If your kid is just getting into hockey, congratulations! It's a sport your kid can love for a lifetime. But it's also full of gear and terminology that can be confusing if you have never played. From determining kids' sizes, to fitting their skates, to choosing the best sticks, helmets, and other protective gear for their age and level, there's a lot to know. At Pure Hockey, we've seen it all, and we're here to help.
What Are the Size Categories in Kids' Hockey Gear?
Hockey equipment comes in a handful of divisions based on size and fit: Youth, Junior, Intermediate, and Senior. As a general rule, kids start in the Youth category before moving up to Junior around age seven or eight, and finally graduating to Intermediate or Senior by age 13 or 14.
Of course, any group of 7-year-olds will have kids in a variety of sizes, and that goes double for a group of 14-year-olds—so don't just go by age.
This chart of age, height, weight, and size can get you started shopping for kids' hockey gear. Different manufacturers size their equipment in different ways, so once you find a piece of gear you like, check the manufacturer's size chart to make sure you get the best fit.
General Guide to Kids' Hockey Gear By Age, Height, Weight, and Size
14 and up
62” and up
115 and up
28” and up
34” and up
By the time your child is in Senior gear, they have really graduated from “kid” to “young adult”—Senior is the adult size in hockey equipment. We offer a number of guides for buying and fitting hockey gear at all levels, but let's take a closer look at how to start shopping for kids in the Youth and Junior divisions.
What to Look for in Kids' Hockey Gear
Rule One is to get hockey equipment that fits your kid. Playing in too-large, too-small, or otherwise ill-fitting gear drastically cuts down on fun (the whole reason they're playing) and even increases the likelihood of injury.
Realistically, you might not want to lay out a lot of money if your kid is just getting into the sport. The good news is you simply don't need to spend as much to outfit a beginner as you would for an elite player—entry-level equipment, like Bauer's NSX line and CCM's FT350 gear, doesn't have the technological “bells and whistles” that beginners don't need.
You may be able to find protective equipment that other kids have outgrown, so check around. (If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit; remember Rule One and keep looking for gear that does.) You may even be able to find an appropriate hand-me-down stick; you can cut it down or add an end plug to fine-tune the length.
Skates are less forgiving when it comes to sizing and fit; you'll more likely need to buy a new set to ensure skating is a pleasant experience.
The place you don't want to skimp is on a helmet and cage. Head protection isn't glamorous, but it's incredibly important. Helmets are certified for a certain period of time, so if you're not buying absolutely, first-person-to-open-the-box brand-new, check the certification and expiration date on the HECC sticker on the helmet. That's right: hockey helmets expire.
How to Buy Kids' Hockey Skates
If your kid's a beginner, the best hockey skates are the skates that fit. There's no need to go top-end on this item for a player who's just starting out. Elite skates are crafted with lightweight, stiff materials to maximize energy transfer while skating, benefiting players who have distilled every stride down to a science. But beginners are still learning the basics; stiffer skates would not provide much benefit and they would be more uncomfortable. Plus, without all the precision materials and design, beginner skates are less expensive.
Don't worry: When kids get to be such good skaters that their entry-level equipment holds them back, it's easy to upgrade when you buy their next set of skates.
Shop Youth Hockey Skates
Youth skates are made to fit players with a shoe size up to 1. They fit a whole size smaller than a player's regular shoe size, so skate sizes in this category go up to Y13.5. Some skates for the youngest players feature a ratcheting closure to eliminate lacing hassles.Shop Youth Hockey Skates
Shop Junior Hockey Skates
Junior skates generally fit shoe sizes 2 through 6.5. These, too, fit a whole size down from a shoe size, so skate sizes in this category are 1 through 5.5. You're likely to find a greater range of features and prices in this category, as some children in this age group are beginners, some are dedicated recreational players, and some are elite skaters who have already been living and breathing hockey for nearly a decade.Shop Junior Hockey Skates
How to Buy Kids' Hockey Sticks
A stick-fitting guide will help you determine the right size category, choose the right stick length, and decide whether to go for a wood or composite stick. Wood sticks are inexpensive and have a bit more weight to them, which is beneficial to a beginner; more advanced players might prefer lighter (and more expensive) composite sticks.
You'll also need to get the right “flex”—a stick's flexibility. The lower a stick's flex rating, the less force is needed to slightly flex it. Having the right flex is important to help a developing player learn to use the stick properly. You can estimate the right flex by dividing the player's weight, in pounds, by two. Got a 50-pound kid? A flex of 25 is about right.
