When you think of protective gear for ice hockey, your mind immediately goes to the most visible elements: helmet, shin guards, shoulder pads, and gloves. But hockey pants play a vital role in protecting a player's core, covering everything from
the top of the shin guards to the bottom of the shoulder pads. The list of body parts covered by hockey pants includes the thighs, hips, lower spine, tailbone, kidneys, and even lower ribs. Because a player's core is susceptible to a variety of
impacts with the ice, the boards, and other players, the padding has to be in the right place, which means that the pants must fit properly.
All hockey pants on the market provide adequate protection for most hockey situations, but more expensive models include features such as lighter materials and padding, more stretch fabric to increase mobility, more adjustment options for better
fit, and increased ventilation. Hockey pants sizing plays an important role in how well a player is protected, but choosing the right hockey pants involves a lot of personal
preference, as well, so each player should consider what feels best and works best for him or her.
Hockey Pants Construction
There are three basic parts to a pair of hockey pants: the outer shell, the padding, and an inner liner. Traditional hockey pants combine all these into a single garment, but you can also buy a girdle and a shell separately. (See below.) The shell
is usually made of nylon and some sort of stretch material or mesh for increased mobility and comfort. The padding can be made from a variety of foams and is spaced throughout the pants to cover the important impact points. The liner may include
special moisture-wicking or sanitizing fabrics to avoid moisture buildup and smell. Traditionally, hockey pants were held up via suspenders, but most models now feature some combination of lacing, buckles, zippers, and hook-and-loop fastener.
Some players still prefer the loose fit that suspenders allow, and both skinny and tall players may require suspenders to ensure a proper fit.
Five Things To Consider When Choosing Hockey Pants
Hockey pants for adults range in price from about $50 for basic models, to just over $200 for the best hockey pants you can buy. Kids' hockey pants range from $35 to $140, but generally provide the same level of protection as adult hockey pants.
What you end up paying for at the higher price points is more complex, multi-material padding designed to offer better protection with less bulk and weight; more stretch material and zippers to increase mobility; a lighter and more durable shell;
increased ventilation; and a better fitting system. If you play for more than one team and want pants to match the uniforms, you'll save money by buying a single girdle and then swapping shells to match the different uniforms.
2. Pants or Girdle and Shell?
Multi-team players aside, the choice of whether to choose hockey pants or a girdle is a matter of personal preference. The girdle offers a tight fit, like compression pants, that keeps all the padding tight to the body. Those who prefer girdles
often say that they feel lighter and everything moves better with the body. Hockey-pants fans enjoy a looser fit that doesn't feel constricting. If a girdle doesn't fit exactly right, the player might find him- or herself frequently adjusting
it, which might be annoying.
Hockey pants sizing presents a bit of a conundrum, since hockey pants fit is not just about comfort; it is vital to player safety. The pads must be in the right place if they are to protect vulnerable parts of the body and must also line up properly
with the shin guards and shoulder pads. If hockey pants are too short, there will be gaps in protection above the knee, and a slapshot to that area can cause injury and serious pain.
Properly fitting pants sit with the belt resting on the player's waist, and they should fit snugly enough that the pants don't fall down or move around during play. If the snug waist is uncomfortable, consider wearing suspenders. The bottom of the
pants should cover the top half or one quarter of the knee pad. If the pants are too short, gaps will open up when you bend your knee; if they're too long, the pants can limit mobility. The top pads of the pants should meet the bottom of your
shoulder pads, for full coverage. The length on some high-end models can be adjusted up to one inch for a customized fit.
Manufacturers offer slightly different fit styles; players with different body types may experiment to see which brand of hockey pants fit best. Skinnier players may find it difficult to get the pants snug to the waist and may opt for suspenders
instead. The best hockey pants for tall players offer the option to extend the length of the pant legs.
Consult our guidelines to learn more about how to fit hockey pants.
4. Style of Play
The style and level of hockey should have some bearing on which pants a player chooses. A true beginner may not need the PowerLite technology, FleXorb smart foam, and Curv composite that make the Bauer Supreme 1s Ice Hockey Pants so revolutionary,
but that player will certainly be falling a lot, so good tailbone padding is a necessity. Elite players who like to mix it up in the corners and block shots can benefit from many of the advanced foams and extra padding, while forwards who want
to really fly may focus more on weight and fit.
Finally, personal style is always a consideration. Do you prefer a classic, boxy look or a more styled snug fit? What kind of image are you trying to portray on the ice? Finding the right balance between an appropriate level of protection and the
right style might be your ultimate goal.
Choosing the right hockey pants requires a player to think about questions of safety, fit, and style, and luckily there is a wide array of models to choose from. You can never
go wrong with the most protection, but not every player requires top-of-the-line padding. Spend some time finding the pants that hit all your requirements, and you'll be ready to crash the boards or take a heavy check without worrying—which will allow you to play better.