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Trends in Goaltending 2017

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Trends in Goaltending 2017

TheGoalNet.com and @TheGoalNet on Instagram have existed for about 10 months. We’re basically right on cue to do a yearly rewind and trends relating to goaltending equipment is the only appropriate topic. We’re going to focus on style related trends in the industry across gear designs, pad graphics, and mask art. We will separate these categories as “functional” and “aesthetic” trends .

Functional Trends

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Improved Sliding Surfaces:

Bauer released the 1S line in Spring 2016. It was a polarizing line on many levels, but no one can deny how well it slid. It changed some the dynamics toward consumer purchasing decisions and how people talked about their gear. “How well does is slide? Does it slide as well as OD1N?” are pretty common questions these days. The best thing about this trend is that actually makes us better as it allows the goalie to slide faster than ever before.

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However, as Bauer released another line of gear with CORtech, the 1X, CCM dropped SpeedSkin. SpeedSkin is a material that is cut and sewn onto the goal pad, but it is lighter and slides better than traditional Jenpro. From the reviews on our website, it sounds like SpeedSkin has a touch of grip at the start and then it releases the goalie into a slide much faster than Jenpro.

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This fall Brian’s released Optik with OptiSlide. OptiSlide is a combination of harder materials for the foams in the sliding areas, removal of all bindings, and their Primo material. I have used both CORtech and OptiSlide and can say that Brian’s has tied or exceeded the 1S line. It’s very impressive when you consider Brian’s is able to achieve this while maintaining their craftsmenship.

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Although it won’t launch in 2018, Warrior gave us some teaser pics this calendar year of the G4. It looks like they are attacking the sliding surfaces in a different method. Warrior is removing material and decreasing friction on the sliding surface. With Pete Smith’s track record for thinking differently and succeeding, it will be very interesting to hear people’s feedback on the technology.

Rise of the clones:

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In my opinion, there are really only 3 styles of masks and most modern masks are clones of an earlier version. Those styles are the Harrison, Wright, and Lefebvre. The original Itech / Wright mask was launched in the early 90s. Ron Hextall’s mask in Quebec and the ’92 US Olympic teams are the first examples I remember seeing of it. Ahead of that, the mask making market was very fragmented and regionalized. Itech took it international and followed up the OG Profile with the 961. Since that time the 961 has become, without a doubt, the most popular mask in goaltending history. It’s also always been able to maintain a premium price tag.

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The earliest clones I remember seeing were the Fusion masks sold at Don Simmons and then Pro’s Choice putting their spin on the 961 during their partnership with Bauer. Although I don’t have specifics as to why yet, it seems there are more 961 clones in the market than ever before. Masked Marvel, Coveted, Protechsport, and OTNY all offer their version with a custom fit and a very aggressive price.


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Pro’s Choice has become the number 2 most popular mask in the NHL behind Bauer, who owns the 961 design now. I attribute this to their partnership with Vaughn, great quality masks, and custom fits. Many of their pros are in the Pro’s Choice “Vaughn Vision Custom Mask” which is the latest version of Dom’s vision for the 961. I appreciate that Dom's mask is more of his spin on the classic design and less of a pure clone. 

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It also appears that Vaughn will be launching VM Pro built by Pro’s Choice. That mask is the Vision mask but limited to a small or large shell, similar to the XPM S/M and M/L offering. This could further increase the reach and penetration of the 961 inspired clones readily available. The interesting twist here is that I don’t believe this mask will be less expensive than the current XPM and that people will be choosing it because they feel it’s better or better fitting than the original.

Composite Stick take over

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News flash; composite goalie sticks are not new!  However, their rapid adaption at the highest levels has really taken of. The TPS Response goalie sticks hit the market like 12ish years ago and there have been many to come and go since then. The one company that has been there since the start is Bauer and their Vapor XXX was one of the first to be used in the NHL by Cam Ward and Jose Theodore. Since that time, Bauer has continued to dump an immense amount of resources and R&D into the category and borderline dominate it.  In my opinion, their Supreme NXG was the first stick to really turn the corner and gain mass acceptance in the pro ranks.

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Since that time, Bauer has launched the 1S, which I feel is a nice improvement over the NXG, and the competitors have tried to catch them. There are decent sticks available at retail from Warrior, CCM, True, Sher-Wood, or CCM. It still feels like Bauer’s Supreme line is the benchmark though and the competition will get stiffer with each new release.

