How to Choose a Hockey Mask

Seventeen-year-old hockey players all over the country are psyched about turning 18 this summer. Why? Well, I can promise you it’s not because they want to vote. No, it’s because once 18 years of age, they can shed the one thing that’s distinguished them from every player OVER the age of 18 on the ice - the full face mask. Once legally an adult, you’re longer required to wear facial protection if you so choose. While there are plenty of protection options apart from the dreaded full mask, many young players revel in their new found freedom and the ability to see the ice in a full, unobstructed view for the first time ever. It’s wonderful. The clarity is second to none! No glare, no fog, no scratches blocking their eyeline! It’s pure, right, perfect.....until.....WAM! Several stitches and dental visits later, it’s time to choose a new facemask.

There are plenty of options when choosing the proper facial protection. This article will outline these items and attempt to inform you of the pros and cons of each. Then, you’ll have the information necessary to make the right decision when choosing how to protect the one and only face you have.

Get in your Cage

The cage is probably the most popular full-coverage mask. It’s a metal, wire grid that covers from under the chin up to the forehead. This is what I use.


  • Full face coverage. Least expensive option ($30-$40).
  • Typically black or chrome - but you can sometimes find different colors.


  • The colored ones (including black) tend to rust VERY easily if not wiped down and stored away from your other wet gear. The Chrome is a bit more durable and resistant to rust.
  • View obstruction - some players complain that it limits your vision. Personally, I played football for 9 years before taking up hockey so I’m used to looking through bars. It doesn’t really bother me all that much, but to each his own.

Shields Up!

There are 3 kinds of shields: Half, Combo and Full. The Half is a shield that wraps the front of your face across your eyes, but cuts off just below your nose. The Combo is a combination (hence “combo”, duh) of the Half and the Cage - with the cage covering the otherwise exposed portion of your face below the half shield. The Full shield replaces the lower wire grid of the combo with a thicker molding made from the same substance used on the upper portion of the shield.


  • Transparent (no obstructed view)
  • Very durable


  • Somewhat expensive ($70 and up)
  • Fogging - though you can purchase anti-fog spray.
  • Scratching - while extremely durable, the shields will get scratched over time, which can ruin the whole “transparent” thing.
  • Distortion - unless you pay top dollar for an Itech or Oakley shield, you may notice your shield “warping” your peripheral vision due to the curving of the shield.
  • Glare - may be a problem with some of the less reputable brand shields.
  • Half shields only offer partial coverage of the face. With the lower half of your face exposed, you can still take some punishment from underneath the shield.

Au Naturale

Head protection is mandatory. Face protection is not. As such, some players are un-phased by the dangers of flying pucks, high sticks, flailing elbows and the like. They go with a helmet and nothing else. Crazy? You be the judge.


  • Optimal vision (since there’s NOTHING in front of your face)


  • Very dangerous (since there’s NOTHING in front of your face)

Safety First

In the end, it’s a dangerous sport. I believe protecting yourself should be your first priority. Hopefully I just gave you some information that will help you make the right decision for you. Personally, this isn’t the NHL. Nothing’s worth losing my teeth over. I’m just too pretty.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Ieman wrote:
Hockey moms rule the world! I've got a daughter who just fiieshnd a Squirts season and is moving on to Girls House, and a son heading to Mites in the fall. And 4 year old twin daughters, one of whom keeps asking when do I get to play hockey . Wife to a goalie (and I always do applaud the opposing team goalie's saves) and hockey coach.

Tue, July 17, 2012 @ 10:18 AM

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