TORONTO — Ryan Miller wants everyone to stop, take a deep breath and think methodically before making changes to the equipment NHL goaltenders are allowed to wear.
Few are as passionate about the issue as the Vancouver Canucks No. 1 man, and Miller doesn’t want the intense scrutiny it’s started receiving recently to influence how changes are made.
Colin Campbell, the league’s vice-president of hockey operations, is on record as saying that new standards for goalie equipment will be established for the 2016-17 season. It’s believed the NHL wants to scale back upper body protection and pant sizes.
However, Miller doesn’t think that allows for enough time to properly test and manufacture equipment.
“They haven’t tested anything that we’ve seen or we haven’t had a discussion with the NHLPA,” he said Friday after the Canucks practised in Toronto. “If we haven’t had that discussion yet, where does that push our discussion to? We still have to approve all these things, so you’re talking maybe spring at the earliest.
“So you’re talking about an entire industry servicing let’s say conservatively there’s 85 to 90 goalies who play in the NHL a year … all of those guys have to have a chance to wear this new equipment.
“I don’t think it should just be like: ‘Hey, you should open training camp and hey here you go.’ I think it’s something where guys need to feel comfortable and I just think that doesn’t even leave time for testing.”
The NHL received approval from GMs, owners and players to come up with new standards for goalie equipment at the competition committee meeting in June.
Miller spent years as a player representative on that committee — he’s since relinquished his spot to New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider — and remembers how rushed the process felt when the length of goalie pads was reduced ahead of the 2013-14 season.
“I knew a lot of guys who weren’t getting the pads they were going to be comfortable with until training camp; some guys only got them right before the season started,” said Miller. “That’s not how you run a multi-billion dollar sports industry. I just don’t think we can keep doing this every three or four years and say ‘Oh we want to make a change.’
“It’s like you scramble to do it, barely get it done by the (end of) summer.”
With the NHL approaching historically low scoring rates early this season there is added pressure to find ways to produce more goals. Campbell even suggested this week that larger nets might have to be considered if a reduction in goalie equipment doesn’t work.
While Miller acknowledges that pants and upper body protection can be made smaller “to a point,” he believes many people overlook how dangerous it is to stand in the way of pucks being fired by the world’s best hockey players.
He also worries about the impact the NHL’s changes have on companies that manufacture equipment.
“We want to keep these businesses going and we can’t put added financial pressure on them,” said Miller. “These are the only guys we’ve got, we can’t just keep having them turn over stuff and changing everything. They have entire assembly lines dedicated to the stock. …
“We already did the turnover for pads, I don’t know how much money they (lost) having turnover on that.”
What the veteran of more than 600 NHL games wants to see more than anything is a clearly thought-out and communicated plan.
While he believes the league’s goalie guru, Kay Whitmore, is committed to making changes the right way, he thinks the process inevitably gets skewed by public or internal pressure.
If it were up to Miller — one of the slightest goalies in the NHL at 6-foot-2, 168 pounds — it would be another 18 months or more before new equipment standards are established.
“Just do it right so we’re not doing this every three or four years,” he said. “Ten years ago we did proportional (equipment), then we trimmed down pads. … Just get it dialled in, project it forward, do it right, leave it alone.”
Miller then paused slightly before subtlety throwing out his own suggestion to boost scoring: “Call the penalties.”