Hockey Protective Gear We Wear
Updated: November 1, 2023 by Bill Burniece
If you’ve ever wondered about the hockey protective equipment that players strap on before games, this is your guide.
This page is for people who know little to nothing about hockey and are interested in the different types of proper safety equipment for hockey.
Also below I’ll share some valuable tips on how to choose the best hockey gear in each area needed.
Protective hockey equipment is not cheap, and returning slightly-used smelly gear is rarely an option. So choosing the right gear is important.
Table Of Contents
- Hockey Protective Gear We Wear
- 9 Types of Hockey Protective Equipment
- 1. Helmets
- 1A. Mouth Guards
- 2. Shoulder Pads
- 3. Elbow Pads
- 4. Gloves
- 5. Pants
- 6. Cup
- 7. Shin Pads
- 8. Skates
- 9. Hockey Goalie Gear
- What About Sticks?
- Hockey Bags To Keep It All In
- Tips For Buying Hockey Protective Equipment:
- 8 Tips For Buying Hockey Helmets
- 6 Tips For Buying Hockey Mouth Guards
- 7 Tips For Buying Hockey Shoulder Pads
- 6 Tips For Buying Hockey Elbow Pads
- 6 Tips For Buying Hockey Gloves
- 5 Tips For Buying Hockey Pants
- 4 Tips For Buying A Hockey Cup
- 4 Tips For Buying Hockey Shin Pads
- 5 Tips For Buying Hockey Skates
- 6 Tips For Buying Hockey Goalie Equipment
- Hockey Protective Equipment Summary
In the 2021-2022 season, there were over 551,000 registered ice hockey players in the United States alone. The number of unregistered iced hockey players likely dwarfs that figure.
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9 Types of Hockey Protective Equipment
There are nine primary areas of our protective safety equipment that hockey players use to avoid injuries that occur from collisions with other players and the boards, pucks, sticks, and of course the ice.
We’ll examine all nine below from top to bottom.
The most crucial element of our protective equipment is by far our helmet.
Hockey helmet technology has come a long way in the past 50 years.
When I was playing in the mites and squirt leagues in the 1970’s we wore simple molded plastic helmets without any facial protection.
Back then, lacerations to the unprotected face were so common that often a coach or trainer would stitch up cuts while the player remained on the bench between shifts.
Hey, hockey players are tough!
Concussions were more frequent too until the invention of the game-changing “Patterson Helmet” by General Electric. It was made of a synthetic material called Lexan and had a suspension design that kept the head safely cradled away from the outside shell.
Today’s hockey helmets, still using the Patterson model, are stronger and lighter since they use even sturdier composite materials. The padding inside has also improved to protect us from head injuries and concussions.
Youth through college-level players are required to wear full facial protection now which can either be a helmet wire cage, plastic visor (clear shield), or a combination of the two.
Pros and beer leaguers usually have a choice of whether to use facial protection or not.
But a helmet is always required.
1A. Mouth Guards
I have grouped hockey mouthguards with helmets since I consider our head and teeth a package deal.
Obviously, hockey players are notorious for missing teeth.
Mouthguards are a heck of a lot cheaper than dental bills.
But even with full head and face protection, you can still get teeth knocked out when you’re not wearing a mouthguard.
2. Shoulder Pads
Shoulder pads, like helmets, have also improved dramatically over the past several decades.
Hockey shoulder pads in the past were made of leather and plastics. Today, they are made of flexible fabrics and composite plastics that are tougher and lighter.
Hockey shoulder pads mostly protect the shoulder and chest area with a lighter area of protection for the back.
Shoulder pads are necessary for full-contact checking leagues to prevent injuries to the clavicle and other shoulder areas.
In the beer hockey leagues, there is no checking allowed so shoulder pads are optional.
But even in beer hockey, shoulder pads are a good idea since we sometimes fall to the ice or crash into the boards.
3. Elbow Pads
Elbow pads are crucial to hockey players at all levels since when we fall or get knocked down we nearly always crack at least one elbow on the ice.
And that ice is damn hard.
Elbow pads are made out of light-weight flexible fabrics and usually have a large composite shell directly over the elbow bone.
Gloves are an interesting piece of hockey protective gear because they not only protect the hands and wrist but are an extension of hockey shots and stickhandling.
Hockey gloves in the past were made out of leather and had a palm area made out of horsehide. They were durable but heavy and cumbersome.
