Buying Protective Equipment
No matter how old you are or what your skill level might be, protective gear is an all-important element of your kit and you should never skimp on it – from your hockey helmet and visor right down to your shin guards, making sure you have well-fitting and appropriate protective safety equipment is essential.
Some playing positions (such as goal) will need specific kit but no matter what position you play, you will need proper protection.
It is possible to buy some ice hockey equipment second hand but you must never, ever buy your helmet other than new.
The comfort foam inside the helmet will mould to the shape of the original owners head and if you buy a helmet which has been worn by someone else it will never fit you properly.
When trying on a helmet, you should make sure that the fit is snug but not too tight.
There should be no movement of the head inside the helmet as this could cause serious injury in a collision.
The chin strap should always be adjusted so that it makes contact with the chin and should never be left hanging loose – this is an essential point which can make all the difference to the player’s safety.
Shoulder pads should always fit snugly because although large ones can give extra protection to the collarbone, upper arms, upper back and chest, if they are worn too big they can very seriously impede play. The perfect fit is when the shoulder lines up evenly with the middle of the shoulder caps of the pads. Any smaller than this, although they will increase mobility, will leave the player unprotected. Preferably, the pads should be as large as the player feels comfortable with, without impairing movement both on the ice and with the use of the stick.
The role of the elbow pad is to protect the arm, this includes the forearm, upper arm, and elbow. The hockey player will be getting protection from just below the shoulder pads down to the cuff of the gloves, which provide protection for the hands - no part of the arm should be exposed. The player’s elbow should comfortably fit into the elbow pad cup without the pad moving around or twisting along the arm. Once the elbow is in place the pad should be secured.￼
Although wearing gloves is a must when playing ice hockey, personal choice has a lot to do with what style and size is chosen. Some players prefer smaller, looser gloves, whereas others prefer a bigger glove that gives more padding and protection. Whatever style is preferred it is important that the glove gives good protection to the hands and fingers from flying pucks and sticks but also that there is as small a gap as possible between the top edge of the glove and the bottom edge of the elbow pad. Separate slash guards are available to give ultimate protection if the player prefers a short cuff to give maximum wrist manoeuvrability.
These are knee-length oversized shorts, which incorporate the thigh, pelvic, hip and tailbone pads, and cinch at the waist. They are often held up by a belt or suspenders.
For "skaters", a neck guard typically consists of a series of nylon or ABS plates for puncture resistance, with padding for comfort and fit and a tear-resistant nylon mesh outer covering. For goalies, the neck protector is usually a curved panel of clear Lexan and hangs just underneath the mask from nylon cords, somewhat in the manner of a metal military gorget. Both are intended to reduce the potential for injury to the neck or throat by a puck or skate blade.
Jockstrap or ladies' pelvic protector
The jock is a protective cup which is designed to protect the genitals. The cup easily fits into a strap or some type of sports support. Some jock straps come with inbuilt garter belts so that one can wear long socks at the same time. Many companies now make "jock shorts" which are a jockstrap incorporated into a pair of boxer or athletic shorts, or into elastic shorts similar to "boxer briefs", which increases coverage of the garment and helps position the cup more securely￼ against the player's anatomy without shifting. Similar garments, called "pelvic protectors" or informally "jillstraps", provide a hard shell protecting the female genitalia and the lower pelvis from impact.
Incorporating a kneepad as well, the shin guard has a hard plastic shell on the front and outside to protect against pucks, but usually has little or no protection on the calf. Shin guards help protect the knee joint and the frontal bones of the leg from pucks, sticks, skates, falls and other impacts. However, it is essential to buy proper shin guards. If the shin guard is too long it will slip down into the skate and prevent proper movement of the ankle; if the shin guard does not fit perfectly at the knee joint, then the patella will not be properly protected and lead to injury. There is a size scale for shin guards which most sports stores have available and which one can utilize to assess the right size.
Not to be confused with actual socks, the traditional hockey sock is a knitted wool or synthetic tube stocking￼ without a foot. The sock covers the shin guard, and is a required part of the uniform along with the jersey, according to USA Hockey rules.
Hockey skates incorporate a rigid shell, form-fit to the player's foot using memory foam and/or heat-moldable components, often reinforced with metal mesh to prevent a skate blade cutting through. Unlike figure skates, hockey skate blades have a rounded heel and no toe picks as these can be dangerous in a "pile-up". Ice skates are essential for all hockey players. One should always try on a pair of hockey skates before buying them. Hockey skates come in many styles and sizes. The essential component of all skate is the interior boot, exterior holder and the attachable blade. Most skates have rigid toe caps and heel/Achilles ridge protectors. Typically the tongue of the skate should end at or just above the beginning of the shin guard.
Made of wood or composite materials, hockey sticks come in various styles and lengths. Stick dimensions vary based on the size of the player. Traditionally, all sticks were wooden up until the late 1990s; wood is inexpensive and tough, but the characteristics of each stick will be subtly different due to small changes in the grain structure. They also allow less flex before breaking. The most advanced ice hockey sticks are made from graphite and are manufactured with precise flex patterns that allow for more accuracy and power when hitting the puck; however these advantages come with a flip side of increased cost and somewhat lower overall durability. Graphite sticks come in one-piece and two-piece varieties; a two-piece stick (composed of shaft and blade) allows for greater customization with reduced parts STOCK￼ required of retailers, and allows for a damaged shaft or blade to be replaced without replacing the entire stick. One-piece sticks generally have better flex characteristics towards the bottom of the shaft, but if the stick breaks or becomes unusable, it is discarded entirely.
For advise on any of these items before you buy, ask your coaching staff for further info.