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We see this trend in the pros with goalies like Craig Anderson, Steve Mason, and Aaron Dell all moving from foam core sticks to Bauer composites early in calendar 2018.

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CCM has put a full court press on for the 2017-2018 season and converted Holtby, Renne, Miller, and Gibson to name a few. That is on top of all of their goalies that switched from foam cores to the original Premier. Their P2 is supposed to be lighter and more durable than the Premier and I am very intrigued to hear some user feedback on that model.

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Warrior is the biggest gainer in this category with their CR1. Warrior has had a composite stick in the past, but it was not used at all in the NHL. Since the start of training camp, Warrior has converted Mrazek, Jones, and Darling. We’ve also spotted Tuukka using 1 in practice.

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This trend could take an interesting turn in the future as well. Bauer is the only company to take advantage of the design flexibilities in composites. Bauer has created a few paddle twists in their Ergo + paddle technology. For 2018, Bauer is launching the 2S with an Ergo Spine on the back of the paddle. This is a 3D ridge and takes full advantage of what composites can do. This stick is already being used in the NCAA and CHL, Dubnyk will probably be the first guy in the NHL with it.

Aesthetic

Colored Gear is back

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Like with anything, colored gear is not new! It’s been creeping up slowly for the last couple of years and it’s cyclical for sure, but it feels like predominantly colored gear is back. When gear first started getting colored in the 80s, there was lots of white and then some colors mixed in. From the mid 90s until the lockout, highly colored gear reigned supreme. With the new gear regulations in place, retailers wanting to reduce inventory, and the market due for a shift, white gear began to take over.

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I think the color trend got an exclamation point this year when Price even used colored gear for a few games. It will be interesting to see how his reversal back to white effects the rest of the league, if at all. Fortunately, plenty of guys are sticking with it. Crawford, Raanta, Smith’s Away, Lehner, Darling, and Miller are all examples of guys embracing the trend and I hope this continues to stick.

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Multi-colored cage paints

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Again, this probably qualifies as “what’s old is new again”. Paint on the cage is not new by any means, but it has definitely exploded this year. In my opinion DaveArt has focused on the cage as his latest muse. Love him or hate him, it’s clear he focuses on certain design elements for 1-2 seasons, gets them to the point where are played out, and then moves on to a different idea.

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What I find interesting about the current cage paint theme is that doesn’t necessarily blend into the rest of the design like in past iterations. It’s almost as if the cage has become its own independent canvas and  the splashes of colors stand on their own. It’s also interesting as well because most retail masks come with some form of a grey or chrome finished cage. If this trend sticks around, will retail cages change with the trend?

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Battle of the customs

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Brian’s truly is the king of custom graphics. No one has done it as well, as often, or for as long as they have. However, Bauer is starting to tease us and un-throttling the digital printing designs. Digital printing is also coming to retail in 2018. Any kid with Photoshop and way too much time on his hands will develop some crazy shit we can’t yet image.

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It also marks a different philosophical approach to creating the graphics as well. The Brian’s team blends graphic design capabilities with old world craftsmanship and Bauer has gone digital. Competition is a good thing for us and I can’t wait to see how this plays out.  More interesting to me though is if CCM or Warrior will open up their products to customs now or if Vaughn becomes proactive with it?

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These are my thoughts on the trends for the calendar year for 2017 and this pulls from parts of 2 NHL seasons. It will be interesting to see what trends carry over into 2018, what’s new for the spring, and the begging of next season. What are your thoughts; agree with these trends or did we miss an obvious one?

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@TheGoalNet

At the NHL level:

- Increase of colours on pads
- Increase use of Brian's/custom sets

Both of these have brought much needed life into the big stage and allows for goalies to stand out and personalize their sets again. The minimalist white with a small colour accent made the show boring as all hell. It's nice seeing some spunk from these guys again,


At the consumer level:

- Composite take over

After just getting my hands on my first composites (CR1's) I'm glad I made the switch. Increase market share plus the increase in competition is only going to mean better things for us down the line as consumers. The barrier to entry to hockey is high as it is, 200$ sticks designed to get shot at don't help. I'm hoping that with the increase in technology for a more durable and lighter stick we can hope (pretty much a stretch I know) to see reduced pricing in the future for beer leaguers to get with the trend.