Modern gloves are made of a combination of synthetic leather, nylon, and polyester. The synthetic leather palm areas give players a nice stick feel but do not last as long as the old horsehide.
Most hockey players are picky about their gloves because they want maximum hand protection, but not at the expense of limiting hand mobility.
To be an effective stick handler and shooter, you need to have a glove that doesn’t limit the feel between your hand and your stick.
Hockey pants, also referred to as breezers, are more than just another part of our uniform.
Those pants are heavily padded in the rear for when we fall on the ice on our ass and padded in the front and side for when we block shots.
In addition to tailbone padding, they also protect kidneys, hips, and thighs.
Modern hockey pants are lighter and more flexible than ever which helps our mobility to skate freely.
A hockey cup is secured by a jockstrap or hockey jock shorts combination (most common today) and protects the male anatomy.
If you play hockey and plan on having kids, a cup is pretty much a necessity.
Even wearing up a cup, getting hit in the nuts with a stick or puck hurts like hell.
The hockey cup works well for protection but is not 100% effective since it does slide around at times leading to elements of the male anatomy wandering out of its hard plastic shell.
7. Shin Pads
Hockey leg pads, simply referred to as shin pads or shin guards protect the front and sides of our legs.
Like all other hockey equipment, shin pads have gotten lighter and stronger over the decades.
For non-hockey players who wonder, it still hurts to block a hard shot in the shin pads even with that protection there.
More often than not, the puck seems to find the gaps in our armor.
Hockey skates have come a long way over the decades.
Original hockey skates were made of leather with a plastic sole and a hardened tip that protected the toe. The blade was made of metal and connected to the boot with even more metal.
They were heavy, uncomfortable, and offered little protection from pucks and sticks.
Today’s skates are made mostly of molded plastic and synthetic materials that are stronger and lighter than old-time hockey skates. The blade can be removed from the hard composite blade holder that is attached to the boot.
Hockey skates have three basic components: the boot, blade, and blade holder.
9. Hockey Goalie Gear
Goalie hockey protective equipment is an entirely different animal.
Then again, so are goalies.
Anyone crazy enough to willingly serve as a hockey goalie deserves special attention.
Goalie gear is much different than regular hockey player gear. And goalies wear gear that is much heavier and cumbersome.
Goalie Gear Breakdown:
Hockey Goalie Helmets: Goalie helmets come in many different shapes and sizes.
For face protection, they can choose between a one-piece goalie mask or a full cage attached to their helmet. Most goalie helmets offer extra protection compared to player helmets. A goalie mask is usually made from Kevlar T, fiberglass, or composite material. Higher-end masks are custom-fitted to the face of the goalie who will wear it.
There is also an optional piece of equipment, affectionately known as the gobbler, that is a deflector plate that hangs down from the goalie mask or cage that protects the neck and throat area.
Goalie Chest And Arm Protectors: Goalies wear an enormous one-piece armored piece of equipment that protects their shoulders, collarbone, chest, arms, and abdomen. It fits under their oversized team jersey to accommodate it all.
Goalie Gloves: Hockey goalie gloves are much different from position players. They consist of a blocker and a catching glove:
- Blocker: The goalie blocker glove has a curved rectangular board attached to the backhand side of the glove. This covers the hand that the goalie uses to hold his goalie stick.
- Catcher: The goalie catcher glove is worn on the goalie’s free hand. It is similar to a baseball catcher’s mitt and enables the goalie to catch the puck and stop play by drawing a whistle. (called freezing the puck). The goalie can also play the puck from the catching glove to his stick or another player.
Hockey Pants: Goalie hockey pants, or breezers, are similar to other hockey pants except they have thicker padding to absorb shots. They also have additional padding in the inner thighs to protect from shots and sticks.
Goalie Cups: Hockey goalie cups worn by men are huge, as they should be. It’s not a matter of if a goalie will suffer a groin shot, but when. They are attached to a jockstrap setup which also projects the entire pelvic area. Instead of cups, women goalies wear a pelvic protector called a “jill”.
Goalie Leg Pads: Also called pillows, hockey goalie leg pads are giant box-shaped pads that extend outward from the leg to cover additional real estate.
Goalie Skates: Hockey goalie skates use a wider, flatter blade that allows for additional stability.
Goalie Hockey Sticks: The goalie stick blade is much wider than position player sticks. So is the bottom half of the stick shaft – an area called the “paddle”.
What About Sticks?
Unlike the hockey protective equipment listed above, hockey sticks are a weapon.
