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Hockey helmets provide a crucial barrier between your head and flying pucks, high sticks, collisions, falls, and contact with the boards. Hockey is a hard-hitting sport, and all players need a safety-certified hockey helmet to protect against brain and skull injuries. While hockey helmets can’t prevent concussions, they can help to prevent skull fractures and other injuries—the helmet is arguably the most important piece of hockey protective gear you’ll wear. This guide to buying a hockey helmet will walk you through important considerations for choosing your first hockey helmet or finding an upgrade or replacement.
Hockey helmets are typically made with an exterior of hard plastic-like materials—vinyl nitrile for lower-end helmets and high-density polyethylene for higher-end helmets. Inside, foam pads line the helmet to protect against direct impacts. Higher-end helmets include strategically-placed padding to cushion against rotational impact, which is seen as the main cause of concussions. Lower-end helmets contain a single-layer vinyl nitrile foam padding while higher-end helmets contain a combination of high-density foams to maximize protection and comfort.
More advanced hockey helmets often feature materials found in military technology, industrial workwear, and other extreme applications. For example, some Bauer hockey helmets feature XRD multi-density impact management foam while some CCM hockey helmets feature D3O® smart foam that disperses force away from the impact point.
But all hockey helmets have the same basic design:
Fit is the top priority when choosing a hockey helmet. No matter how expensive, technologically advanced, or protective the helmet, if it doesn't fit correctly, it won't protect you properly. Correct fit makes the difference between taking a hit or sustaining a head injury, so take your helmet choice seriously. Your helmet needs to be snug and comfortable, so you might need to try several brands to find the perfect helmet for the size and shape of your head.
Another consideration is whether you want a one-piece or two-piece shell. Some players prefer a hockey helmet with an adjustable exterior shell, so they’ll pick a two-piece shell that they can adjust with specific tools to get a precise fit. Some two-piece shells come with a single- or dual-screw system for adjustments. Most helmets now offer tool-free adjustment options.
Other players want the ease of slipping one solid piece of plastic over their heads. The single-piece shell can be adjusted on the inside or may have interior foams that can be custom-molded to the player’s head.
Ice hockey players from the mite leagues through the collegiate levels are generally required to wear face protection. You’ll need to decide which option is right for you. Facemasks can be bought separately and attached to your existing helmet, or you can buy a combination helmet that comes with a facemask attached. Hockey facemasks come in three main options:
Sometimes your facemask size is not the same size as your helmet, so properly fit both to your head and face before buying.
The cost of hockey helmets ranges from $35 for an entry-level kids’ helmet to $400 for hockey helmets for elite players.
However, the most expensive helmet does not always translate to the best protection for a particular individual. Again: fit is the most important factor. Choose a helmet that’s comfortable, fits well, and provides adequate protection for the level of hockey you or your child plays.
To determine your helmet size, check out our related guide on How to Fit a Hockey Helmet We offer some general guidelines on sizing along with charts from major manufacturers such as Bauer and CCM.
Your position and playing style may also influence your decision when buying a new hockey helmet. Once you find a brand that fits properly, you can look for style details or other performance features to suit your needs—maybe you’re a speedy forward looking for an ultra-lightweight helmet, or perhaps you’re a rec-leaguer looking for solid protection at a dollar-conscious price point.
Fortunately, the major manufacturers have developed their product lines with players’ different needs in mind. Bauer, CCM, and other popular makers offer helmets in a range of fit profiles and sizes to cover the protection needs and preferences of all hockey players.
CCM’s two helmet lines offer different overall shapes and further fit adjustments within those shapes. The Tacks line is more snug around the temples and fits well on narrow, more oval head shapes, while the FitLite line suits wider, rounder heads. Look for the I.Q.SHION memory foam comfort liner in some models for further enhancement of comfort and fit.
Bauer offers elite protection in helmets like its Re-Akt line, with Poron XRD temple foams, VTX and IX-Foam interiors, and Suspend-Tech Liners, all designed to keep everything stable and secure. Their Hyperlite helmet, which was built for speed, has similar technologies and protection but is 20% lighter than the Re-Akt 150.
Parents generally want to know how to buy the right size hockey helmet for their kid and how much it’s going to cost. Unlike other hockey protective equipment, hockey helmets do not always come in a specific youth or children’s size—even though we do offer some youth or junior helmets.
Players in mite and youth leagues need their heads measured for a helmet size, same as adults. Wrap a loose tape measure or string about ½”-1” above your child’s eyebrows: that measurement in inches (or centimeters) corresponds to their helmet size in our guide on How to Fit a Hockey Helmet. If you know what brand your child wants, like CCM or Bauer, use the manufacturer’s helmet size chart.
Also, every player from mini mite to college is required to wear a facemask such as a wire cage or face shield attached to her or his helmet. So, you may need to purchase a separate facemask if your child’s helmet does not already include one.
A youth helmet usually costs from $35 to $250, but you can often find one on sale or clearance. Cages alone run from $35 to $70, and a combination helmet/cage in XS-S/M sizes can range from $60 to $260.
Make note: only buy a hockey helmet that fits. Buying up a size so your child can “grow into it” puts them in extreme danger for a head or face injury. Your child’s helmet should be snug, certified safe, and not pinching or painfully tight on any part of the skull.
If you’re still unsure which helmet is right for your child, our guide on Kids’ Hockey Gear has some additional information to help you decide.
Certified-safe hockey helmets last 6½ years from the date of the HECC certification.
Hockey helmets have an expiration date, as do hockey visors and cages. This equipment is certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC, pronounced "heck"), based on performance standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The HECC certification is good for 6½ years—that's how long accredited testing has shown hockey helmets provide the expected protection for players.
Tests have shown that over time and through regular use and repeated impacts, helmets lose protective qualities. That's why when the HECC certification expires, it’s time to buy a new hockey helmet. However, replace the helmet and face protection if you see any visible cracks in the plastic outer shell. Cracks mean the shell won't dissipate the force of an impact the way it's designed to. Also, replace your helmet or child’s helmet if it no longer fits properly—if it doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t protect right.
You can remove all stickers except the HECC and CSA certification stickers. Even if you plan to play only in Canada or only in the US, it’s safest to leave both on, in case your plans over the life of the helmet ever include playing in both countries.
Regularly cleaning and drying your helmet and facemask can extend the lifespan of your equipment and prevent the materials from breaking down prematurely.
Are you in the market for new helmet? Shop our full selection of hockey helmets, cages, and visors online, or if you're still unsure which helmet might be right for you, visit a Pure Hockey store near you for a full assessment from our staff.
If you’re shopping for other gear, too, be sure to check out our other hockey equipment buying & fitting guides so you can purchase with confidence.