Helmets consist of a hard plastic shell, foam padding with liner, and a steel cage. The majority of modern helmets offer tool-free size adjustment (length-wise) as well as via the chin and ear straps.
The key to look for when selecting a helmet is proper fit. Helmets should fit snugly over the head with little wiggle room. The player should not be able to slide the helmet down past the eyes without first loosening it. If the helmet doesn't fit properly, even after adjustment, it’s best to move on to a helmet that does.
Other traits to keep in mind are how protective the helmet is, how comfortable it is and how easily the size can be adjusted.
Shoulder pads are designed to protect the upper body, covering the mid to upper back, shoulders, chest, and upper biceps. They are put on and worn like a shirt. When fitted properly, should fit comfortably with minimal bulk or hindrance to range of motion.
Shoulder pads consist of protective plastic shells at the shoulder caps and other key areas and are lined with multi-density foams that guard from impact. They are usually connected to the body via adjustable Velcro straps.
To properly size, measure the circumference of the player's chest, just below the underarm area. If you have the option of having the player fitted, you want to see the center-line of the player's shoulders, line-up with the center of the shoulder pad caps. This will ensure the shoulder rests properly inside the cap.
Keys to keep in mind when shopping are how bulky the pads are (some caps are bigger than others), the type of protective caps and foams used and the availability of size-adjustment straps, which help the pads fit unique body sizes.
Elbow pads protect 3 main areas of the arm: the elbow joint, the lower bicep and triceps area, and the forearm. The pads should protect from the end of the shoulder pad’s bicep guard to the cuff of the glove.
Construction is straightforward, consisting of a protective cap at the elbow joint with arm attachments above and below. Elbow pads come in either 2 or 3 piece designs with some models available in a soft or hard cap construction; soft caps tend to be slightly easier to maneuver in, while hard caps offer more protection.
A properly fitted elbow pad will allow the player's elbow to rest comfortably in the center of the cup while also allowing a full range of motion. When strapped on, the pad should not move side to side, up or down. It should fit comfortably without cutting off circulation to the arm and not feel too tight or too loose.
Sizing is based on player height. A good rule of thumb is that the pad should leave minimal gaps between the bottom of the shoulder pad bicep guard and the cuff of the glove.
Gloves protect more than just the fingers. They're designed to protect the wrist, backhand, palm, thumb and fingers.
Gloves come in many varieties of material, ranging from the shell, to the palm, to the types protective foam padding used. Most beginner’s gloves, however, will feature a nylon shell, single density foam padding, and a soft faux leather palm. As with all Learn To Play Equipment, it's more important to ensure a proper fit over finding the highest end equipment.
Gloves should fit comfortably without pain or hindrance to movement. There should be a “just right” fit; not too loose and not too tight. Your fingers should not be bunched at the tip, but a little contact is okay. The cuff of the glove should extend to the bottom of your elbow pads, leaving no part of your lower arm exposed. If you prefer a shorter cuff, you may consider wearing protective wrist guards in the uncovered area.
To determine the correct size, measure from the player’s longest finger tip to the end their elbow pad. This distance equates to the size of glove they’ll need. For example, if you measure 8 ¾” from finger tip to edge of elbow pad, a 9” glove would be the proper size.
Also known as breezers, shorts, or hip pads, player pants provide protection ranging from the player’s lower back to upper knee and ensures everything from the hip bones to the tailbone is protected from the inevitable on-ice spills every new player will take.
Construction generally consists of a nylon shell, foam padding with plastic inserts for impact protection, a soft liner, and a belt or lace system for tightening at the waist.
To ensure proper fit, make sure to measure at the player’s waist and not hips – player pants are worn higher than regular pants so make sure you’re measuring at the true waist.
Next up is the length. The bottoms of the pant legs should rest at the center of the player’s knee cap when standing so that when the player bends or strides, the thigh guard remains in a protective posture.
A smart key to look for when shopping is if there is sufficient hip and tail bone padding. This will ensure your youngster stays protected while learning the fundamentals of hockey.
Shin guards protect the knee and lower leg from impact with the puck, other players, or the ice and are an important piece as their protection is tested on almost every play.