I grew up using wooden hockey sticks with a fiberglass weave to add strength. They were heavy and there were only a few options for different curves.
As a kid, I remember baking a few sticks in our kitchen oven to get them pliable enough so we could bend our stick blades the way we liked them.
Today hockey sticks are of one-piece composite construction that is both strong and amazingly light.
And they are available in dozens of different curve configurations.
The stick technology allows youth and beer league players to deliver a shot much harder than they could with the old wooden sticks.
And pros often exceed 100 mph with their shots.
Hockey Bags To Keep It All In
From the list above, you can see why we all own a rather large hockey bag to contain all this shit.
Even hockey bags have improved over the years due to better technology.
Learn about the very best hockey bag.
Tips For Buying Hockey Protective Equipment:
8 Tips For Buying Hockey Helmets
- Make sure your hockey helmet fits snugly and comfortably on your head. A helmet that is too loose will not provide enough protection and one that is too tight will not be comfortable.
- Choose a helmet that is certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). These organizations vigorously test helmets to ensure they meet all safety standards.
- Most hockey helmets are made from either plastic or carbon fiber. Plastic is lighter and less expensive, while the more-expensive carbon fiber is stronger, more durable, and provides maximum protection.
- Choose a helmet with a large amount of padding. The padding should be firm, but not so stiff that it restricts your head movement.
- Pick a helmet with decent ventilation that will keep your head cool ad comfortable.
- When it comes to face protection you have several options. You can choose a full cage, shield, or combination set up to protect your face from sticks, pucks, skates, and elbows. Full cages offer the most protection, but glass shields allow for better visibility even though they can fog up at times.
- Choose a reputable brand like CCM or Bauer that have a good track record of making safe and reliable hockey helmets.
- When it comes to your head don’t get cheap. It’s not worth it. Purchase the highest-priced helmet you can afford within reason. You only have one brain so if you are going to save a few bucks, do it with other equipment and not your bucket.
6 Tips For Buying Hockey Mouth Guards
You may think that hockey mouth guards are all the same. They aren’t.
- For starters, make sure your mouthguard fits properly in your mouth. Duh? More specifically, a properly fitting mouth guard should cover your upper teeth and gums, and stay in place when you talk or move your jaw. Especially when you’re chirping opponents
- Hockey mouth guards are made from a variety of materials, including latex, vinyl, and silicone. Latex is the least expensive, but some people may have an allergic reaction to it. Vinyl and silicone mouth guards are more expensive, but provide a better fit and more comfort.
- Look for a moldable mouth guard. Moldable mouth guards are pricier, but provide a better fit and more protection to your chiclets.
- Choose a reputable brand with a proven track record of making safe and effective mouthguards.
- Price-wise you’ll see a mixed bag. Mouth guards can range in price from a few bucks to over $50. You get what you pay for. Just make sure the damn thing fits so you can get the protection you need.
- If you’re rich or just really like your teeth, your dentist may be able to create a custom-made mouth piece for you if you want to go all out.
7 Tips For Buying Hockey Shoulder Pads
- First, a no-brainer. Make sure the shoulder pads fit comfortably. Damn, how do I come up with these?
- Your shoulder pads should fit snugly around your chest, shoulders, and upper arms, but not restrict your movement. Occasionally, you do have to shoot, pass, and maneuver.
- Look for shoulder pads that provide adequate protection for your position. If you play in a no-check beer league you don’t need to go too crazy unless you fall into the board a lot. I know a few guys like this.
- Hockey shoulder pads can be made from a variety of materials, including foam, plastic, and other composite materials. Choose a material that provides the protection and comfort you need without weighing you down or constricting your movement.
- Pick shoulder pads that have adjustable straps and/or inserts so you can customize the fit without sacrificing your safety.
- Just like everything else, choose a reputable shoulder pad brand like CCM or Bauer. It will probably last you for life.
- Hockey shoulder pads can range in price from $35 to well over $100. Choose one that gives you what you need without breaking your budget.
6 Tips For Buying Hockey Elbow Pads
- Select elbow pads that fit snugly without being too tight with pinch points. If they are loose, they are too damn big.
- Look for elbow pads with plenty of high-density foam and reinforced elbow caps for the best protection.
- You should have a full range of motion in your arms so select elbow pads with flexible materials that allow good mobility. It does you no good if you are as tight as a robot out there.
- Buy pads that are light and have a comfortable lining, breathable materials, and adjustable straps.
- Always buy from reputable brands that are known for producing high-quality protective gear.
