, being the largest piece of equipment and having the most weight, need to be carefully selected. When the pads are new and tried on with skates properly attached to the pad, the knee should be located just below the middle of the knee cradle while goaltender is in his or her butterfly. The top of the pads should be no more than two-thirds the distance between the knee and hip. Pads taller than this pose a few problems. Movement becomes difficult.

Goaltenders are often told a taller pad will help close their five-hole area when in a butterfly position. This is actually wrong. If a leg pad is too tall when the goaltender goes down into a butterfly, the tops of the pads will come together and hit at the top before the pads impact the ice. It pushes the knees outward putting stress on the groin, which contributes to pulled groin muscles.

This also delays the formation of the butterfly leaving a momentary hesitation of the pads closing. This exposes the five-hole, which is extremely undesirable. Pads too tall typically keep the goaltender from extending his feet outward causing a narrow butterfly, which also gives the goaltender less balance and stability on the ice.

Proper pad sizing will allow for the pads to have complete on-ice seal while in the butterfly position.


Goalie pants should fit much differently than a player’s pants as the cut is completely different. Goalie pants are designed to move side to side, are shorter in the thigh length, more open in the waist and have a loser fit than players’ pants.

Pants should bend easy at the waist and use suspenders to hold them up. The pant belt is just to snug up slightly, not to hold the pant up. When going into a butterfly position the thigh areas should sit parallel to each other and close enough to reduce five-hole openings. The chest pad can be positioned either over the pants or inside the pants.

It is the preference of a goaltender, not a rule of fit on this choice, but a goaltender may go a size larger if wearing the chest on the inside of the pant. Pants that fit tight when bending in a crouched position will squeeze at the waist and be uncomfortable and limit body moment. Pants that are too small will keep the thigh areas from sealing together in a butterfly exposing the five-hole area.

I have seen many times where a goaltender thinks they need taller pads to cover their five-hole when the problem is really they need new pants


I estimate that 80 percent of goaltenders under the age of 12 are wearing gear that does not fit well and is hindering their movement. This is not a good thing when a young goaltender is trying to learn the position. Each individual goaltender needs to select gear that fits them properly and not just buy larger gear that they will hopefully grow into.

Adam Berkhoel is a former professional goaltender who now works for Vaughn Hockey.




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