How to Buy Kids' Hockey Helmets
Kids will need a hockey helmet and cage for full protection of the head and face. It's possible to buy the helmet alone and cage alone; you can also buy them together as a combo.
Helmets are sized by head circumference. Several makers offer youth-specific helmets, for head circumferences up to about 55 cm. Other helmets that fit young players don't have “youth” in the name; the line is simply available in a range of sizes from XS to L, where the XS fits youth players. Learn more about helmets in our hockey helmet guide.
Protective Pads, Gloves, and Pants for Kids
Our PH1 Line of Kids' Hockey Equipment
Our Pure Hockey PH1 line lets you pick up a full set of protective equipment for your youth player—or just choose the individual items you need from among the PH1 gloves, shin guards, shoulder pads, elbow pads, or pants.
We created this gear to equip kids who are just starting out. It is designed with features that benefit youth athletes and their adults, like an easy-on oversized collar opening on the shoulder pads; a secure-fit, no-pinch cinching belt on the pants; and adjustable strapping to customize the fit on the elbow pads. And since it doesn't include costly extras that don't really benefit new players, it's an affordable way to outfit your youth player.
How to Buy Kids' Hockey Gloves
Find the right glove size by measuring from the base of the player's middle finger to the crease of the elbow, rounding up to the next inch. That measurement, in inches, is the glove size. Youth gloves come in sizes 8” and 9”, while junior gloves are 10”, 11”, and 12”. Correctly sized gloves meet with the elbow pad, leaving no part of the lower arm exposed. Hockey gloves should be sturdy enough to protect a player's hand and forearm, while allowing enough mobility to handle the stick well.
As you go up the price scale, recreational and elite hockey gloves will have features like lighter weight materials, moisture-wicking and antibacterial liners, different grades of protective foam, palm materials that prioritize stick grip or feel, and fine-tuned fit options. Entry-level gloves will be middle-of-the-road on these options. They should be protective and well-fitting, and allow beginning players to start understanding what they would like in a glove.
How to Buy Hockey Shoulder Pads for Kids
To size shoulder pads, measure around the widest part of the chest—just below the arms. Check the manufacturer's size chart to know which size will fit. The equipment's straps should fit it snugly to the body, and the straps should be long enough to connect without a struggle.
A well-fitting set of shoulder pads protects the collarbone area well. Entry-level shoulder pads will also provide good protection for the upper chest, back, upper arms, and shoulders. Higher-end shoulder pads include the above, along with upgrades like ultra-light protective foams and composites, stretch materials, fit adjustments, and moisture-wicking and odor-reducing liners.
How to Buy Hockey Elbow Pads for Kids
To fit elbow pads, measure the distance between the cuff of the shoulder pads and the cuff of the gloves. (If you don't have that equipment yet, just measure from mid-bicep to mid-forearm.)
Entry-level elbow pads will provide good protection from slashes and falls, usually through protective foams and a hard cap. Some beginner pads offer a soft cap instead. Soft caps are less protective, but they are much more comfortable and allow a greater range of movement. Higher-end elbow pads might feature compression sleeves that help them stay in place, ultra-lightweight protective foams, and a more elaborate strapping system to fine-tune the fit.
How to Buy Hockey Shin Guards for Kids
Pucks fly and sticks whiz down low, so protection for the shin is very important. To fit a shin guard, measure from the center of the kneecap down to the top of the skate boot. The shin guard should allow a normal stride—not get pushed out of place by the top of the boot.
Entry-level shin guards will provide a comfortable cap at the knee and protect the front of the leg with a hard shin cap. Elite-level shin guards might include adjustable strapping systems, advanced liners, or materials that prioritize robust protection or light weight.
How to Buy Kids' Hockey Pants
Hockey pants are sized by waist measurement to ensure the pants fit comfortably without slipping. But the proper length is important, too. The padding at the top of the pants should meet the bottom of the shoulder pads. The pant legs should cover the player's knees when they're bent. Only with the proper fit can the pants do their important job: protecting a player's thighs, hips, tailbone, kidneys, lower spine, and even lower ribs.
Beginner pants should provide good overall protection (for the tailbone area especially!). Elite-level hockey pants will provide more protection with less bulk and weight, stretchier material, increased ventilation, and the ability to fine-tune the fit.
Some offerings in the mid- to high- price range will include a 1” zippered extension to lengthen the pants. This feature can be especially useful for growing kids. It's also good for lean players of any age who need more length than might be standard for their waist size.