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Travel can be a big headache for anyone, especially when traveling with specialized equipment. If you're not on a hockey team staffed with people paid to handle travel arrangements, you're in for some homework. You'll want to know, for instance, whether you can bring your hockey skates on a plane. And how about your hockey sticks? Or your helmet?
The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has the answers, at the federal level at least, about what equipment hockey players must check at the ticket counter and what they can carry into the cabin. If you can't find an answer, they suggest you contact customer service. Here are the latest TSA protocols for bringing hockey equipment onto an airliner:
Rest easy - hockey pucks are allowed in US flight cabins. TSA sent us this message about air travel with pucks:
“Generally, hockey pucks are allowed in carry-on bags. However even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to add'l screening or not allowed if it triggers an alarm during the screening process or poses other security concerns based on size or weight. The final decision rests with our checkpoint officers.”
In other words, even though pucks are allowed in your carry-on, they may still be examined or confiscated if the TSA officer determines they’re suspicious. Consider using a puck bag to keep them organized and in one place for easier travel.
United offers the following from their website:
Note: A duffel bag containing hockey equipment is treated as a normal checked bag. A duffel bag containing hockey equipment is subject to applicable overweight and oversize excess baggage charges.
Unfortunately, they offer no specific information online about skates. It's worth a call to United to find out how you should pack them instead of assuming they’re included under the definition of “hockey equipment.”
Delta also offers hockey equipment policies on their website:
"Hockey equipment will be allowed as checked baggage only. Standard baggage fees and policies apply. One item of hockey equipment is defined as one equipment bag plus two hockey sticks (taped together). If the total weight of the equipment is over 50 lbs. (22 kg), overweight baggage fees apply."
Delta provides a baggage fee calculation tool on their website to help you estimate baggage costs. Delta also doesn’t offer clear instructions regarding hockey skates. Again, it’s worth a call to the airline prior to packing to double check what is and isn’t permitted.
Southwest Airlines has the most detailed information for flying with hockey equipment:
"Hockey stick(s) are allowed as long as multiple sticks are either taped together or packed in a suitable bag or container. We also allow one hockey equipment bag generally consisting of pads, helmets, pants, jersey, gloves, and skates. When substituting hockey equipment for a free checked bag, we allow up to two bags (containing hockey sticks and one hockey or equipment bag) to count as one item, even if they are taped or packed separately."
Everything listed may be checked, not carried on board.
The airline of our northern neighbors offers clear instructions for flying with your gear:
One equipment bag + a maximum of 2 sticks taped together count as one piece of baggage towards the maximum number of checked bags allowed by your fare type.
All other additional checked baggage rules apply.
Items not in a rigid and/or hard shell container may be refused for carriage. Air Canada is not liable if and to the extent that any damage results from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage. Equipment bags must not contain any clothing.
Oh, Canada! Thank you for listing specific information about hockey skates:
If brought on board as carry-on baggage, skates must remain in the appropriate travel bag at all times.
Did you know? Japan does not permit ice skates with non-removable blades as carry-on. These are only accepted as checked baggage.
Removable skate blades are not accepted in carry-on baggage. These must be stored in checked baggage.
Sports equipment bags and cases can’t contain clothing or other personal items. They must be used only to carry sports equipment.
If you're a player, coach, or manager, you'll want to stay current on the latest travel rules and regulations. Make sure to check with the TSA before making detailed plans before you travel with your hockey equipment. Consult your airline for specific information about restricted items and what you can check or carry on. If players can simplify their travel with a hockey bag, a stick bag, and one carry-on bag for personal items, they'll be doing well. Unfortunately, conventional hockey bags are too big for the overhead compartment in the cabin, and even the youth Grit bag will be too large for most flights. But look into a multi-purpose bag as your carry-on for air travel.
Everything discussed here applies only to travel inside the United States and Canada. International travel elsewhere is a whole other hockey puck—your best bet there is to work directly with the airline or the team liaison to find out how to travel with your gear.
Do your research in advance, call ahead, and show up early to head off any last-minute surprises. And be prepared to check items at the gate. Flying with hockey equipment can be a headache, but it needn't be a misery.