Selection of hockey equipment is a key issue for coaches, players and parents.
When purchasing and fitting hockey equipment, remember two important factors:
1. Make certain the player is adequately protected.
2. Be sure the fitting allows freedom of movement so the player can properly perform the necessary skills. By carefully considering these two factors, your child will be more comfortable and will better enjoy the game.
A complete set of hockey equipment can be purchased for a relatively reasonable cost. Shop around for the best values and remember that you need not buy the most expensive equipment. Inquire about local equipment swaps and team discounts, but keep in mind the equipment must fit properly to provide maximum protection.
Skates - Purchase skates that will fit your child today, with no more than 1/2" allowed for growth. Seek adequate protection in the ankle, toe and instep areas. Improperly fitted skates will hamper your child's ability to skate.
Helmet - Must be of a design and construction approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC). Must be sized at the time of purchase to fit properly. The chin strap must always be fastened.
Facemask - Must also be of a design and construction approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC).
Mouthpiece - Required for players in 14-or-under through junior age classifications. USA Hockey encourages players of all ages and ability to use a mouthpiece.
Stick - Length should generally extend from the ice to the player's chin (with skates on). Quality and price differ greatly, so the choice is yours.
Shin Pads - Check for proper length so they protect the knee and shin completely.
Supporter and Cup - Essential protective equipment.
Gloves - Check for proper fit, with good finger and hand mobility.
Shoulder Pads - Adjust to fit the individual at the time of purchase. A fiber cap is extremely important in preventing shoulder separations and should extend to the tip of the shoulder.
Pants - Held in proper position by suspenders. Provide protection for the lower spine, hips and thighs.
Elbow Pads - Properly fitted so that they do not slide.
For goaltenders, special equipment is necessary, such as: gloves (catching and stick), chest and stomach protector, goalie skates (with protective shell), leg pads, shoulder and arm protectors. The goaltender’s equipment is especially important, so seek advice from a knowledgeable source.
Fitting of the equipment from head to toe...
Helmet: Comfort is the key! A helmet should fit snug, have an adequate protective foam lining and a properly adjusted chin strap that gently "cradles" the chin when fastened.
Full Shield or Screen Face Mask? Although the full shield offers better fields of vision, they can fog up from moisture. Defoggers are available for this. A Screen face mask provides much better ventilation but only adequate vision.
Mouth guard: Very important in not only injuries to the mouth and teeth, but head injuries such as concussions. Because of their importance, be sure to follow the package instructions for proper fitting and changed frequently when they become "thin" or broken. Many brands now come with a small insurance-type guarantee on the back if there is an injury while wearing the guard. Look for those and keep your receipts to show proof of purchase.
Shoulder pads: This is the players major protection for the upper body (collar bone, chest, back, ribs and upper arms). The shoulders should fit directly into the shoulder caps and there should be plenty of padding in to chest area.
Elbow pads: Again, make sure the very tip of the elbow fits directly into the center of the elbow cup. The cuff should also be long enough to cover the lower arm that extends to the cuff of the glove. Check the velcro straps for signs of wear and make sure they aren't so tight they cut off circulation to the arms and hands.
Gloves: There should be plenty of room inside the glove for finger movement and the comfort ability is an individual choice. The cuff of the glove and the end of the elbow pad shouldn't leave room for unprotected skin.
Pants: Fit around the waist should be secure with the rest of the pant being loose with room for maneuverability. The pant should overlap the shin pads by only by 1 or 2 inches for the best fit.
Shin pads: The cup of the shin pads should fit directly over the kneecap. The lower legs should be fully covered but make sure the pad doesn't extend too long.
Skates: Always the most difficult of all they equipment to fit correctly, especially on the newer skaters. Begin by looking for a skate size that is 1 to 1 1/2 smaller than your normal shoes. Wear socks that would normally be worn with the skate and slide your foot in all the way to the toe of the skate. a space the size of one finger should exist between the heel and inside of the back of the skate. Walk in the skates (with guards on) for 15 minutes or so to get a good feel for the comfort of the skate. If red areas or discomfort develop on the foot, recheck to see if the skate fits properly. Check the blade frequently for chips and cracks and always have a professional sharpen the skate.
Stick: Aluminum, Wood or Graphite? Individual choice is the key, but wood is heavier, least expensive and breaks easier. Aluminum is durable, cost more than wood and can bend. Graphite (composite) shafts vary in shape and weight. they are the most expensive yet are not as durable as the aluminum shaft. To measure proper length, stand without your skates with the stick straight in between. Mark the stick where it touches your nose and this is where a professional should cut the shaft. To double check, put on your skates and hold the stick in the same position. The mark should now come to your chin or below instead of your nose.