Now that you know how to find, fit, and sharpen your skates, it’s time to assemble the rest of your equipment. Being new to hockey, you may look at a player and feel somewhat intimidated by what’s exactly going on under the jersey. Not to fear though. I’m going to break it all down for you right now.
Head to Toe
While getting dressed for hockey isn’t exactly like getting ready for work (unless you play in the NHL), it’s really not that complicated. From the top, here’s what you’ll need for your new youth player:
- Helmet w/ Full Face Protection
- Shoulder Pads
- Elbow Pads
- Hockey Gloves
- Shin Guards
- Hockey Socks
For youths, full face protection is required. So the helmet you choose must be outfitted with a full cage or combo face shield. To learn more about the differences in face protection, check out my blog “Smash-a-Mouth Hockey” from last session. Just like heads, helmets come in a variety of different sizes. As you’d expect, they’re XSmall, Small, Medium, Large and XLarge. Which do you need? Well, you want the helmet to be as big as possible, while still feeling snug. Too small can cause pain and soreness, while too large will rattle around on your child’s head, greatly reducing its effectiveness. When trying them on, the width should be the main focus. I say that because the length will be adjustable. When you get the right fit from ear-to-ear, it will be easy to make the forehead-to-chin work. New helmets start around $50 and go up from there. Your child should get a good 3-4 years use out of it.
Once again, these are usually mandatory for youths. But even if you find a rare league where they’re not, you should still have get one for your child. You may feel the face cage will protect your kid’s teeth. But mouthguards are integral in reducing the risk of concussions as well. Anyone participating in an impact sport should use one.
Sizing shoulder pads isn’t a whole lot different than sizing a shirt. They come in Small, Medium and Large. Start with your shirt size and go from there. The key thing to look for is the shoulder cups. Make sure they cup your child’s shoulders. If they don’t, you may need to try another size. While these pads should be securely fastened, they shouldn’t hinder movement. So keep mobility in mind. Also, most shoulder pads these days have Velcro pieces, allowing them to be adjustable. So get as close a fit as you can, then tweak it. You should get at least 1-2 seasons out of these, depending on how much your child grows over that time. Brand new shoulder pads start around $30.
Elbow pads come in a variety of lengths. So, it’s recommended you buy these while buying your Hockey Gloves so that you can decide how much gap you want between your glove and elbow pads. Basically, you want a little gap. What’s a “little gap,” you ask? Well, you want enough space between them so that they’re not bumping while in use, but you also want enough coverage on the arm so that only very little is exposed.
Like shoulder pads, the sizes are again Small, Medium and Large. They should also be snug, but not inhibit movement. Snug is key because over time elbow pads will loosen with wear. When they begin twisting around or sliding up and down your arm while in use, it’s time for a new pair. They start around $10.
Gloves are size by inches. But that’s probably not going to help you much. The best way to size these (like most things) is to try them on. The fingers should reach the tips. Also, squeeze a fist and feel the palm. Comfort in the palm area is very important. Another great test is to toss a stick on the ground and make sure you can pick it up without difficulty. If your child has trouble grabbing it, the gloves are likely too big. Once again, you should get 1-2 seasons out of them before your child outgrows them. Youth gloves start at around $20.
Back in the days when I played football I used to need the old fashioned athletic supporter (jock strap) which had the pocket for the cup inside. Never liked it much, but who did? These days, however, you can get the kind that build the cup right into a pair of shorts. These are MUCH better and way more comfortable. Better yet, the ones designed for hockey provide Velcro strips at the bottom which you can affix your hockey socks to - negating the need for a garter.
Ideally, pants should fit tight enough around the waist that you won’t need suspenders to hold them up. But, some people feel this is a bit suffocating, so they wear hockey suspenders. The length of the pants is the key because you don’t want a gap at your knees. For youths, they should come to about the middle of the knee. This is a little lower than adults would wear them, but it will allow room for growth. As such though, it’s highly recommended you buy shin guards at the same time to make sure that there is no gap, and you can make sure they can bend their knees without the pants and shin guards bunching up. Pants start around $30 and go up from there.
There are two ways to wear shin guards - over the skate tongue or under it. It’s best if new players wear shin guards over the skate tongue. This is much easier on the skates. Wearing them under the tongue will deform it over time. It can also affect the fit of the skate. Shin guards come in one-inch increments ranging from 7” to about 18”. But like gloves, it’s best to just try them on. Shin pads should come to just above the top of the foot (in shoes) with the player’s knee directly in the knee cup. If you can try them on with skates, that would be ideal. They start around $25.
Socks aren’t really “socks” at all. They’re more like leg warmers. Their purpose is to cover your shin guards. Wearing a garter used to be necessary to hold them up. But as I suggested earlier, now you can attach them to the Velcro on your supporter shorts.
The last thing you’ll need is a hockey bag to transport all this stuff to and from the rink. While you can use any durable bag that will fit all the gear, many hockey bags are outfitted with pockets and vents which help compartmentalize the gear and air it out. Bags start around $30 and go up from there.
Where to Buy
For beginners, it’s always best to stick with what you know. When you set out to find gear, start at your local ice rink. The pro shop will likely have a variety of brands and sizes to choose from for each of the pieces outlined above. They’ll also have a knowledgeable staff on hand to help you get the best fit and price available.
Now you’re ready! Well, almost...
So far in the Beginners Series, we’ve discussed choosing, buying, and fitting skates and equipment - as well as skate sharpening. So, what’s next? Well, you’re child’s going to need a stick. In the next blog, we’ll discuss the different types of sticks, how to calculate its proper length, and taping technique. See you then!