Goalies caught off guard as NHL enforces dormant stick length rule

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The NHL is cracking down on the length of goalie sticks this season after “years of ignoring” the rule, according to Kevin Woodley of In Goal Magazine.

The rule — a 26-inch maximum paddle length — was addressed in a Sept. 5 memo informing teams the league would be cracking down this season.

Here’s more, from In Goal:

Just like any other piece of illegal equipment, if a goalie is caught with a long paddle in a post-game inspection, they are subject to an automatic two-game suspension, the equipment manager is fined $1,000, and the team is dinged $25,000.

Unlike a player’s stick, it is not subject to in-game measurement.

That news came as a shock to “roughly half” of NHL netminders that, according to one goalie coach, used sticks with paddles longer than 26 inches.

(According to Woodley’s “industry insider” that makes NHL sticks for three different brands, that number actually closer to 80 percent than 50.)

“We had to change my stick because I have used the same stick for five years and all of a sudden it’s too long,” Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk explained. “We’ve tried to work with it to make it as little of an adjustment as possible.

“I need a little bit more grip around it because I narrowed it down, and that’s it.”

(In a *possibly* related story, Dubnyk was shelled for five goals on 28 shots in an opening night loss to Winnipeg.)

Ottawa backup Robin Lehner, who made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season, told Woodley he wasn’t even aware the 26-inch rule existed.

“I had no clue,” he explained. “I had my 28 inch for a very long time.”

Stick size is just one of several changes NHL goalies had to adjust to for this season. There was the reduction in leg pad size and shallower nets — and it may have made an early difference in goals allowed.

Though the sample size is small, goals have been aplenty over the first two days of the regular season. Toronto and Montreal combined for seven, Winnipeg and Edmonton tallied nine and Chicago-Washington went for 10 on opening night; on Wednesday, Anaheim and Colorado combined for seven.