- Elbow pads can range in price. Just remember that they will likely last you for at least a decade.
6 Tips For Buying Hockey Gloves
- Your hockey gloves should fit pretty snugly but allow you to grip your stick and make quick moves without any restrictions.
- Select gloves that have high-density foam padding in the fingers, thumb, and back of the hand to protect against sticks, pucks, and body checks.
- Choose gloves made from durable materials, such as synthetic leather or high-quality nylons, to ensure they last at least a few seasons.
- Your gloves should allow you flexibility so you can move your hands and fingers freely. Some gloves have segmented or angled cuff rolls that provide better wrist mobility.
- Your hands can get hot during gameplay so look for hockey gloves with ventilation ports, such as perforations or mesh panels, to keep your hands cool and dry during play.
- Price-wise gloves can range from $50-$200 or more. Choose a well-known hockey brand, such as CCM, Bauer, or Easton to ensure you’re getting a product that’s been tested and proven to perform.
5 Tips For Buying Hockey Pants
- Your hockey pants should allow you just enough room for your hips to move around as you skate. Look for pants that are adjustable and can be tightened or loosened as needed.
- Hockey pants have several compartmentalized protection areas on the hips, thighs, and butt. Choose pants with high-density foam padding in these areas and try to go as light as possible.
- Consider pants with ventilation systems, such as mesh panels, to keep you cool and dry during the game.
- Hockey pants can range from $80-$200+. As in all other protective hockey equipment, try to stick with reputable brand names.
- Hockey pants come in different colors and styles, including traditional, integrated, and shell models. Choose the style that best fits your needs and ability.
4 Tips For Buying A Hockey Cup
Hockey cups are mostly the same. I mean, how many features can add to a plastic nut cover?
- Just make sure your cup fits well, is comfortable, and completely covers your junk. You don’t want to receive a blow to your cup with some parts sticking out. Yikes.
- Cups can come in one of two styles – a jock strap type set-up or a boxer-brief style set. Pick out whichever one is more comfortable for you.
- The boxer-brief model does sport one extra feature and that is some velcro to fasten your socks too. With the jock-type set-up, you’ll need a garter belt. How sexy.
- Hockey cups are cheap. Usually under $35 for any model or brand.
4 Tips For Buying Hockey Shin Pads
- Hockey shin pads should fit properly, be comfortable, and not slide around.
- Protection-wise, choose shin pads with high-density foam padding to protect against impacts from sticks, pucks, and ice. Defensemen need more protection than forwards since they block more shots.
- Consider shin pads with ventilation systems, such as mesh panels, to keep you cool and dry during gameplay.
- Hockey shin pads are relatively inexpensive and should last a long time.
5 Tips For Buying Hockey Skates
When it comes to hockey skates you must slow down to make sure you choose wisely. Always try them on first.
Skates are expensive so you don’t want to get a pair that kills your feet.
- Skates should fit snugly but be as comfortable as possible. Make sure there are no pinch-points that will turn your feet into blister city.
- Some skates are more flexible than others so choose a flex rating that is good for your style of skating.
- Hockey skates can be made from various materials, including leather, synthetic materials, and carbon fiber. Each has a different feel and weight.
- Choose a pair of hockey skates from well-known hockey brands, such as CCM skates or Bauer to get skates that both perform and last.
- Hockey skates can range from $200 to well over $1000. You don’t cheapskate on your skates. Buy a good pair.
6 Tips For Buying Hockey Goalie Equipment
- Goalies must have enough protection but not at the expense of hindering their mobility and freedom of movement.
- Look for gear with high-density foam padding made from durable materials, such as heavy-duty nylon or polyester, to ensure it lasts as many seasons as possible.
- Make sure the gear you choose is compatible with your body size, shape, and playing style. Some goalies prefer a more traditional style of gear, while others prefer a streamlined look.
- Goalie gear gets hotter than a firecracker during games so ventilation is super important. You want to stay cool and as dry as possible during a game.
- As with other hockey gear, choose well-known hockey brands such as CCM, Bauer, and Vaughn to ensure quality and durability.
- Hockey goalie gear is very expensive and can cost thousands of dollars. You always have the option to buy used goalie gear with the extra bonus of it being broken in already.
Hockey Protective Equipment Summary
Hockey protective equipment continues to evolve using new technology to make our gear stronger and lighter than ever.
That also means the safety equipment gets more expensive too.
But we take it all in stride in order to play the greatest game in the world.
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