SUNRISE, Fla. – The throwback craze is all the rage in the NHL this season.
Thanks to the new Reverse Retro uniforms that every team is using for a handful of games, there has been a sense of nostalgia in the collective air across the league.
One of the bonuses of the retro jerseys is that it allows goalies an opportunity to show off their fashion sense with helmets and equipment designed to match the new threads.
The next goaltender to debut some throwback gear will be Chris Driedger of the Florida Panthers.
Earlier this week Driedger posted a photo on social media of a brand-new set of Vaughn pads and gloves, with the color scheme matching that of Florida’s Reverse Retro uniforms.
But that’s not all.
The leg pads reek of the 1990s, from the red and blue colored knee rolls to the old-style straps on the front, right down to the gold toe caps.
Don’t get it twisted though. Driedger isn’t wearing gear that would’ve been worn 20-plus years ago.
The insides of the pads and the straps on the back that wrap around Driedger’s legs are no different than what he’s used to using. The new pads function and feel exactly the same as the Vaughn VE8′s that he’s worn all season.
“They did an awesome job,” Driedger said. “They have the straps that don’t actually wrap around my leg, they’re just on there for show, and they were able to get the toe caps on there too. They’re all just for show, but I think that it looks pretty cool.”
Driedger’s new gear also bears a striking resemblance to the pads worn by original Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.
It’s a nice way to pay homage to the first face of the Cats franchise, even if it wasn’t entirely intended that way.
“Really? Honestly, no, I had no idea they were similar,” Driedger said before doing a quick Google search to take a look for himself.
“Oh wow. These are literally, pretty much the same thing.”
(The photo below is the one Driedger looked up)
It was at this point I started wondering what Vanbiesbrouck would think of Driedger’s new pads, considering how much they resemble his old ones from the 90s.
So, I asked him.
“The first thing I thought was they’re classics,” Vanbiesbrouck said of Driedger’s pads. “They even put the toe buckle cover. Today there’s no straps like that, so they illustrate the straps of days gone by. He’s got good taste.”
Congrats Driedgs, your new gear has received the Beezer Stamp of Approval.
But what about the current Panthers?
Surely some of the guys Driedger is on the ice with every day would have some kind of opinion on the new gear.
“I think the old school look is pretty good,” said Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau. “I can’t wait to see it with the retro jerseys. It’s gonna be really nice.”
Huberdeau is not alone in that way of thinking, either.
Apparently, the new pads were so well-received in the Panthers locker room that they may end up getting more usage than initially intended.
“They were originally scheduled to go with the retro jersey’s,” Driedger explained. “That was the original plan, but there have been some rumblings lately. Some of the guys want to see them in more than just the retro jerseys, so it’s up for debate right now. The guys on the team were looking at them saying ‘These are nice, I think they match our regular jerseys.’ So, some decisions still need to be made.”
The players may like them, but it appears Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville isn’t as easy to impress when it comes to goalie gear.
Coach Q was asked what he thought about them after appearing to check them out at the end of Friday’s practice. With a straight face he looked into the camera and said, “Just okay” before bursting into laughter.
“I don’t mind it,” he said through a grin. “They’re okay.”
Fair enough, coach.
Earlier this week I spoke to Driedger all about his new pads, from the design and the details to a unique theory of how he likes the colors to appear to shooters.
Here is what he had to say, as well as some bonus Beezer thoughts as he had a few interesting responses while discussing Driedger’s gear.
Where did the idea come from to have these pads built for you?
Chris Driedger- Jonathan Quick had a similar pair and I liked them. Vaughn and I were working together on something else before that and we were trying to figure out how it was going to work, and I saw these and was like, ‘Hey, why don’t we just do this, that would probably be a lot easier’ And we just went with that.
How much input did you have on the actual design and color layout?
CD- It was pretty much all me. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I basically told the guy at Vaughn who I talk to, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking for colors’ and he’s like ‘Okay, sounds good.’ He shot me four different potential patterns that they had drawn up on the customizer, and we actually didn’t go with any of them, but we went with one very similar and we just switched a couple colors around and then that was that. They were really quick getting them out, too. I think we did this three weeks ago and I got them yesterday.
How did they feel out of the box? Do you think it’ll be long before you can wear them during a game?
CD- I’ll tell you what, I wore them today and I felt like I could wear them in a game tomorrow, no problem. That’s not usually the case, but they felt really good. So yeah, they’re ready to go.
