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While the debate rages in locker rooms and online forums, players just picking up the game wonder what the differences are between hockey pants and girdles and which style of protection is best. Throw in covers and breezers and it's enough to send a hockey newbie's head spinning.
The biggest difference between hockey pants and hockey girdles is the way they fit. Hockey pants are loose, fitting tight only at the waist and sometimes held up by suspenders. The protective padding is built into the pants. A girdle fits tight, like compression shorts. They also have padding built in, but because of their tight fit, the padding bulges out. Girdles must be covered by a shell, which is simply a pair of thin nylon shorts that are worn over the tight girdle. When worn, they look very much the same to the uninitiated and from a distance, it can be hard to tell whether a player is wearing hockey pants or a girdle and shell.
It really all comes down to personal preference. Some people like the tight feeling of a girdle and will say it feels lighter and allows more freedom of movement. Players who like hockey pants will often say they enjoy the looser feeling of pants, don't feel constricted, and feel like they're constantly adjusting a girdle to make it fit right. Both, if sized appropriately, will protect you well. The better quality pants and girdles offer better protection and more padding in some places. Also, girdles may have a built-in cup, whereas you'll need to wear a cup and supporter with hockey pants. Finally, many hockey players prefer pants because they are more traditional. Hockey pants were around long before girdles became popular and for that reason alone, many players stick with them. But the popularity of girdles is growing, and more and more professional hockey and elite players are making the switch.
Hockey shells, as previously mentioned, are lightweight nylon shorts that are worn over girdles. But they can also be worn over traditional hockey pants, which happens when a player is on more than one team and one team wears different color pants. Rather than buying a second expensive pair of hockey pants, a different color shell can be worn over the pants to match the team's color scheme.
Breezers is a term that sometimes confounds even seasoned hockey players. It's a popular term for hockey pants used by players primarily in the American states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, as well as in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
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