Hell, I still see some guys rocking a wood stick they've used forever solely based off it's durability and the overall cost of being a goalie.

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This is great. I feel like it belongs on In Goal Mag it's so good.

This may just be me because I'm still trying to convert into the current style of play (it's very hard) but I feel like this is the year RVH really took off from a technical point of view. Last year we noticed it a little bit, now it's any play that is either behind the goal line or a few feet above it for everyone. It seems to work and we don't see very many goalies getting burned far side like we used to when VH was the predominant post play method.

Edit. Custom Graphics: I really want to see what Bauer is capable of when they finally open digital printing to the masses. I'm also extremely curious about the durability of these images. Most of their customs are designed as one-offs or for the very limited duration of play like the WJHC. King Hank's graphic seems to be holding up well but we don't know how often he has switched pads or if Bauer is doing something special to keep it looking nice that may not be feasible for the general consumer.

Edited by Pauly35or00

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@Pauly35or00 - really interesting point on the graphics 

I haven’t heard anyone have 1X or 1S graphics fading. It’s also something that PadSkinz said was amazing about the Bauer process and something they don’t have perfected for printing on PadSkinz 

but it’s still a production process vs custom 

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10 minutes ago, TheGoalNet said:

@Pauly35or00 - really interesting point on the graphics 

I haven’t heard anyone have 1X or 1S graphics fading. It’s also something that PadSkinz said was amazing about the Bauer process and something they don’t have perfected for printing on PadSkinz 

but it’s still a production process vs custom 

It depends on how the graphics are printed... 

I have a feeling the graphics are printed like painting a RC car body is painted- backwards and opposite of a print.

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I dont understand how the Warrior ridges sliding better? Physics on pounds per square inch, so wouldn't 200 lbs on a handful of slender surfaces be more pressure then dispersed wider on much more square footage?

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@netminder - I don’t know the proper explanation behind it yet. It’s my speculation that less surface area contact = less friction. I’m not 100% certain though 

@Kirk3190 - Able to share any explanation on the sliding edge of the G4? 

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7 hours ago, TheGoalNet said:

The earliest clones I remember seeing were the Fusion masks sold at Don Simmons and then Pro’s Choice putting their spin on the 961 during their partnership with Bauer. Although I don’t have specifics as to why yet, it seems there are more 961 clones in the market than ever before. Masked Marvel, Coveted, Protechsport, and OTNY all offer their version with a custom fit and a very aggressive price.

My two cents on the prevalence of the 961 shell:
Itech/Bauer sponsored the CHL (pretty sure Bauer still does) as the official mask supplier; it was either very difficult or damn near impossible to get any other type of shell in that league.  I think NCAA allows a bit more freedom but players are still pushed into certain manufacturers based on relationships (see: Oettinger switching from a PC to a Bauer)

I'd imagine that most of the current guys in the league that prefer the 961 shape came from the CHL.  Someone with more time or who is more curious about this can compile the numbers.  Most of these guys broke into the league with a 961 or 9601.  Some were convinced to switch (Price, Fleury, Crawford) but it looks like a lot of folks stayed as well either because of loyalty, comfort, appreciation for the design, or a combination of the three.

It's definitely a great design as it has a very distinctive look.

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@Chenner29 - I do agree about what you're saying. I have some additional opinion I'd like to add too. 

When Fleury's generation was in the CHL, they were not allowed to wear the 960. All those guys came up wearing various other Itech models. I think when Bauer took over is when the 960 / NME shell made it's way to the CHL. So they were always in Itech product, but not always that shell. 

I think the main popularity of that shell is because it's been a constant in the NHL for 30 years. I am sure there were some years that 80% of the NHL guys were wearing that mask. At some point, I think people sort of associate that with the "pro helmet" or "NHL's choice" and it adds tangible marketing value. 

I am curious what happened in the last 18-24mo that so many clones popped up, people realized Bauer wasnt going to bother to sue? 

