There are a number of NHL players currently wearing soft-capped shoulder pads. If NHL general managers have their way, these shoulder pads will be mandatory next season.
Kris King, the NHL's VP of hockey operations has been overseeing the initiative for five years and is in the process of finalizing guidelines for manufacturers with the goal of outfitting all NHL players in time for the 2010-11 season.
The hope is the soft-cap shoulder pad will decrease the chance of hitting related injuries - although one NHL executive predicts the mandatory shoulder pad will have minimal impact and doesn't believe the extra padding will do much to reduce the damage caused by direct shoulder-to-the-head blows, such as the hit Philadelphia's Mike Richards delivered on Florida's David Booth.
The NHL and the NHLPA are in discussions over the change, however when players were presented with prototypes during the 2008 summer meetings, there were no objections to the pads and it's expected the players will endorse the move to a pad that will not only be softer, but more streamlined with the cap covering each shoulder measuring between 9.5 and 14 inches.
The NHL believes these criteria should meet all players' requirements and recently measured one of the games biggest men, Minnesota's Derek Boogaard as a reference.
The league is waiting for clearance from the players association and will begin manufacturing as soon an agreement is reached.