NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Perhaps it wasn't the ideal setting when you think of it, a few days before they might get lit up in a 3-on-3 All-Star Game, but four All-Star goalies got their first look at streamlined goalie equipment aimed at giving skaters a little more to shoot at next season.
There's still lots of work to be done, but Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby and Devan Dubnyk on Thursday met with Kay Whitmore of the NHL to look at the prototype pants and chest equipment produced by a few manufacturers.
The idea is to have the equipment wrap around their body in a sleeker manner while still keeping them safe. The reduced bulk would give shooters a little more net to shoot at.
"That's the idea, to round everything off. You don't need the big blocks on the shoulders and the thighs," Holtby said Friday.
"It's pretty early -- it was basically the equipment company's first attempt at it," Holtby added when asked about his first impression after sampling the product. "I think they understand what we're trying to get done. It's pretty clear. There's a lot of tough areas though that you want to make sure is protected. It's in the right direction but I think it's a long ways away from where it needs to be. But it'll get there."
Whitmore, a former NHL goalie, and his counterparts at the NHL Players' Association have been working on the equipment changes for seven months. The hope is to have it ready to go for next season if possible.
"It's not really changing the gear. It's just more contoured, wrapping around you, so it's not bulky," Bishop said.
The Tampa Bay Lightning goalie said it's really not a big deal.
"I think the goalies are getting bigger every year. You look at the guys coming up, they're all big guys," Bishop said. "It's not like you have these small goalies trying to look bigger; if anything, these bigger guys are trying to wear less and be more mobile. The game is evolving; everybody is getting bigger. I don't think the equipment is going to make that much of a difference over time."
So then, how to solve the problem of decreasing offense?
"I think if they want more goals, they're going to have to make the nets bigger," Bishop said. "I know nobody wants to do that, but I think that's the only real way to get the goals up."
Bigger nets? And a goalie said that?
"Well, he's a little bigger than the rest of us. He can say that," Holtby said, smiling, referring to the 6-7 Bishop.
"I would probably do whatever I could to not let that happen," Schneider said Friday regarding bigger nets. "Ben might fit pretty well though. He's a big guy, so he could probably still be just fine."
In all seriousness though, the threat of bigger nets doesn't make sense to the New Jersey Devils' Schneider, who has worked diligently with Whitmore this season to help with the new streamlined equipment.
"It just feels like one of those pieces of the game that would be like making the rims bigger in basketball, or putting the hoop higher because guys are getting taller," Schneider said of bigger nets. "It just seems like something that is so fundamentally basic in the game that it would be hard to just change and feel like it's the same game. Who knows? It might come to that at some point, but I think we're going to do everything we can to hopefully avoid that."
There are other things that can be looked at, Schneider said.
"I think the game's in a good place. It's not just goalie gear," he said. "There are some 2-1 games that are just really exciting. A 7-4 game isn't necessarily better than a 3-2 game. I think stylistically things may need to change too, just in terms of shot-blocking and systems in the neutral zone that clog it up a little bit. You can look at those things and say those are just as responsible as anything the goalies are doing."
Either way, reducing goalie gear is generally a sensitive issue.
"It's not for me," said the Washington Capitals' Holtby, this season's Vezina Trophy front-runner. "I hope they find a way to bring the equipment down. As long as everyone is on the same playing field, it makes no difference to me if we all give up three goals rather than two goals."