Does that mean we’ll see them Saturday when you guys wear the Reverse Retro jerseys?
CD- Yeah, they’ll be out on display.
Thinking back from over the years, which pads have been your favorites?
CD- I had some cool ones in junior. Definitely my junior pads. My first year in Ottawa I had some interesting pads too, kind of similar to what I have now except I cut it off at half and the upper half was all white. They had almost like an upside-down L going across the pad and it just stopped at half. I thought those were kind of cool and unique. During junior I had some all-white ones with a diamond stich, I think Tuukka Rask had it at the time, so I played off what he had. Other than that, I’ve kept it pretty reserved and on-brand for what I’ve been doing. I don’t like any white on the outside and I like a little bit of color, and then I go with the design and try to make it fit those specifications. So, I haven’t really done anything too crazy lately other than these retro ones.
When you say you don’t like white on the outside, do you mean the outside roll on the front of the pad or the actual sides of the pads?
CD- I’m talking about the roll. So, my theory is if you frame the pad with color, shooters see that and say, ‘Okay, I’m gonna miss that,’ but if you just have white on the inside, obviously the ice is white, and at least I’m thinking in my head that maybe they don’t see the end of your pad and it gives them less of an idea where to shoot. That’s the idea in my head anyways.
John Vanbiesbrouck- I think it’s good to hear him talk that way. He’s being aware of what he’s presenting to the shooter, and what he’s presenting can be good, bad or indifferent. That’s how you fine-tune your game. It’s encouraging to hear him fine-tuning. He’s had a great year. Coming into this league is not the easiest thing, so anything you can do to gain an edge and feel confident about it is a good part of the process. It’s excellent. I think it’s probably unique to him, and that’s the thing. He’s one of, right now, 62 goalies, give or take a few on any given night. You’re in a unique class. It’s an individual position that way.
One of the cool, throwback-y elements of your pads are the pinstripes. Was that your idea or did that come from Vaughn?
CD- They actually did that. I had something similar when I was in junior. At the time I got rid of the usual line and then went with a cleaner pin stripe, and they just brought it back. There’s actually a double pinstripe. It’s a little hard to see from far away, but if you zoom in, it’s actually two lines. It just makes the pin stripe a little easier to see from afar, and I think it looks great.
I have to ask you about the waffle-board blocker. They briefly made a comeback like 10 years ago, but you rarely seem them now.
CD- For sure, you don’t seem them much anymore. I think this is the first time I’ve used a waffle board blocker. I think it’s pretty cool. I was actually talking to (Panthers goaltending coach Robb Tallas) today, and he said back in the day, the leather they used on gloves was so heavy, they would cut out pieces and make it a waffle so there would be less leather, with the idea being they would be lighter, which I didn’t know. A little insight from Tally there.
JV- The blockers with the holes in them are pretty fun. It’s good to see they have not only creativity going on, but just the fun they can have with the designs. Players have got to have fun. The old Cooper waffle board was insane. It’s funny, looking at the photo (of Driedger’s blocker), the waffle used to curve at the bottom because of so many pucks hitting them, and now it’s curved at the top.
Are you a fan of the Reverse Retro look?
CD- I like it. I think ours are unbelievable. I think ours are some of the best in the league for sure, so I’m happy with it. I love the old-school Panther logo. I think some teams did a really, really good job with it so I’m happy about the league going with the Reverse Retros.
Which ones are your favorites?
CD- Well other than ours, there are a lot of good examples of teams that did a really good job with it. Colorado’s is great with the old Nordiques look, Arizona has some really cool ones and Calgary also, with the flaming horse head kinda thing. It’s cool to mix it up sometimes, get some hype and grow the game a little bit.
Now, you’ve got the retro pads…could there be a new retro helmet to match?
CD- I do have another helmet coming, but it’s not a retro mask. I think it’ll be pretty fun. That should actually be here in the next few days. It’s nothing for the retro, it’s just my second helmet for the season.
Can you tell me anything about the design? Are we going to see more of The Mandalorian?
CD- There are a couple guys on the team that are going to make some celebrity appearances. That’s all I can tell you.
It’s going to be cool. I haven’t actually seen it yet. With (mask artist) Dave (Gunnarsson), he’ll just send it out and take all the pictures and not tell me (laughs). I think he just wants me to see it for the first time in my hands instead of on a photo. He’s good. We Facetimed and I told him exactly what I wanted, and he was taking notes so I’m pretty confident that he’s going to do what I want.