A goaltender's leg pads are one of the most important pieces of equipment. Not only do they cover the most surface area, they are also used for mobility with the hybrid and butterfly slides. If these pads are sized incorrectly or are not adequately constructed, it can result in poor goaltender performance and goals being scored.
In the early years of hockey, goaltenders essentially used cricket pads to protect their legs. These pads did not cover much surface area but were adequate enough to protect the wearer's legs. In the 1920's pads specifically designed for hockey started to emerge. These pads were modeled off the cricket pads but were wider, and constructed of leather stuffed with animal hair. These pads made a big difference in goaltender's performance as they coverd much more surface area however they were heavy and absorbed water, making them extremely heavy at the end of games.
In the 1980's these natural materials began being replaced by other synthetic, lighter materials that do not absorb water. Pads were remodeled in the mid 1980's to adapt to the new buttefly style. This new style required pads to lay flat on the ice instead of just covering surface area, additional padding was also required on the knees to reduce the impact of goaltenders falling down constantly. In the 1990's, goaltender pads started adding sliding surfaces to the interior of the pads to help with the use of hybrid and butterfly slides.
In the early 2000's, pads were again changed to allow the redirection of shots rather than the reduction of rebounds. Previously, it was though to be advantageous to reduce the rebound of the puck so the goaltender could freeze it easily. The philosophy has now changed to have the pads give a bigger rebound, but have the goaltender redirect them to the corners and out of play. Not much has changed since the 2000's other than the adoption of even lighter materials and changes in pad sizing due to NHL regulations.
In the next pages, we will explain the various terminology associated with goaltender leg pads.