Hockey Protective Gear We Wear

Updated: January 25, 2023 by Bill Burniece

hockey protective equipment image

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.

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.

Need some equipment? Perani’s is a great choice. Check out my Perani’s Hockey World review to learn why.

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.

1. Helmets

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.

hockey helmet image

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 image

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.

hockey elbow pads image

Elbow pads are made out of light-weight flexible fabrics and usually have a large composite shell directly over the elbow bone.

4. Gloves

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.

sports gloves image

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.

5. Pants

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.

hockey pants image

6. Cup

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.

hockey cup image

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 shin pads image

8. Skates

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.

Best CCM Skates

hockey skates image

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. 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.

hockey goalie gear image

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.

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.

Beer League Hockey is reader-supported. If you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission without any extra cost to you.

Thank you for your support.