How big are goalies these days? Big enough to fill in for the guys charged with the task of protecting them, if need be.
Former NHL puckstopper Kevin Weekes is a large man himself, but even he can’t help but marvel at the current size of crease creatures such as Montreal’s MVP, 6-foot-3, 219-pound Carey Price.
“When I saw Carey for the first time last year – in person, not playing against him, but actually in the rink when I spoke to him in Edmonton – he’s stay-at-home defenseman big,” Weekes said. “I’m 6-foot-1 and I can go anywhere between 215 and 225. I’m muscular, but this guy is muscular and tall. He could just as easily be a shutdown ‘D’ crunching guys along the boards.”
I spoke with Weekes about Price because he’s the subject of a cover story for an upcoming goalie-themed issue of The Hockey News. A few other components of that issue include introducing some new-to-the-scene masked men, such as 6-foot-2 Corey Crawford in Chicago, 6-foot-6 Anders Lindback in Nashville and 6-foot-3 Ondrej Pavelec in Atlanta. It also has a top 30 goalie ranking, where players such as 6-foot-2 Jonas Hiller of Anaheim and Lindback’s Nashville buddy, 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne, receive high praise.
It’s interesting to note that in the post-lockout NHL, players who would have at one time been dismissed for their smaller dimensions are being given a chance to thrive, whereas in goal, you wonder if the opposite is true. Not that long ago, the blue paint was home to sub-six-foot stars such as Curtis Joseph, Mike Vernon, Mike Richter and Grant Fuhr. The difference is so pronounced now that 5-foot-10 Chris Osgood, a starting goalie on two Cup-winning Detroit teams, has wondered aloud whether he’d get a second look these days if he was magically transported back to junior.
The shift in goal isn’t just about long and lanky stoppers. Some of the best goalies in the game now are also some of the strongest athletes in hockey, period. Once upon a time, big and bulky seemed counter to quick and nimble, but with goaltending techniques more finely crafted than ever, it’s led to the desire for big, puck-blocking physiques.
“There’s less of a stigma that comes with being a muscular goalie,” Weekes said. “People used to always say, ‘Weeksie, you’re a goalie, why are you lifting weights?’
“Jonas Hiller is a perfect example. Very strong, explosive lower body and that’s what helps him play the style he plays so effectively.”
Goaltending is about the most bottom-line position in sports, so anybody getting the job done consistently is going to find work. But more and more, the big bodies that used to either whack home or clear rebounds in front of the crease can now be found standing directly in it.
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