They’re generally constructed with a protective plastic shell, foam padding, liner and connecting straps. At the shin, the shell is usually raised from the padding so that impacts are completely removed from the body. The back of the leg is protected via foam padded calf wraps.
When fitted properly, the knee should sit directly in the center of the knee guard, with the shin pad extending down the leg and resting at the top of the skates. If the shin guard is too long, it will be pushed up by the skate, if it’s too short, there will be a noticeable gap between the top of the skate and the end of guard. A correctly sized shin guard should fit comfortably under the skate tongue without shifting.
To determine the size you’ll need, with measure the length of the shin from the center of the knee cap to the top of the skate with the leg bent at 90 degrees. The length measured in inches will approximate the size shin guard you’ll need.
Skates are an extremely important aspect in terms of player performance because every move is translated through the skates. If they are not sized properly, there’s a higher chance the player’s foot will form blisters, feel uncomfortable, or even worse, start to dislike playing the game.
For beginning players, finding the right size skate is more important than buying the most expensive model available as developing players usually do not have the body weight to truly utilize features common on the highest end models.
A good rule of thumb when fitting is that you should be able to place one finger between the inside of the boot and the heel of the foot when the foot is pushed to the front of the skate as this will ensure the correct amount of space within the boot. After the finger test, ask the player to sit down and kick his or her heel firmly into the back of the boot; the big toe should barely brush the toe cap.
After lacing up the skate, make sure the player walks around (with your skate guards, of course) to test the comfort level of the skate. Remember, it takes a few wears to break them in so it is also important to have your blades sharpened regularly—about every 6-8 hours of practice or game time is ideal.
Skates run 1 to 1 1/2 sizes down from their equivalent shoe size. If the player wears a size 8.0 shoe, a size 6.5 to 7.0 skate is the corresponding size. Some parents add a half size to that number to accommodate growing feet (8.0 shoe – 7.5 skate), though any larger and you run the risk of blisters and lessened performance.
Here are a few important things to remember when fitting a skate:
- Make sure the player’s foot is comfortable and not cramped width or length wise in skate
- There should be little to no movement of the heel when the skate is laced tight
- And finally, look for skates that offer good ankle support so that the foot and leg are fully held in place
The stick is the player’s extension to the puck. It connects player movement with game play. For young, beginning players, starting out with the right sized stick is far more important than using the latest stick available.
A properly sized stick will increase player performance and in-game enjoyment. Modern sticks are made of either wood or carbon composite. Wood sticks are usually more affordable and ideal for beginners, while composite sticks, also ideal for beginners, are generally more popular and offer slightly increased performance.
Sticks come in four sizes: senior, intermediate, junior, and youth. Each size normally reflects a smaller shaft circumference and a softer flex. Senior sticks are usually used by players ages 14 and up; intermediate for ages 10-15; junior for ages 7 to 12; and youth for players ages 4-8. For Learn To Play parents, you’ll be best served by focusing on the youth age group 4-8 and youth sized sticks.
To properly size, have the player stand in place without skates, place the toe of the blade on the ground between their feet and position the stick vertically against their body so that the stick comes to about their nose. If the stick is too long, simply make a mark where it touches their nose, and cut the shaft of the stick accordingly. If the player’s skates are on, the stick should come up to their chin. Please use this as a general rule of thumb and allow for changes based on personal preference.
The jock supporter protects sensitive areas from impact. More and more, the supporter also serves as an important piece of base layer. Modern supporters generally come in the form of shorts with a built-in supporter.
Supporters come in either tight fitting (compression) material or looser fitting mesh shorts. Compression is popular because it fits closer to the body and allows the equipment to fit closer as well, with little “bunching” of fabric. Loose supporters are popular with players that prefer a looser feel. There is no right nor wrong in making a choice between the two styles as it is a personal preference.
The mouth guard protects the player’s mouth and jaw from impact. It helps protect the player from falls on the ice and keeps the teeth from impacting other teeth. Additionally, the mouth guard keeps the jaw properly aligned and eliminates grinding during play.
Most of the time, the mouth guard will be heated up and molded to the player’s mouth for a custom fit.
The neck guard protects the player’s neck from accidental laceration and is a required piece of equipment by USA Hockey. Most neck guards are lightweight easy to wear. They are generally made of cut resistant fabric with Kevlar or similar inner material.