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I think one thing to add is one of the reasons that white pads became prevalent was because Fleury switched from yellow pads to white on the advice of an Ottawa optometrist. Fleury had success and in 2009 won the Stanley Cup in white pads. The league followed his lead and many switched to white pads.

http://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/penguins/s_561375.html

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4 hours ago, TheGoalNet said:

@Chenner29 - I do agree about what you're saying. I have some additional opinion I'd like to add too. 

When Fleury's generation was in the CHL, they were not allowed to wear the 960. All those guys came up wearing various other Itech models. I think when Bauer took over is when the 960 / NME shell made it's way to the CHL. So they were always in Itech product, but not always that shell. 

I think the main popularity of that shell is because it's been a constant in the NHL for 30 years. I am sure there were some years that 80% of the NHL guys were wearing that mask. At some point, I think people sort of associate that with the "pro helmet" or "NHL's choice" and it adds tangible marketing value. 

I am curious what happened in the last 18-24mo that so many clones popped up, people realized Bauer wasnt going to bother to sue? 

Right, I believe Fleury's class was given the 4000/4600 to wear through Juniors; their loyalty may be from a brand or comfort standpoint.

It's a good-looking, distinctive shell.

As far as clones legal battles over the design, there are several factors to consider, most have to do with money:

  • Legally, I'm not sure there is a way to patent/trademark a shell design.  What if the clone is slightly different (less curl in the chin, more of a pronounced forehead, etc) - if there is a slight tweak to the design, does that infringe on any kind of patent?  Gray area here that Bauer may not want to get into; doubt it is worth the legal battle.
  • You answered your own question a bit as well.  Bauer already has brand recognition in the category:
    • They are top 3 in the NHL for usage, competing with CCM and Pro's Choice. 
    • At the retail level, if you are in the market for the 961 shell, you can only buy a Bauer.
    • Most consumers don't know about OTNY, Protechsport, Pro's Choice and their capability to produce a similar looking shell.
  • Product cycle time - I think 5 years is average for most "average joes" like us.  Some folks get them painted/wrapped/etc., keeping them in the same unit for longer periods of time.

In the end, it's a low-volume item in a niche market for roughly 7% of the hockey market (math: divide 2 goalies per 26 player roster); I'm sure Bauer would rather focus on gaining market share on other product lines (sticks as a consumable, player gear) than pursue a costly lawsuit that they may not even be able to win.

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@Chenner29 - So I know slightly more about this than is fully explained. I have asked someone who makes a clone and they said that moving 2-3 subtle items like an ear hole or the chin angle makes it very difficult to sue and win. Your absolutely correct on how people can theoretically get away with it.

However, Bauer could probably still get a judge to hear their case, create lots of legal fees, and bully a brand like Fusion to stop or be out of business. 

I still feel like something must of changed in the background or there was a spark that got everyone doing 961 clones in a tight window who didn't do them before. Did Bauer's own legal issues open the door? 

Purely from a business perspective... If I owned the Wright design, I would try to protect it as much as possible. 

An an example, I had an old employer who made everyone sign non competes. No one took them that seriously and some people left. The president of the company got furious about it, very old school guy, and sued one of the guys just to make a point and scare everyone.

People rarely left after that and no one went anywhere close to a competitor. I don't know that the company would have won in court, but the new employer wanted nothing to do with this legal battle and rescinded the offer letter. The employee trying to leave was left jobless. 

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15 minutes ago, cwarnar said:

Great write up... I'm super stoked for the gear companies moving toward pure function and simplicity

That's the goal of pending TGN Spec... with a little style of course!!! 

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21 hours ago, netminder said:

I dont understand how the Warrior ridges sliding better? Physics on pounds per square inch, so wouldn't 200 lbs on a handful of slender surfaces be more pressure then dispersed wider on much more square footage?

Not a physicist nor engineer but my guess it’s sliding friction vs rolling friction.

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11 minutes ago, KootenayKeeper said:

Not a physicist nor engineer but my guess it’s sliding friction vs rolling friction.

My guess is that the snow would be dispersed in the grooves.

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Just to prove that the 961 clones are really popular; New Image Goalie Mask also has their Shark 965 mask which is another 961 clone (they have a new wider version as well). I think the clones are really popular because Itech/Bauer sat on their laurels for so long with really only one size for the 961, which did not fit most people well, so there was room for others to capitalize. Now Bauer has tweaked the design and created more sizes, but they are still more expensive than the clones so their's still a market for them.

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