Equipment Questions For Beginners
Hi everyone hope your hockey seasons are going well….
I get a lot of questions from hockey parents from time to time regarding various equipment issues. So I have decided to summarize and list to the best of my knowledge all the basic equipment needed in hopes to help out with the purchasing process of new or used equipment. As you will find out quickly buying hockey equipment is unfortunately not a one time expense. As your child grows and new “larger” equipment is required you will find prices dramatically increase in size as well. Also, to add to this expense, advances in equipment and other advertised so called “safety features” enable companies to raise prices and monopolize on supply and demand….
Skates – Probably without a doubt the most important piece of equipment for your hockey player. Buying used skates is an option but very debatable. Many people will tell you never buy used skates for your child, not only will the boot be molded to the last persons foot, the radius of hollow on the steel of the skate will be catered to that players style of game. For players just starting out used skates might be an option, but I will have to recommend new skates for players past the introductory levels of the game. The boot itself should fit comfortably but not loose which would allow skin to rub on the inside of the skate causing painful blisters. Also skate size is different then shoe size a typical brand name skate will fit on average two shoe sizes less. For instance I wear a 10R for a shoe size and fit into a 7 1/2D skate size. After purchasing your skates you will be given the option of “baking” your skates. This is usually a good idea, most stores have skate ovens that warm your new skate up in order to mold the leather to your foot. Ultimately, this makes the breaking in process less of an issue, on average it takes 3-4 good skating sessions to really start to feel comfortable in your new skates. I touched a bit earlier on skate blade Radius of Hollow that I will abbreviate ROH. ROH determines the bite angle of each blade edge, which in turn determines the performance characteristics of the blade. For instance a 3/8” ROH will cut the ice much more than a 1” ROH. I recommend most beginners to start with a 5/8” or 3/4” ROH. When the player gets older it is then a personal preference, however the most common choice of ROH is 1/2” which happens to be the most common used in the NHL. Finally, tightening of your players skate is an important and tedious job but the end result ankle support is worth the back ache. Too many times have I seen a child come out on the ice with his or her ankles bent in. This game is hard enough to learn without having to try and balance without the support of a properly tied skate. Trust me besides the given support from a quality skate this can make a big difference in utilizing and learning to properly use your edges on the ice. Wax laces seem to help for those parents that might have trouble getting those little ones skates tight enough. With that being said the other extreme “skates that are too tight” can result in damaging tendons located against the upper tongue of the skate. When this happens what we call “skate bite” can occur which is a very painful aggravation of the tendon and sometimes requires a gel pad to fit in between injured area and skate. As you can see a proper balance needs to be met between tight, loose and personal preference before hitting the ice with those skates. The best way to meet this compromise is to simply ask your player before he hits the ice “do they feel tight enough?”or “are they too tight?”.
Athletic Cup– Not much to say here except this piece of equipment is not only for boys but girls should definitely wear as well.
Garter Belt– This item fits around players waist and helps to keep those hockey socks up. Adjustment is required to make sure socks are firmly kept high enough up over shin pads.
Shin Guards– These items are used to protect shin from sticks and pucks, they should fit from knee to ankle. I prefer to tape these in place even if velcro straps are included.
Pants- Provided protection from hips down to top or mid-line of knee.
Shoulder Pads- Provide protection for your shoulders, upper arms, chest, upper back and collar bone. Parents this is undoubtedly an important piece of equipment but at times I see parents go over board with this item. Shoulder pads that are too big can result in restriction of movement and ultimately injury because of not properly fitting over areas that need protection. Obviously on the other extreme lets stay away from weak and flimsy fitting shoulder pads that cannot give the proper protection needed. Please seek the advice from a knowledgeable source at the pro-shop if in doubt for this piece of equipment.
Elbow Pads- This piece of equipment should protect the area between the top of the elbow pad to the top of the glove. Again, it is important for proper sizing – especially as the skater grows.
Gloves– For proper protection the glove should extend to the lower portion of elbow pads protecting the lower arm and wrists. A moderate amount of room should be left at the fingertips to allow growth and movement. Gloves that fit too tight can not only result in injury but can prohibit proper movement with stick.
Helmet– USA hockey has stringent rules and regulations for proper fitting helmets. This is one piece of equipment never to cut corners with. Please ask for pro-shop assistance with any questions regarding proper fit, straps and masks.
Neck Guard- USA hockey regulations require neck guards. This piece of equipment can prevent severe injuries to the neck. It guards primarily against stick blades and skate blades. During a hockey game or practice I would recommend your player wear this at all times.
Mouth Guard– USA hockey regulations require a mouth guard to be worn at all times. Mouth guards can be attached to the mask portion of the helmet.
Sticks– A major personal preference item. Weight, flex, curve, and grip are all stick components that you must take into consideration when purchasing. For beginners I suggest you pick a stick with a near straight blade. This will require you to use more wrist when controlling the puck, young players do not need big curves since they do not have the acquired wrist strength or skill to use them yet. Also, for beginners the standard length of a stick with your skates on should extend from the toe of the blade touching the ground to your chin. With street shoes on the “butt end” of the stick should extend to the players nose.