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Bettman: Size matters when it comes to goalie equipment

| Sunday, May 25, 2008

DETROIT -- Marc-Andre Fleury has switched from yellow goaltender's pads to white.

This offseason, size will be much more of an issue than color.

"We're going to take a long, good look at goaltending equipment," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.

"There's a committee that's been formed jointly with the players' association to do that. The competition committee will meet shortly after the goaltender committee meets."

An average of 5.6 goals were scored per game in the regular season, up from 5.1 per game in 2003-04, the final season prior to the lockout, but down from the 5.9 per game scored in 2006-07.

NHL teams averaged 6.17 goals per game in 2005-06, the first season after the lockout.

"There are two reasons that this (goaltender) committee should be more effective," Bettman said. "No. 1, the players' association is now more focused than it's been for the last couple of years on doing business.

"And this is a committee where we've appointed former players who happen to be general managers. And we've got shooters and goalies, and the players' association has shooters and goalies. I think this is going to be the best attempt that can be made to deal with goaltender equipment.

"If the committee is unsuccessful, then we'll have to go to Plan B, which I don't know what it is yet, but there will be one."

Bettman said he is concerned about uniformity and consistency in goaltender's equipment as well as size.

"I think all goaltenders should be on equal footing," Bettman said. "I think if you're a goaltender who is wearing smaller equipment, you shouldn't necessarily have to play against a player who is more aggressive in terms of what he's wearing when he's wearing stuff that maybe isn't necessarily for his protection but is being used as a way to help keep pucks out of the net. That's not what the safety element of goaltender equipment was for.

"Goal-scoring is down a drop. Goaltenders are bigger, both physically and by the equipment they wear. And I wouldn't mind if there was a little more open space to be shot at."

Among the other subjects broached by Bettman was the NHL's plan for a second outdoor game, to be played in 2008-09.

The Penguins and Buffalo Sabres played outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium in January.

Bettman said the venue and participating teams for "Winter Classic II" will be announced shortly but shot down the possibility of the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers playing annually at Penn State's Beaver Stadium.

"I can't envision right now a scenario where we would have two teams play annually outdoors," Bettman said. "We think the outdoor game was spectacular. We think it was special and needs to stay special. We're not going to overdo it.

"The possibility of having the Penguins play the Flyers at some point in Happy Valley is intriguing, and it's on the list of possibilities that we will explore. I would like to see the 'Battle of Pennsylvania' at Penn State, and we hope to make it a reality at some point. But I have trouble as I sit here tonight envisioning doing that every year, especially because there are going to be other places that want the outdoor game."

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