TORONTO -- There's a simple reason why an indoor lacrosse goalie looks like, in the words of the Toronto Rock's Pat Campbell, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
A lacrosse shot can go faster than the average hockey slapshot -- and usually is fired from closer range.
"You just can't be afraid of the ball," says Campbell, an 11-year veteran of the National Lacrosse League. "I often have to convince myself that it's a rubber ball, not a bullet.
"So long as you're willing to step in front of it you'll be a great lacrosse goalie."
Paul Rabil of the Washington Stealth is the current record-holder, with a shot clocked at nearly 179 kilometres per hour. That's harder than Zdeno Chara's record-setting 170 km/h blast from last weekend's NHL all-star skills competition.
That's why goalies look like they're bloated to twice their normal size when they lumber onto the arena floor.
It's hard to look graceful wearing a helmet with throat guard, upper body pads thicker than hockey pads, gloves, jockstrap, padded shorts, volleyball-style knee pads and large shin pads made of hard plastic that go from above the knee down to armoured flaps that cover the goalie's feet. Goalies also carry a stick with a wider head than the rest of the players on the floor.
"It's quite a bit of stuff," says Campbell, adding that he also gets called the Michelin Man sometimes.
Widely considered one of the toughest players in professional lacrosse, even willing to protect his teammates in fights, the 33-year-old from Hamilton has only been pulled from a game once due to injury. It happened back in 2006 when he was playing for the Edmonton Rush.
"I was out in Edmonton on St. Patty's Day, of all days, and Kaleb Toth was playing for the Calgary Roughnecks and he hit me right in the throat," Campbell recalls. "Something swelled up in there and I was forced to leave the game because I couldn't breathe."
After a short stay in the hospital, Campbell was back on his feet and playing again.
Despite the speed of the shots they face, being hit in the throat isn't what lacrosse goalies fear most. They really want to avoid taking the ball on top of their toe flaps.
"It's a compression wound," explains Campbell. "Your feet have nowhere to go when the ball comes down and hits them. It's funny though -- when I get hit in the head everyone rushes to apologize, but really, it doesn't hurt at all."
That's because the lacrosse community has taken steps to protect its players with improved equipment designed specifically for the violent play of the game.
"I know a lot of the old school hockey helmets they're just protective in the front," said Campbell. "But (our helmets) are protective in the rear as well in case the ball comes off the glass or the crossbar."