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Hockey elbow pads protect this important joint and other parts of the arms from impacts on the ice. Flying pucks, slashes, collisions, and falls can all cause elbow damage; while elbow pads are sometimes an afterthought, they’re an essential part of your protective kit. This guide to buying hockey elbow pads will walk you through the finer points of choosing your first pair or helping you find an upgrade or replacement.
Hockey elbow pads are made mostly of foams and hard plastics. Lower-end elbow pads are constructed almost entirely of foam, which offer basic protection suitable for younger or recreational players. Higher-end elbow pads feature advanced performance foams and plastics to absorb the blunt-force and high-speed impacts of the game.
The more advanced elbow pads often feature materials found in military technology, industrial workwear, and other extreme applications. For example, some Bauer elbow pads feature Curv® composite (used in anti-ballistics products) while some CCM elbow pads feature D3O® smart foam (used in motorcycle helmets and other protective gear.)
But all elbow pads have the same basic design, with different parts of the pads protecting different parts of your arms. Here’s how they work:
There are a few major considerations when choosing which hockey elbow pads to buy: the price, the fit, and how well they match your individual game.
For hockey protective gear, elbow pads are moderately priced. The cost of hockey elbow pads ranges from $15 for a starter pair for kids to $150 or more for elbow pads for elite players.
If you’re unsure of your size, check out our related guide on How to Fit Hockey Elbow Pads for some general guidelines on finding your size and adjusting your equipment, as well as sizing charts from major manufacturers such as Bauer and CCM.
In general, hockey elbow pads come in a few different fit profiles. A traditional fit tends to be bulkier, but more protective, while a contoured fit tends to be more anatomical and streamlined. A tapered fit is the middle ground between the other two, with a higher-volume upper arm that tapers into a lower-volume bottom half.
Your position and style of play may also influence your decision when choosing new elbow pads. For example, a winger might look for a lower-profile, anatomical fit to maximize movement and agility, while a defenseman might look for a bigger, more protective pad that’s suited for physical play around the boards. Or you might need a simple pair of soft cap elbow pads for some pick-up street hockey, but a more advanced pair for your competitive ice hockey league.
Fortunately, the major manufacturers have developed their product lines with these different needs in mind. Bauer, CCM, and other popular makers offer elbow pads in a range of profiles and sizes to cover the protection needs and preferences of all hockey players. For any player focused on speed and agility, the Bauer Vapor line or CCM’s Jetspeed elbow pads are lighter and offer less coverage for streamlined play. For defensive players or those who need power and stability, Bauer’s Supreme elbow pads or CCM’s Tacks line offer more coverage for checks and blocks.
Parents generally want to know how to buy the right size hockey elbow pads for their kid and how much the protective gear is going to cost. Our guide on How to Fit Hockey Elbow Pads will help you find the correct size for your child, and our guide on Kids’ Hockey Gear has some additional information to help you decide.
In general, kids’ hockey elbow pads should extend from the cuffs of their gloves to the bicep protectors on their shoulder pads, so the forearms and triceps are protected. A pair of youth elbow pads usually costs from $15 to $35, but you can also often find a pair on sale or clearance.
Make note: buy the elbow pads that fit. Buying up a size so your child can “grow into them” means their pads will slip, exposing their arms to injury or impeding their skating. Their elbow pads should fit snug and feel like an extension of their arms.
Naturally, the lifespan of your hockey elbow pads depends on your frequency and intensity of play, as well as how you care for your equipment. Daily skaters who play at a high level will need to replace their pads sooner than a weekend rec player, but a well-maintained pair of elbow pads can last several years. Worn-out straps and Velcro, ripped fabric or cracked plastic, and exposed inner padding can all be signs that it’s time for a new pair.
Regularly cleaning and drying your elbow pads can extend the lifespan of your equipment and prevent the materials from breaking down prematurely.
Are you in the market for a new pair of elbow pads? Shop our full selection of hockey elbow pads online, or if you’re still unsure which pair 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.
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